Lexington, KY - May 13, 2015 - Each summer, Irishman Shane Sweetnam returns to the Bluegrass State with his string of top horses. It has become custom to see his name at the pinnacle of the ranks, and Wednesday afternoon, he topped the leader board once again during the opening day of the Kentucky Spring Classic. Sweetnam rode Cyklon 1083, owned by Spy Coast Farm, to the $34,000 Welcome Stake CSI3* victory, outrunning the competition.
Forty-five contenders gathered at the Rolex Stadium to compete in the opening FEI CSI3* competition, and with a start list of some of the country's best riders, Sweetnam knew that it would be a dash for the cash.
Pablo Barrios (VEN) laid down an exciting speed round in 70.720 seconds with Zara Leandra, owned by the ZL Group, easily topping the previous times midway through the class. He took all of the inside turns throughout Bernardo Costa Cabral's track, setting the pace three seconds ahead of then leader, Luifer Larrazabal and G and C Close Up, owned by San Francisco Stables. Eight trips later, Abigail McArdle and Cosma 20 climbed into the ranks with the time of 70.340 seconds, nearly 4/10ths of a second faster.
McArdle continued to hold onto the lead, even with the formidable Todd Minikus hot on her heels with Babalou 41, owned by Two Swans Farm. The pair finished just shy of McArdle's time in 70.350 seconds.
"It was a very fast class," McArdle said. "I know that the last couple of times were really right together. I thought my horse went great, and it was a good course for her. This is a fabulous ring and she can really open up out there. It is the perfect venue for her. I am glad I had a little bit of luck today."
Sweetnam was able to watch Barrios lay down his round, and opted to take a similar path by utilizing the inside turns. He raced inside the timers from fences 3 and 4 and kept a consistent pace across the ground, altering the plan only slightly to add down the final line to compensate his horse's smaller stride.
"All of us were within tenths of a second of one another and I can't pinpoint where I made up the time," Sweetnam explained. "Cyklon 1083 is a very fast horse. He has won classes all over the world and is 14 years old now. I had a fair idea that it was going to be a very fast class. I had seen Pablo go, and he seemed really fast, and then I heard that Abigail had beaten that, so I knew we had to give it our best out there, and we did. He was great-he tried his heart out."
The course allowed for some of the fastest riding of the spring series; however, Cabral also designed with those who needed to school their horses in mind. The options on the course proved essential to the time, although several of the riders in the top 12 took a more conservative approach that would set up their mounts for a full week of slated FEI CSI3* classes.
Sweentnam said, "I think it was good course designing. It gave people room if they were schooling to jump a nice round, and also the designer included the water, which is always good to practice over, especially for the greener horses. If people were trying to be fast, they could do the inside turns, so it really was a great round for the opening day."
The order of go saw names from across South and Central America, as well as Canada, Ireland and of course, the United States. With the FEI competition returning to the Kentucky Spring Horse Show series, riders have raved about the classes, increase of competition and the opportunity to earn the valuable world ranking points.
"As a rider, it is great. It gives you a chance to get more ranking points, and the numbers are huge here. It is great for us as riders and the show as well-It gives an international feel," Sweetnam said. "There is a diverse group of riders, and new faces. You don't see these riders all the time, and now they will see how great the facility is."
McArdle finished in the second place position with Minikus picking up the third place. The fourth place was awarded to Barrios, while the fifth place went to Alise Oken and Kaid Du Ry, who laid down a clean round in a speedy 71.660 seconds, beating out sixth place finisher, Eugenio Garza and Lucca Toni. Luifer Larrazabal collected the seventh place award with Emanuel Andrade and ZZ-Top VH Schaarbroek Z rounding out the top eight.
The Kentucky Spring Classic continues Thursday with the $34,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic, where riders will try to accumulate valuable points for the Hagyard Leading Rider Bonus. On Saturday, May 16, riders will compete under the lights in the Rolex Stadium during the $127,000 Hollow Creek Farm Grand Prix. All three of these FEI classes will count for the Longines Rider Ranking List. The $34,000 Hagyard Classic and the $127,000 Hollow Creek Grand Prix will also count for the USEF/Rolex Show Jumping Ranking List as will the $50,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix on Sunday, May 17th.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit http://www.kentuckyhorseshows.com/.
RESULTS: WELCOME SPEED CSI3* 1.45m
1 935 CYKLON 1083 SHANE SWEETNAM IRL 70.18
2 121 COSMA 20 ABIGAIL MCARDLE USA 70.34
3 1268 BABALOU 41 TODD MINIKUS USA 70.35
4 552 ZARA LEANDRA PABLO BARRIOS VEN 70.72
5 825 KAID DU RY ALISE OKEN USA 71.66
6 1084 LUCCA TONI EUGENIO GARZA MEX 73.47
7 136 G AND C CLOSE UPLUIFER LARRAZABAL VEN 74.02
8 571 ZZ-TOP VH SCHAAREMANUEL ANDRADE VEN 74.30
9 111 VASCO ADAM PRUDENT FRA 74.62
10 112 SI BELLA ADAM PRUDENT FRA 75.31
11 26 WANNICK WH CHRISTINE MCCREA USA 76.01
12 159 PATRIOT WILTON PORTER USA 77.32