Wayne, IL – Equifest II at Lamplight Equestrian Center is gearing up for a big week leading up to a $50,000 Grand Prix and a $30,000 Jumper Derby for the jumpers and a $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby and a $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby for the hunters. Both hunter and jumper riders were getting their horses ready for the big weekend, starting with the $10,000 Welcome Stake in the SmartPak Grand Prix arena and the completion of many of the professional hunter divisions for World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week in the Wisconsin Equine arena. The course for the Welcome Stake, designed by Leopoldo Palacious (VEN), proved challenging for all riders with only five going double clear. Palacious was the course designer for the Olympics in both Sydney, Australia in 2000, and Beijing, China in 2008 along with the Pan American Games in La Habana, Cuba in 1991. Andrew Kocher, Lake St. Louis, MO, took the number one and two spots today aboard Ciana and Le Conte respectively.
Kocher’s times were within seconds of each other. Ciana, owned by Eagle Valley Partners, was the first horse to take a swing at the track and laid down the time to beat of 28.342. Then Kocher cemented his victory with a 28.769 time on Le Conte. “Ciana is eight years old, we bought the horse is Holland in January or February and we just started moving her up. She’s really fast and really careful. She’s small but she really tries,” said Kocher. Kocher owns Le Conte and considers him his “pet”, claiming he is the only horse that is not for sale.
Kocher, who had seven rides in the Welcome Stake, compared his strategy of having a lot of his horses in the same class to racetrack trainer Dale Baird, who won more races (9,445) than any Thoroughbred trainer in North American racing history. “It’s like racing, the more tries you have the more chances you have to win,” said Kocher. “It costs more but it doesn’t hurt like in the $75,000 class last week.”
Kocher won the big Grand Prix last week with Ora Del Te Di La San Giorgio and won $29,250 between four different rides. “Run more than everyone else. It’s a little bit old school but it works,” laughed Kocher. “Now you can look up on USEF how much your horse has won in total prize money,” added Kocher. “It adds up, maybe not enough to make a living on prize money alone but it helps the expenses.” Kocher plans to have several rides lined up for Saturday’s $50,000 Grand Prix.
Liz Atkins of Hampshire, IL, also competed in the Welcome Stake, placing third aboard Undine with a time of 29.661. Atkins had Undine in the Gladstone Program with George H. Morris this past June and had nothing but positive things to say about her mount. “She jumped in the $50,000 Prix week 3 of Traverse City with Leopaldo designing and there were two clean and she had one rail. Today it was a piece of cake for her so definitely the Grand Prix for her this week,” said Atkins.
In the 1.35m, Atkins took the victory aboard Carletta with a speedy 41.392 double clear round. Atkins is the owner and head trainer of Benchmark Stables in Hampshire, IL. Carletta participated in the Gladstone Program with Atkins along with Undine. “This is the horse I rode in the Gladstone Program,” said Atkins of Carletta. “She’s eight years old and I think she’s going to make an awesome grand prix horse next year. I rode her for that Gladstone week with George (Morris) and ever since she’s been amazing. She placed in the top three in several of the 1.35m classes at Traverse City and this week was the first time out and she was double clean.”
Atkins praised the Gladstone Program for helping her evolve as a rider and succeed at all levels. “The Gladstone Program really got me thinking about my riding and not just going fast and jumping the jumps. At the higher level you have to do it correctly. I’ve really worked hard on my flatwork since that program and I think it’s really making a difference in my horses,” explained Atkins.
Jumper competition continues with the $1,000 High Junior/Amateur Jumper class and young jumpers, leading up to Saturday’s $50,000 Grand Prix at 4:00 pm.