Darren Graziano and Vernal Win at Vermont Summer Festival

Monday, August 1, 2011
Posted by Jennifer Ward, Starting Gate Communications


East Dorset, Vermont — Darren Graziano of Brewster, New York, and his young mount Vernal bested a field of 21 to claim victory in the $30,000 Mount Equinox Grand Prix on Sunday, July 31, at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, Vermont.  The six-week equestrian competition is running at Harold Beebe Farm from July 6 through August 14, 2011.
Graziano and Vernal, a nine-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Katie Kohlhas, were one of 10 horse-rider combinations who managed to jump the course without penalty in the first round.  An additional 10 horse and rider combinations had four faults in the first round, with only one horse bringing down multiple rails.

“Vernal is kind of a new mount for me,” said Graziano of the big bay gelding.  “We got him towards the middle of Florida and just went really slow with him, trying to get his head together, to get the rideability.  We did a few of the schooling classes just to try and figure each other out.  When we got home from Florida, we started to jump a few of the bigger classes and then, about five weeks ago, he jumped his first Grand Prix.  He jumped the first grand prix with four faults, just a bit of a green mistake, then we did a nice invitational grand prix in Millbrook, and he won.  We did one more grand prix with four faults and then this, so I think he is doing alright.”

Graziano went on to say of the horse’s personality, “He has his own character, and you can see that in the ring.  He will kick out, but he loves his job.  He wants to please, he loves doing what he does.  They have to have it from birth, and that is the most enjoyable thing about him.”

Graziano owns and operates DG Venture, Inc. out of Brewster, New York, where he has focused on the development and training of amateur and adult riders and the buying, development and sales of young horses that he has imported from Europe.

Earlier in his career, Graziano won the Northeast Regional Maclay Finals and continued his success in his junior years by capturing both team and individual gold medals at the North American Young Rider Championships.  He has continued his success with numerous top Grand Prix placings.

Helen Goddard had good luck as she placed two of her mounts, Guitar Hero and Blue Danube, in second and fifth place respectively.  The performance by Blue Danube is yet another step in this remarkable horse’s saga.  The strapping, 17.2 hand, half thoroughbred/half Trakehner, who is related to Kentucky Derby winner Spectacular Bid, injured himself in 2008 and the prognosis was not good.  Goddard has nursed him back to health and to winning form.

Ian Silitch had the most trouble of any rider, but not in the ring.  Silitch’s mount Rivano unseated him in the schooling area and had to be chased down and returned to the rider.  Even with that disruption, Silitch managed to turn in two clear rounds and finish in third place.

Course Designer Eric Hasbrouck built a very challenging course for the competitors, featuring bending lines, short turns and tight rollbacks.  His jump-off course had long gallops mixed with the chance for some very tight turns which the competitors capitalized on in their quest for the top prize.

Hasbrouck’s first round course caught most of the riders at the very end, the last fence seemed to have a will of its own, and saw the demise of quite a few hopes.  The luck of the day was not with many of the top riders who had rails over the course.

Following two days of rest, week five of the six-week Vermont Summer Festival begins on Wednesday, August 3.

Offering more than $750,000 in prize money, the Vermont Summer Festival is the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont.  The first five Sundays of the Vermont Summer Festival feature a $30,000 Grand Prix at 1 p.m., culminating with the $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix on Sunday, August 14.  In addition to the $10,000 Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, held each Friday, the weekly $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior/Amateur-Owner Classics are hotly contested. New for 2011, the Vermont Summer Festival will host a $5,000 Hunter Derby each Thursday five of the six weeks.

Competition begins at 8 a.m. daily, Wednesday through Sunday.  Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children, Wednesday through Saturday.  On Grand Prix Sunday, admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children.  As always, 100 percent of the gate proceeds benefit the Friends Foundation for MEMS, (Manchester Elementary and Middle School).

For over 20 years, the Vermont Summer Festival has attracted exhibitors and their families to the Manchester region each summer.  For more information about the Vermont Summer Festival, please e-mail: or visit

$30,000 Mount Equinox Grand Prix
1.  Darren Graziano   Vernal    0:0    36.55
2.  Helen Goddard    Guitar Hero    0:0    38.10
3.  Ian Silitch    Rivano   0:0    39.92
4.  Sally Hinkle Russell  Fair Wind    0:0  41.15
5.  Helen Goddard   Blue Danube   0:4   37.24
6.  Adam Ottomanelli    Voice    0:4    39.18
7.  Mark Leone   Great American   0:4    39.57
8.  Linda Sheridan    Marteen   0:4   39.72
9.  Kim Mulligan   Butterfly Rouge   0:4  42.35
10.  Jimmy Torano   Katina   0:8   36.82
11.  Jimmy Torano   Winner   4     68.14
12.  Theodore Demetriou    Catuso   4    69.53

Photo:  Darren Graziano of Brewster, New York, and Vernal won the $30,000 Mount Equinox Grand Prix on Sunday, July 31, at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, Vermont. Photo credit - David Mullinix Photograph