Rodrigo Pessoa and Let's Fly Win the $75,000 Grand Prix de Penn National World Cup Qualifier at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show; McLain Ward Sweeps Top Classes
RELEASE: October 22, 2009
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Violet Forbes
Brazilian superstar Rodrigo Pessoa headed the winning line-up of international riders in Sunday's $75,000 Grand Prix de Penn National on the final day of the 64th Pennsylvania National Horse Show.
Pessoa, Olympic Gold medalist and three-time World Cup winner, aboard Let's Fly, was the eighth rider on course and the first to navigate the course designed by Steve Stephens without a rail down. "I have been riding him for a little over a year and a half," said Pessoa. "I started him in the bigger classes this year in Florida, and he has been doing really good. This is his fourth big grand prix this year. He won a big grand prix in Charlotte in April, in Rome he won the big CSIO and in Jacksonville, and he placed in a big grand prix in Europe over the summer, he's really been fantastic for us."
"In the first round I was a little bit lucky at fence 10, he is the kind of horse, he is not a spectacular jumper, he knows his way around, but he always touches one or two like that, but he is a very smart horse."
The very enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd watched six more horse-and-rider combinations exit the ring with faults before Leslie Burr Howard of Westport, CT, and Lennox Lewis 2 thrilled them with a fault-free round and the assurance of a jump-off.
Ljubov Kochetova, hailing from Russia, with her mount Aslan, were the next pairing to leave all the rails up followed by Mario Deslauriers and Vicomte D. Carlos Boy and Ken Berkley added their names to the jump-off list as did Erynn Ballard of Canada, and her mount Robin Van Roosendael. This gave us a truly international field for the jump-off. Of the six countries represented in the class, four would be sending riders into the jump off.
By virtue of being the first clear round, Pessoa would be first in the jump-off. He entered the ring with determination and a plan. When he and Let's Fly were finished, he had turned in another fault-free round and stopped the timers in 33.73 seconds.
"The jump-off, you know, going first I thought I had to come up with something to make it difficult for the rest of them," explained Pessoa. "With all those good riders coming behind, you have to come up with something. So there was a little gap after fence 2 to go inside, and I thought if I did that it would be hard enough to be beat. I had to do it, take the chance, and it worked out for me."
"He is really a simple horse to ride. He is very intelligent, and he is an easy horse to ride really. He makes the rider look good because he is really not complicated. If anything, he is a little bit spooky. He is out of the same mother as Shutterfly and there are a lot of similarities. He is a little tense and spooky, but he is getting better every time he is coming in the ring."
"This horse is really good indoor, so I thought I would take him to this show. This course was harder than it appeared when we walked it. This is the first indoor, and the fences come up very quick, and the horses are still in the outdoor mode. This course was nice, the fences were not crazy big, but it had it's difficulties. The result was good."
Howard and Lennox Lewis 2 set out to catch the leader, but were not as lucky. Lennox Lewis knocked down two rails for an eight-fault penalty in a time of 37.69 and would finish the day in sixth place.
Kochetova and Aslan, a giant of a horse, navigated the jump-off course without penalty, but their time of 40.10 seconds left lots of room for them to be overtaken. They would finish the class in third place.
Mario Deslauriers and the 11-year-old Vicomte D did not have luck on their side as the big grey took down a rail at fence five and in the combination for a total of eight faults in a time of 36.64. As the fastest pair with eight faults, they finished in fifth place.
Ken Berkley, hailing from Flemington, NJ, and Carlos Boy gave it their best shot and almost made it around fault free, but the last fence was their undoing and they crossed the timers with four faults in a time of 36.77 and ended in fourth place.
Erynn Ballard was the last to go with her huge Belgian-bred gelding. The horse won over the crowd as he stood there in the middle of the ring like a statue except for the flapping of his lower lip. When he moved off, he did so with purpose and after the six fence jump-off, crossed the timers with a clear round in 39.13 seconds. The round would place them in second place.
"I've had him for six years", said Ballard. "He was very difficult when I got him, and he is very big for a girl, so it took us a while to get him to go my way and that is part of his routine. He walks in and he stands and he stares and he looks and then he is ready to go. He'll tell you when he is ready. If you leg him and he gets frozen again, wait a second and then go. He is a very nervous horse."
"My plan in the jump-off was to go clear. He is not a fast horse, but I knew that I couldn't beat Rodrigo, and it wasn't even worth trying, I knew that I could probably end up second if I was smart enough. Walking in last when there are two clear and one is very fast and one is very slow, I was aiming for second place. There were also three with rails, and I wanted to make sure that I didn't do anything silly and risk having a rail down."
With four countries represented with the top four placings, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show proved that it is a truly international event with top riders and horses from around the world. McLain Ward and Paige Johnson Win Big on Friday
McLain Ward of Brewster, NY, brought out another mare to contest the $5,000 Southside Open Jumper Speed class at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show and true to form, left the ring with a blue ribbon.
Ward's mount for the winning effort was Esplanade 7, an 11-year-old chestnut mare owned by Louisburg Farm in Wellington, FL. The pair completed the course with no penalties in a time of 55.652 seconds. Nine horse-and-rider combinations completed the round without penalties, but none could beat the time turned in by Ward.
Paige Johnson, from the Plains, VA, is another of the very busy young competitors in this sport, juggling school and riding. Her riding took precedence on Friday as she piloted Chiron S, owned by the family's Salamander Farm to victory in the $15,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur Owner Jumper Classic, presented by Cavalor.
