David Jennings and Marcus Aurelius Dominate Atlanta Spring Finale
RELEASE: April 2, 2009
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Robbi Meisel
George Lucas’ Storm Troopers from the blockbuster Star Wars
films were created as an elite army with no fears, just a determination to be victorious. This week saw a new breed of Storm Troopers at the Atlanta Spring Classics finale. Shaker Heights, OH-based David Jennings and partner Marcus Aurelius triumphed over Mother Nature in the Lucky Sevens Welcome Stake and the Atlanta Spring Grand Prix, both presented by Classic Company.
Despite torrents of rain that came and went throughout most of Thursday, Jennings had no qualms about competing in the former Olympic ring. “No, the footing was just fine. The ring was a little sloppy in spots, but the crew here do a great job at maintaining it.” Thursday’s winner said.
Allen Rheinheimer had the task of designing a course that encompassed both the safety and challenge of athletes. Taking advantage of the full measure of the large arena Rheinheimer created a test of 12 obstacles [14 efforts] that included a pair of double combinations—4AB oxer in vertical out and 8AB vertical in and oxer out along with a couple of tight rollbacks and heights ranging up to 5’. The generous time allowance of 87 would be Rheinheimer’s gift to most riders. “The test was more thinking about whether or not you drop strides out to shortcut or play it safe. Overall the course was straight forward-, as long as you thought it out.” Jennings said.
Partnered with 15-year-old Marcus for about a year now, Jennings shared, “It’s taken some time to build a mutual trust with each other, but we had a great run this winter and each show we’re jelling together more and more.” The pair was the second clean round with a time of 78.609.
Five others would advance with Jennings to the jump-off round, among them Canadian favorite Margie Gayford with the Wingberry Farm entry Show Girl. Minnesota’s Scott Lenkart would be the busiest rider with two mounts—Odaus and Un Prince, both owned by Martha MacMillan and Aiken, SC’s, Daniel Geitner with Trading Places for owner Kyle Register. The seven-effort final round began at fence #1 and from there snaked it’s way across the width of the arena with a 48 second cap on the time. “It was a nice series of turns and broken lines. Quick and steady all the way,” Jennings said of their 38.047-second victory.
Official results found Geitner and Trading Places in second place with a clean time of 39.035. Lenkart and Odaus took the third spot with a clear 40.277, while Margie Gayford picked up the fourth placing with a clear 42.073 and completing the top five were Lenkart and Un Prince finishing with eight faults in 38.057.
Given the amount of rain that fell over Friday and Saturday, most show managers would have been inclined to throw in the towel. Classic Company President Bob Bell admits he considered it, but “the Storm Troopers stopped me.” Bell went on to explain to his surprise more riders were seeking him out to make sure he wouldn’t cancel the remaining classes. “One lady standing by me at a hunter ring said that if weather was a deciding factor for showing her horses...well she would have taken up darts.” So press on through the various weather elements competitors did. Though Bell and Rheinheimer did decide it best to move the grand prix to Sunday morning into the covered arena “just in case.”
The starting field of the $25,000 Atlanta Spring Grand Prix was a balanced mix of young promising horses and seasoned professionals, like the victorious Marcus Aurelius whom Jennings owns and rides. Experience may have been just the edge needed to conquer the unique first round of 12 obstacles, with 15 strong efforts, as Rheinheimer seemed to hold nothing back on a course that included everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. The 78-second allowance put many a rider on notice as they walked the indoor course comprised of such elements as the 6AB combination [oxer in vertical out] with a bending