David Beisel and Ammeretto.
Lexington, KY – August 14, 2015 – For David Beisel, the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show holds incredible memories, yet there is one in particular that stands out for him. It was three years ago exactly that David Beisel and Ammeretto, owned by Equine Holdings, LLC, entered into only the second grand prix of their show jumping partnership during the week of the USHJA Hunter Derby Finals, and they won. Friday night, under the lights of the Rolex Stadium, it was déjà vu for Beisel as he entered into a 12-horse jump-off with the small but mighty warmblood stallion, winning the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic, presented by Zoetis.
“Before the jump-off, as I was getting ready to go over the course, I was thinking to myself that it was three years ago that he competed his second grand prix, and now, here were are,” Beisel smiled. “I knew that if I had a little faith in him, and with the good partnership we have now, that it all would work, and it did.”
Out of a field of 47 horse and rider combinations, Beisel and Ammeretto rose to the top of the leader board, besting 11 fellow contenders during an exceptionally fast jump-off. Shane Sweetnam and Easy Contact Humlan, owned by Sweet Oak Farm, were the first to tackle the shortened course, designed by Allen Rheinheimer. Although they posted the quick time of 40.487 seconds, he left the door open just enough to let Beisel take his shot.
Beisel sat ringside during the course change, observing Rheinheimer’s changes to the track. He noted that deeper cups were added to the skinny, warranting a tight turn back, and the black oxer originally the 11th obstacle of the opening track was narrowed, allowing for a tight rollback. It was the race to the final oxer with Ammeretto that would have spectators on the edge of their seats.
“I knew I really had to take a shot to the last one,” Beisel explained. “Allen had made the black oxer quite narrow, and I hoped to turn back as tight as I could and trust that he would hop over it. It didn’t come up exactly how I would imagine, but he gave a huge effort. I tried to be smooth to the in-and-out and then trusted him to fly to the Hagyard. He did just that.”
Ammeretto and Beisel have a special partnership, rooted in time and trust. Ammeretto originally found a home with Beisel as a 3-year-old, and now, seven years later, the pair has an unspoken understanding.
Beisel continued, “He is such a smart horse; he really truly enjoys competing and jumping. I think he totally understands to adjust his speed out there and slow up for the jumps. If I have an error in the jump-off it is usually because I am pulling on the reins and mess up his rhythm. I think staying out of his way is the best way to go.”
Beisel and Ammeretto stopped the clock in an astonishing 38.229 seconds.
Sweetnam did not want to take no for an answer tonight. Having already lost the lead to Beisel, as well as to the 18-year-old Emanuel Andrade who posted a clean and speedy effort in 39.962 seconds, he returned on his second qualified mount, Eregast Van’t Kiezelhof.
Although Sweetnam gave it a gamble on the course, his time would still fall 1/10th of a second shy of Beisel’s winning time, landing from the oxer in 38.332 seconds for the second place, pushing Andrade into third.
“This horse was also second in the most recent Hagyard Challenge I did two weeks ago. He was close then and close again tonight. David is a very fast rider,” Sweetnam said. “Eregast Van’t Kiezelhof is not the fastest horse in the world, but he’s learning to be faster, as you saw tonight. He makes my job quite easy. I just have to find the jumps, and I think we’ll have a chance.”
All three top finishers plan to return to the Rolex Arena on Sunday afternoon for the $40,000 Bluegrass Festival Grand Prix, sponsored by Audi of Lexington. For Beisel, he is aiming for even bigger purses and dreams.
“We plan to jump the HITS Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix and the [American] Gold Cup and to keep trying to climb up the ranking list,” Beisel concluded. “It is a dream of mine to get on the short list for Team USA, so I want to keep chipping away at getting more points and prove that [Ammeretto] is a competitor. I cannot thank Equine Holdings enough for their support; you cannot do this without owners; I am blessed to have them and for them to back our goals.”
Fourth place was awarded to Sweetnam for his earlier round aboard Easy Contact Humlan as the first of the class, while fifth place was won by Victoria Colvin and Echo Von T Spieveld with a clear effort in 42.645 seconds. Amanda Derbyshire and Lady Maria BH rounded out the top six as the last of the clear efforts in a conservative 48.232 seconds.
Liza Boyd, Kelley Farmer, and Sandy Ferrell Lead the Way in Day One of the USHJA International Hunter Derby Final
The question of impending retirement has been in the air recently for 17-year-old chestnut Brunello, famously ridden by Liza Boyd to two USHJA International Derby Championships in the last two years, but the elder horse put those rumors to rest in the Rolex Stadium Friday as he earned three top marks above 90 for a cumulative score of 287 to secure the lead after the Classic Round. Kelley Farmer and Mindful, one of Farmer’s numerous mounts of the day, closely trail the current frontrunners headed into the second day of competition, featuring the handy round. Sandy Ferrell, having just come off a reserve showing in the Pre-Green Incentive Finals Thursday, kept her momentum going by clinching the third position with El Primero ahead of the 76 other entries.
