Atlanta Fall Classics Opener is a Cornucopia of Action
RELEASE: November 10, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Flashpoint Media Group
Mother Nature provided crystal blue skies, a blaze of fall colors and perfect riding temperatures for the opening of three weeks competition at the Georgia International Horse Park. “What a wonderful week to kick off the finale to our show season! And what great talents we have for it!” said Bob Bell, President of the Classic Company.
Following a nearly three-year absence from Atlanta, Aaron Vale proved he’s no veiled threat but the real deal during this first week of show. Based in Ocala, FL, Vale over took 21 tough competitors to clinch victory in Thursday’s Classic Equine Equipment, Inc., sponsored Open Jumper Welcome Stake. After riding his own eight-year-old “blue eyed” Belgium-bred Sinatra IV to a double-clear finish on the Allen Rheinheimer-designed course of looping turns, Vale spoke of the afternoon class, “There’s no such thing as easy. Anytime you’re jumping at this time of year, at this time of day, there’s some funny shadows that can come into play. I saw a few stops out there, it could be related to the sunlight, but overall it was a great course.” The pair stopped the clock with a jump-off time of 33.538 seconds well below the allowed 47 seconds.
“I’ve had him [Sinatra] a while, he’s won some decent classes, but I kinda just started riding him a little bit different over the last couple of days and I’m quite happy with my new approach,” laughed Vale about their last-minute strategy change. Vale's next step includes the $25,000 Atlanta Fall Grand Prix on Sunday where he’ll partner with Sinatra again; eight-year-old Electric, and seasoned veteran Platinum.
Finishing second in the Welcome was Kyle King aboard the Cimarron Farm entry Paola, third went to New Zealand Olympic rider Sharn Wordley riding Rockville, fourth to jumping veteran Chuck Waters on 747, and completing the top five was Wordley again with the Filip Amram owned Zorro.
Over in the hunter rings, Palm Harbor, FL, resident Mary Eufemia reined supreme with dual championships. The Paula Pell entry Unbelievable was awarded the championship title in the green working division while Madison Miller’s Black Pearl wore the tricolors in the conformation section. Local favorite Julie Curtin of Woodstock, GA, certainly had her Bases Loaded this week as the pair claimed the pre green 3’3 championship and Ocala, FL,-based Hunt Tosh put Robert Hunt’s Ledger in the top spot for the pre green 3’ division.
Week One drew to its close with the most anticipated class, the $25,000 Atlanta Fall Grand Prix sponsored by Brook Ledge Horse Transportation. An international field of 29 competitors turned out to vie for bragging rights and the big check. Providing this week’s jumper-course challenges was Zionsville, IN,-native Allen Rheinheimer, know best for taking advantage of the former Olympic arena’s full measure in order to test both rider and horse’s physical prowess as well as the strength of their partnership. From the starters, only seven survived the twists and quirks of the 14-obstacle first round, among them fresh from the 2008 Olympics New Zealand team member Sharn Wordley was the only competitor to bring two mounts into the final run.
It’s not uncommon for some pros to have rituals or lucky charms they use prior to a big ride—even if they don’t always confess so. For the winner, Derek Petersen of Archer, FL, it’s “my magical Antares saddle!” a chuckling Petersen admitted to never riding the gelding in anything else since their first win came after switching to the new saddle. Paired once more with Jordan Coyne’s eight-year-old Dutch bred Lazaro, this duo found no issues with Round One and clocked in clear at 81.60 (below the 89 second limit). “It was technically very difficult because if you got there early in the five stride to the vertical then that second oxer was right there on top of you.”
Petersen explained the hot spot of Round One, the last line—a triple