Twenty-five competitors started over the Steve Stephens-designed course, and only four managed to complete the first round track fault-free. Johnson sped through the course on the big grey gelding in a time of 36.768 with no faults, a full three seconds faster than her closest rival.McLain Claims Wins with Goldika
If Ward believes in fate, karma, lucky numbers and the like, he should immediately go buy a lottery ticket filled with the number three. Ward and Goldika 559 triumphed over an original starting field of 33 horse and rider combinations, winning the $25,000 Pennsylvania National Big Jump competition for a record third time at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. And if that wasn't enough, all three top finishers are Olympic Gold medalists and this was the third class in a row that Ward has won.
Goldika 559, owned by Ward and Blue Chip Bloodstock showed her foot speed and jumping ability as she turned in two clear rounds, the final round in a time of 36.07 seconds.
"She made history, not me," said Ward of the mare. "As I always say, I'm very lucky to have great horses and she's been a longtime partner, even though she had a great career before me. It's just amazing, 17 years, and it's been a hard seventeen years. She's shown plenty and she just keeps doing it and doing it and doing it. It's really remarkable. I keep thinking maybe it's time to retire her and then she comes to shows and keeps doing this so she must still enjoy it. Thanks to her owners obviously, without them we wouldn't have her."
Pessoa and Lets Fly were second to Ward with two clear rounds as well, and a jump-off time of 39.88 seconds.
"I saw Rodrigo on the TV," explained Ward. "I didn't see him live, but I had an idea of his time. I know Goldika is a really fast horse; she hasn't lost her speed, so if we can leave up the jumps we have a decent chance. Rodrigo and Let's Fly are very fast and little bit younger, but Goldika is quick and a great animal. She'll win as long as you don't ride her badly. She's pretty easy. She's very adjustable and she's very careful, she's very honest. You just try to put her in the right place and give her half a chance and she's going to try pretty hard for you."
Third place went to Leslie Burr Howard and her Raimond W, a coal black 11-year-old gelding. Even though he left all the jumps standing, Raimond W was unable to come near the winning time, crossing the finish line in 43.49 seconds.
"I thought it was a very good course that Steve Stephens built," said Ward. "Difficult, but not too much, just right for this class. I thought that it worked out really well, I was just trying to take it one jump at a time and jump a clear round and get in the hunt.
Contemplating his jump-off round, Ward continued, " I heard her rub fence 7, but I had a feeling it was going to stay. I was a little bit worried about the inside turn, I thought early on that was a little bit difficult, and it was difficult, it was very sharp and even though the oxer was narrowed up, it presented a problem being an oxer. I got lucky. I almost hit the standard at the purple vertical, but she kind of curled around it. She just tries her heart out so you try to put her in the right place and she's going to give you her best."
"We take it somewhat week by week," said Ward of Goldika's future. "We have a tentative plan, but I don't know how much longer she's going to be going, maybe one more season. It's kind of on borrowed time. We actually stopped with her about two years ago and tried to breed her and unfortunately she didn¹t get pregnant. She was sound and we brought her back to the sport. She'll tell us. We love her. We never ask her to do more than she wants to do. She seems to still enjoy the sport so as long as that¹s the case we'll keep going. She won't go to WEF; she'll have the winter off and she'll show this summer."McLain Ward and Miss Liberty 7 Score Back-to-Back Wins
In a repeat performance, McLain Ward and Miss Liberty 7 sped around the course to win the $5,000 Chase The Clouds Open Speed at the 64th Pennsylvania National Horse Show.
Miss Liberty 7, took Ward through the course handily, stopping the clock in an amazing 49.289 seconds. Ward took the lead away from fellow Olympic rider Rodrigo Pessoa who had led with a score of 50.790 seconds aboard Palouchin De Ligny.
Pessoa's round had been extremely fast and accurate, and it looked like he was going to be unbeatable, but Ward proved that his horse has the talent and rideability to accomplish anything. Tighter turns and a bigger stride carried the mare around the course a full second faster than Pessoa.
Third place went to Charlie Jayne and Caretina III, who tried to best the time, but came up a little short, 51.059, despite the wonderful jumping effort turned in by the pair. The speedy Marengo with Hillary Dobbs had to settle for fourth place with a time of 52.337 and a fault-free performance. Dobbs is juggling a lot of commitments these days, a full course load at Harvard and a professional riding career, and while her horses have been in Harrisburg since Monday, she arrived at the show after her classes were over the night before, giving her very little time in the saddle.
Next year's Pennsylvania National Horse Show will run October 14-23, 2010, at the Pennsylvania Farm and Show Complex in Harrisburg, and will again feature 10 full days of hunter and jumper competition with both amateurs and professionals vying for the coveted championships. The Pennsylvania National hosts 10 national championships. The competition highlight is the Grand Prix de Penn National on Saturday evening.
Special event highlights will include: Hunt Night competition, Jack Russell Terrier races, the North American Fox Hunting Horn Blowing Championship, family days with free pony rides. There will be demonstrations, as well as special educational events.
The show is entertaining and educational. Approximately 70 vendors are accepted offering a wide variety of items: clothing, gifts and antiques, custom signs and furniture, fine and costume jewelry, toys, pet items, t-shirts and tack shops. All offer a unique variety of items sure to please horse lovers and non-horse people alike.
The Pennsylvania National Horse Show is proud of its tradition of supporting both equine and youth programs. The show benefits the Harrisburg Kiwanis Youth Foundation and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation.
Further information and results are available at the horse show's website at www.panational.org