November 14, 2014 - Las Vegas, NV - Amidst the cheers and applause of loyal stable mates, adorned with sparkles and streamers for Barn Spirit Night, a large group of show jumpers raced against the clock in the $30,000 Las Vegas Speed Classic, presented by Equ Lifestyle. With over fifty riders contending for the top prize, the enthusiastic crowd watched a thrilling display of time-efficient twists and turns throughout the 1.35m class.
Course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany designed a track with multiple related distances between airy oxers and skinny verticals, which offered options for inside turns to shave off time. The course featured 13 efforts in a time allowed of 83 seconds, but the quickest rides stopped the clock nearly twenty seconds faster. The most consistent trouble spot on course came early on at fence 3, a tight rollback to a skinny vertical with spooky wave planks and a natural colored rail on top. It caused multiple rails and several refusals.
Setting the tone for speed, Kristin Hardin and Aran (Pamela Levin, owner), went ninth in the order and rocketed around the course in 62.34 seconds.
Ten entries after Hardin's round, the class paused for a bit of entertainment. JustWorld International's High Jump, an annual crowd favorite, showcased young jumpers of the human kind. While the crowd cheered them on, the two-legged contestants showed off their high-jump prowess over a JustWorld banner fence. The ceremonies concluded with the Las Vegas Young Entertainers, who brought down the house with a choreographed rendition of "Heroes" by Bonnie Tyler and a moving rendition of the national anthem.
Thirty-four more entries attempted to catch Hardin's time. Several came close - young rider Jennifer Gates on her own Everest de Muze were only tenths of a second slower, going clean in a time of 63.07, while Juan Pablo Gnecco on Onlyjumpers.com's Eurocommerce New York stopped the clock in 63.23. Hardin led the victory gallop for the second night in a row, this time aboard Aran, with Gates earning the red ribbon and Gnecco the yellow to round out the top three.
Hardin could recall the exact moment she was introduced to her winning partner. "I've been riding Aran for three years and four days. The first time I rode her was at this show three years ago - Pam bought her as kind of a surprise. She said, 'I have a surprise for you when we get to Vegas,'" she explained. "I got on her, took her in the 1.10m, which was an optimum time class. We were 50 seconds under the optimum time. It was my first class on her; we had some work to do. Fastest horse I've ever ridden."
Changing the plan on course was not an option for Hardin and Aran. "I took the exact track I had planned, because with her you can't really move, she's super sensitive. It's like walking a tightrope," Hardin explained. "You have to have a plan from the minute you pick up the canter and cannot deviate. There's no last minute changing - everything has to go right to plan. It's like driving a race car."
Team Las Vegas Victorious in the iJump Team Challenge Finals,presented by Bruno Delgrange
Team effort was the name of the game at the Las Vegas National in the $15,000 iJump Team Challenge Finals, presented by Bruno Delgrange. A showdown between Team Las Vegas and Team Del Mar playfully ensued as the two teams contended for the generous prize money and brand-new saddle. Set in a two-round, Nations Cup-style format with three riders per team riding at 1.10m, 1.20m, and 1.30m, respectively, the class winner was determined by the team with the lowest amount of combined faults from the two rounds of competition.
After an unfortunate elimination in round one of a member of Team Del Mar, the title was awarded to the home turf representatives, Team Las Vegas. Team members Madison Myro, Jacob Dailey, and Kimara Soffe were no strangers to the top call - they also won one of the Team Challenges at the Blenheim Summer Series.
$30,000 1.35m Las Vegas Speed Classic, presented by Equ Lifestyle
Place - Entry - Horse - Rider - Owner - Faults/Time
1. 369 - Aran - Kristin Hardin - Pamela Levin - 0/62.340
2. 135 - Everest de Muze - Jennifer Gates - Jennifer Gates - 0/63.037
3. 864 - Eurocommerce New York - Juan Pablo Gnecco - Onlyjumpers.com - 0/63.237
4. 365 - Bert - Kristin Hardin - Emily Cohodes - 0/63.576
5. 111 - La Fleur - Eduardo Menezes - Franscisco Pasquel - 0/64.173
6. 203 - Lysander 99 - Jill Humphrey - Peyton Warren - 0/64.842
7. 315 - Lochinvar - Matt Cyphert - Matt Cyphert - 0/65.875
8. 692 - Irish 77 - Marc Grock - Moonlite Beach, LLC - 0/66.234
9. 627 - Coral Reef Wise Guy - Ann Knight Karrasch - Coral Reef Ranch - 0/66.964
10. 258 - Courtown - Karrie Rufer - Morning Star Sporthorses, LLC - 0/67.052
11. 881 - Copias - Justin Resnik - AMA Marketing & Mgmt., Inc. - 0/67.698
12. 182 - Ziedento - Susan Hutchison - St. Bride's Farm - 0/71.492
Speed Class and JustWorld High Jump photos from official show photographer McCool, Team Challenge photo from Alden Corrigan.