Conyers, GA - March 27, 2011 - Cherry Blossoms popping and Azalea’s blooming made for a glorious welcome back to exhibitors entering the Georgia International Horse Park for the Atlanta Spring Classics. “Winter chills are on the way out, finally, and this event is always a fun place to welcome the warmer temps. Plus there’s great dining in the area, a ton of activities nearby and of course the annual Cherry Blossom Festival right here at the park. Fun for all!” Bob Bell of Classic Company said.
One Scottish born gent, Robert “Robbie” Donaldson, who now calls Ontario, Canada home certainly agreed with Bell. Donaldson began his winter trek with five weeks in Gulfport and decided he was having such a good time that he’d simply follow the fun to Conyers. “The best, most fantastic shows! I told Bob Bell I’d sing Classic Company’s praises from the roof top, except that I want to keep it a secret from my friends in Canada!” Donaldson laughed.
He’s had quite the adventurous life around the globe, such as developing the Equestrian Federation in Saudi Arabia during the 1980’s – leading them to the Atlanta Olympic pathway- then moving to London in early 1994 to build a career in Ross Perot’s IT company, and created an impressive show resume throughout Europe however the desire to be near family lead him to Canada. He returned to United States horse shows 18 months ago- his last appearance in American rings was the late 1970’s.
This season two of his mounts have been having a stellar run, Cut to the Chase- owned by Donna Vanderwoude-enjoyed top tier placings in the Pre Green 3’3 Hunters this week in Conyers and was a division Champion in Gulfport. Ruby Tuesday, Donaldson’s own Holstein mare, took first place in the Young Jumper 7-8 Year Old section as well as 11th in Saturday evening’s $25,000 Cherry Blossom Grand Prix. “She’s truly special. I’ve been bringing her along at a safe pace, but this arena and footing was perfect for her introduction to the grand prix level. We only had one rail, I’m very proud of her.” Donaldson said of Ruby and added of his time in Conyers, “Classic can’t do enough for people-no request is ignored and Bob’s team does excellent work on the grounds and footing. And the people here are so friendly, everyone’s made me feel welcomed.” So much so he’s decided to stay for the second week of competition and the hope of a few more souvenirs [ribbons] to take home.
Donning the first Tri Color ribbons in the professional sections was Aiken, SC based Daniel Geitner with McGraw owned by Kimberly Quinn in the High Performance Hunters. Also from SC- Camden’s Finally Farm pro Liza Boyd scored two division Championships, in the 1st Year Green Hunters with Neill Sites’ Sunday Morning and in the 3’ Pre Green Hunters with Fairfax for owner Liz Hudspeth. Canton, GA based Lauren Kissel took the Championship title in the 3’3 Pre Green Hunters with Well Wishes for owner Savannah Cohen.
In the Amateur Owner Hunters it was Sarah Ward of Windermere, FL partnered with Onassis taking the 18-35 section Champion title, McGraw and Kimberly Quinn of Charlotte, NC won the 36 & Over section, and for the AO 3’3 division it was Buckhead, GA resident Lindsey Chestnut with Snowday taking top call. Over in the Adult Amateurs, for the younger section it was the Jamie Rardin of Mt. Pleasant, SC with her entry Sayo taking the top spot, in the middle Adults- owner/rider Laura Hauser of Cleveland Heights, OH rode mount Muse to Championship honors, and for the mature Adults it was owner-rider Laura Tison of Atlanta, GA with Emilion accepting the Champion rosette.
And not to be forgotten- the Children’s Hunter Division Champs for this opening week, in the younger section owner/rider Stella Martin of Marietta, GA and Cadeau 28 grabbed the tri colored ribbon and for the older section it was Sarah Meyer of Knoxville, TN aboard Ellen Edrick’s Ortello trotting away with bragging rights. However, that wasn’t the only big moment this weekend for Miss Meyer- a mystery man popped into the arena with a bouquet of flowers and posed the question, “Will you go to the prom with me?” Her beaming smile indicated a definite yes.
From the Jumper Divisions; rider Bryn Sadler of Santa Fe, NM with the Showcase 81, LLC entry Amely 12 clinched the Junior-Amateur Owner Meter 1.25 Championship while owner/rider Sara Ketcham of Columbus, NC rode Vodka Bayfor top honors in the Junior-Amateur Owner Meter 1.40 section. On Sunday owner/rider Emily Wyatt of Covington, GA grabbed the division Championship in the Adult Jumpers and Carolyn Dishuck of Tuscaloosa, AL with her mount Zen were awarded Champion honors in the Children’s Jumper division.
As the saying goes with Spring Showers…and Saturday saw a fair share of those, but it did not dampen the spirit of those gathered around the former Olympic Arena to cheer on friends and/or favorites in the $25,000 Cherry Blossom Grand Prix presented by The Classic Company. Course designer Allen Rheinheimer created a sweeping track with several technical turns to keep riders thinking throughout. This weekend found Natalie Geller of Akron, OH besting five others in the jump off round to take the victory.
Official results for the $25,000 Cherry Blossom Grand Prix were:
1st On My Way MB with owner-rider Natalie Geller 0 Faults 38.187
2nd Tokade De Kalvarie with owner-rider Natalie Johnson 0 Faults 40.514
3rd Merlin with owner-rider Frances Land 4 Faults 35.992
4th Sympa with Daniel Geitner for owner Mrs. Charles Bostwick 4 Faults 36.851
5th Nepal with owner-rider Jay Land 4 Faults 37.462
6th Urioso with owner-rider Sara Ketcham 5 Faults 42.348
7th Fieona with Hardin Towell for owner Kelly Maloney 8 Faults 39.860
8th Lucky One with Vick Russell for owner Lillian Hahn 8 Faults 40.834
9th Wonder Pomme with Christina Jason for owner Booth Parker 4 Faults 74.327
10th Fabulous with Ann De Michele for owner Cheryl Ainsworth 4 Faults 75.418
11th Ruby Tuesday with owner-rider Robert Donaldson 4 Faults 79.581
12th Cincinnati with Vicky Miller for owner Showcase 81, LLC 4 Faults 83.919
The Atlanta Spring Classics continues with more hunter/jumper action through April 3rd. Admission is free and the public is invited to enjoy the exciting competition throughout the week along with another $25,000 Grand Prix on Saturday evening.
Photo: Robert Donaldson & Ruby Tuesday ©Flashpoint Photography