“I think we can say that he is not retired. That is a question I have gotten a lot this year and I don’t think he wants to be retired. He just felt like he was six years old again,” Boyd gushed. “The horse is amazing. I will never have a horse like this again. I get a little emotional about him. He tries so hard; he loves what he does and he makes my life so easy. He is just really, really special; I can’t thank him enough.”
Although Brunello, co-owned by Boyd and Janet Peterson, has a few more notches in his belt than his younger counterparts, Boyd feels that the Hanoverian horse is still in great shape, which can be attributed to the training and fitness regimen she keep him on at home in Landrum, South Carolina. She credited lots of trail riding, treadmill workouts, turnout, and double rides on some days as their secret weapons to keeping him looking and feeling his best, a recipe that has shown successful.
“We do really focus on fitness, and this horse doesn’t have to show super often. The week before I locked him up in the stall and barely did anything with him. He had a massage, and I had a facial,” Boyd laughed. “I wanted him to be as fresh as possible.”
The winning pair laid down a stellar trip, proving that the best was saved for last as the final in the order to go over designer Steve Stephens’ classic round track, which presented riders with 13 efforts to show off their talents. Four fences offered high and low height options, giving competitors a chance to earn up to 12 additional points, four from each of the three judges, to their score. Boyd and Brunello opted for all the high options, contributing to their seamless round.
“I think it [the course] is typical Steve [Stephens]. You walk it and it seems pretty straightforward, but you get out there and they get a little wiggly; the horses don’t know where they are. It isn’t so much the height or that he didn’t test us with a lot of numbers. We only had one line. It was really where he placed the jumps,” Boyd said. “Even starting out with fence one, they didn’t expect the jump to be there; it was away from the in gate. He definitely placed them in tricky spots, but it was very rideable for a young horse and kept an old horse enthusiastic and sharp. Once again, he did an unbelievable job.”
As the two-time defending champions, Boyd and Brunello felt the pressure headed into the ring, but did not exude any of that anxiety to the crowd or, more importantly, the judges. The duo’s 287 score was pieced together of 90.5, 91.5, and 93.0 scores from the judges, plus the bonus 12 earned due to the high fence options.
“Last year was a thousand times less stress. I think I should have another baby before next year because last year I was just hoping to hold on and have fun. This year was a lot more stress; my palms are still sweating. I was super nervous,” Boyd reflected.
Currently in the reserve position, hometown rider Kelley Farmer aboard veteran mount Mindful, owned by Larry Glefke and Kensel, LLC, are hot on the heels of Boyd and Brunello, only a singular point behind the current leaders. She and the black gelding Mindful have an impressive résumé together, having accrued lifetime prize money topping $97,000, of which $65,000 was won this year alone.
“I can’t say enough about that horse. He is a fantastic horse, and he went beautifully today. I hope it goes the same tomorrow. I made some mistakes on some of the others, but the course was nice and the horses went well,” Farmer said.
Farmer also earned a stop amongst the frontrunners in the saddle aboard Dalliance, who is owned by Avatar Real Estate, LLC out of Coral Gables, Florida. The pair rode to a 276.600 score to claim the sixth position headed into the handy round.
On the opposite side of the age spectrum from Brunello sits El Primero, the 6-year-old bay stallion navigated to third in the standings by Sandy Ferrell of Bernville, Pennsylvania. The talkative horse whinnied all the way around the ring, but that did not detract from the strong performance as he proved to not only talk the talk, but also walked the walk to the tune of a 280.250 score in his first Derby Finals.
“He is a newcomer to the derby world. He just turned six this year, and he is a baby, and must be the youngest out there. I think that we are just seeing the beginning of his career. He was a little bit talkative out there today; I think he was wondering where his friends went because he couldn’t see anybody. He was talking all the way around the ring,” Ferrell said.
El Primero, owned by Bryan Baldwin and Meralex Farm of Brandon, Florida, is known as ‘Sexy’ outside the ring and was imported from Europe as a jumper, but smoothly transitioned into the hunter ring, where he has shined under the tutelage of Louise Serio.
“As a horseman, you are going to fall in love with that horse. Whether it is his look, his athletic ability is endless; his desire to perform is endless. He is an amazing horse, and I think great things are only yet to come,” Farrell commented. “It is rare that a horse comes out of the jumper ring in Europe and plops into the hunter ring and off we go. He is just an incredible animal. He has such a wise soul. He is so in control of everything.”
The top six horse and rider partners are separated by 11 points headed into Saturday’s handy phase. Trying to surpass the top three will be Cassanto, ridden by Brady Hamilton and owned by Emily Perez of Pittsford, New York, the current fourth place contenders, as well as Jennifer Alfano and Miss Lucy, owned by Helen Lenahan of Buffalo, New York, who rank fifth. Alfano also claimed the seventh and eighth position with Maggie May, owned by Billie Steffee of Noelty, Ohio, and Jersey Boy, owned by SBS Farms Inc. of Buffalo, New York. Farmer and Dalliance round out the top six.
Tomorrow the hunters will return to the Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park for the Handy Round, which serves as the USHJA International Hunter Derby Final during the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show.
By: Kendall Bierer and Elaine Wessel