Jumpers Take Center Stage at Atlanta Fall Finale
RELEASE: November 26, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Robbi Meisel
“I like to think it’s Holiday bonus time,” said Bob Bell, President of Classic Company, of the nearly $150,000 in prize money awarded during this finale week of the Atlanta Fall Series. “And given the economy now, these cash awards could mean a lot more to our hard-working riders,” he added.
Thursday evening saw the first big bonus check handed out to New Zealand Olympic team member Sharn Wordley in the $25,000 EMO Insurance Welcome Stake. Epson Pierreville, with guidance from Wordley, overpowered an international field of nearly 40 strong mares, geldings, and stallions in first-round action to become one of only six to advance into the jump-off. “He was spot on!” said Wordley, who is now based in Ocala, FL, of the coming 18 year-old Selle Francais gelding.
Taking on the task of designing the finale jumper courses was Michel Vaillancourt. An International as well as Olympic-caliber talent, Vaillancourt prepared a seemingly straightforward layout of 13 obstacles [16 efforts-4'6 to 4'9] with several sweeping tracks, but, as Wordley described, "It was pretty far from simple! David Beisel and David Jennings are always so fast, plus Christian [Currey] can come out fast, so I had to do enough to catch them, and also not go too crazy."
It was what Vaillancourt does best, a thinking course, one that had riders asking questions about strides and approaches. With a generous time of 88 seconds, the first act was dubbed a tango with it’s technical snap turns and odd strides. Particularly difficult was the triple combination at 4ABC—oxer to vertical to vertical—that arched into the #5 oxer over water. “It was a funny angle to the liverpool [#5] and it was 7½ strides there so you had to come direct on a square angle to the oxer. It was a bit tricky.” Wordley explained the lesson learned on his first mount, Rockville, who had that rail down. “It was the half strides that made it difficult,” he concluded. Epson and Wordley danced a clear round in 81.21 seconds.
The six-jump [seven-effort] 48-second challenge deciding the victor offered it all for the spectators: speed, rollbacks, sharp turns, and split-second decision making on the rider's part. Along with Beisel, Jennings, and Currey, international competitor Bjorn Ikast claimed a spotlight with Wordley for the evening’s last curtain call. “Fast one!” Wordley began. “I think we [Epson] were the only ones to go inside from one to two [fence #15 vertical] and then I just rolled back one stride less than everybody else.” A small maneuver that paid big with a clear and blazing time of 38.441. “I went the same pace as everyone, I was just able to turn a little tighter,” he added, “He [Epson] was spot on!”
Look for this duo to return for Sunday’s main event, “Then I’ve got to head to my other day job, Wordley and Martin, a riding surface company that produces footing for facilities across the country...so I can keep doing this!” Wordley said with a wink.
Final results placed David Jennings and Marcus Aurelius in second with a clear final time of 42.921. David Beisel, riding Patoile for owner Harlow Investment Enterprises, took third with a clear time of 43.211. Fourth went to Christian Currey and Cenzo in a time of 40.910 with four faults, and completing the top five was Bjorn Ikast with Braveheart in a final time of 41.531 and four faults.
Thursday afternoon's prix was just the start of big-money classes during this final week of the fall series. Sunday morning hosted several moneyed events beginning with the Classic Company sponsored $10,000 NHJL Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic won by Mobile, AL’s own Ann Marie Walker and Radio Flyer. Following that came Audrey Trimble of Westlake, TX, riding Memphis to win the $10,000 NHJL Children’s/Adult Jumper Classic. And the long awaited presentation of the John Deere USEF Memberperks Amateur Finals at which a John Deere Gator is awarded to the rider with the hig