Margie Engle and Indigo.
Lexington, KY – May 11, 2014 – Reigning USEF National Show Jumping Co-Champions Margie Engle and Indigo may not have been making headlines this winter, but today they proved they are still a force to be reckoned with when they outpaced a 16-horse jump-off to win the $75,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix. Although Pablo Barrios and Zara Leandra consistently top the leader board at the Kentucky Horse Shows, their two second lead over the other competitors was not enough to take home the win when Engle and Indigo produced a faultless effort, just fractions of a second faster.
“Indigo really felt back to his old self today,” smiled Engle after the victory gallop. “In Florida this year, he was clean in one of the classes earlier in the year, but he bruised his foot a little bit. He was a little uncomfortable, so I didn’t get to do very much with him there. He just wasn’t on his game. We gave him some time off, and since then he’s felt right back to himself.”
Thirty-nine riders showed over Richard Jeffery’s opening course, which ended up yielding 16 clears for the tiebreaker. With multiple top combinations to return, the short course became a horse race, which included a vertical-oxer double combination, a large brush vertical by the open water, and multiple bending lines, as well as opportunities to pick up a big gallop. Seven of the return combinations produced a faultless second round, but it was Engle who produced the fastest time.
Paige Johnson set the pace to beat as the first to return with Cambito, owned by Salamander Farm. The pair easily cleared all the fences and broke the beam at 41.540 seconds, which would hold up for the third place award. Young rider Ali Wolff was the first to come close to catching Johnson’s time with John Wolff’s Casall IV, but their clear round would be just shy in 41.723 seconds for the fourth place award.
When Pablo Barrios entered the arena with the ZL Group’s Zara Leandra, the crowd expected Thursday’s victor to be quick, and when he galloped through the timers 38.697 seconds, almost three seconds ahead of Johnson, it looked like he was the clear winner.
Margie Engle can never be counted out though, and as the last to return she had luck on her side. Engle and Indigo, owned by Griese, Garber, Hidden Creek and Gladewinds, easily made it over the first obstacles. They picked up a quick gallop to the combination, taking a huge risk and Indigo gave it his all over the large fences. As they galloped towards the final line the time was tight, but they edged out Barrios by stopping the clock at 38.113 seconds with all the fences intact.
“I knew that Margie would try to beat mine time, and I knew that if she could leave all of the rails up like she did she could definitely have the victory,” admitted Barrios. “I’m very happy. The other day I was after Margie in the jump-off, and I beat her time. Today, I was before her and she beat me. That’s the sport. The draw now has a lot to do with the winners. The horses are fast. The riders are fast. Whoever has a better draw has a better opportunity to win, and that’s what happened.”
Although Engle did not get to watch Barrios’ round, Donald Cheska gave her the winning tip. “Donald Cheska was very nice and had watched some of the rounds,” she explained. “He told me to take my time at the brush vertical by the water because a lot of horses were getting confused there, and he said everyone was slowing down and to take a shot at the in-and-out, so I followed what he said. He gave me a really good hint and it worked out. I took a very big shot going into the in-and-out and Indigo helped me out a lot there.”
Engle continued, “Indigo is a funny horse. I don’t go fast with him that often because he wants to go fast all the time. I felt like there were so many clean today I had to take a little bit of a shot, but he’s very good with turning. He’ll turn back to something and keep his impulsion really easily. I wasn’t in love with the long gallop to the in-and-out, but I came in at enough of an angle that it helped set him up a little bit. He tends to get a little flat if I leave out too many, but he jumped really well today.”
Over the years, Engle has won many major events at the Kentucky Horse Shows, and she loves returning to the Kentucky Horse Park. “It’s such a beautiful facility, and no matter what the weather does, the footing stays fantastic,” she commented. “The horses seem to really like the footing here. The footing couldn’t be better. It’s probably some of the best footing I show on anywhere in the world. It’s also nice to have open space to ride in. We’re able to ride the horses in the field, and it’s good for their brains and good for their muscles.”
Engle will be heading to Europe to compete at Aachen and Hickstead this year as one of the short listed riders for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and while she is away, Indigo will take some time to rest, focusing on the Lake Placid and HITS Saugerties Horse Shows for his next events.
Earlier today, the $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame High Amateur-Owner and Junior Jumper Classics sponsored by Sleepy P Ranch and Audi of Lexington were held in the Rolex Stadium. The Amateur-Owner competitors showed first, and while seven advanced to the jump-off, only Ali Wolff was able to clear the short course aboard Brianda for the winning honors. Christina Firestone and Arewen were the fastest four-faulters to take home the second place honors, while Haley Gassel and Quite Dark 2 picked up the third place prize.
The High Junior Jumper Classic was next where it was Eugenio Garza claiming the top honors with Huapango, as well as the division’s championship title. The duo was almost four seconds faster than second place finishers Emanuel Andrade and AD Vangelys in the jump-off, and as Garza crossed the finish line he yelled “Happy Mother’s Day” to his mother, who was watching from the stands. Kelli Cruciotti was very close to catching Andrade’s time with Chamonix H and earned the third place award.
The jumper action at the Kentucky Horse Park will continue next week with the Kentucky Spring Classic, scheduled for May 14-18, 2014. Highlight events include the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic on Thursday, the $75,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix sponsored by Audi of Lexington on Saturday, and Sunday’s $20,000 Bluegrass Classic.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Rebecca Walton for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International