Lexington, KY – July 28, 2011 – It was a late night at the Kentucky Horse Park as riders gathered at the Rolex Stadium to compete in the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. McLain Ward proved to be the best of the best, dominating the jump-off with the only two double clear efforts aboard Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve and Vocas to place first and second, respectively. Ashlee Bond and Shane Sweetnam also tackled the short course, but with four faults each they placed third and fourth, respectively.
Tonight’s class was the third of seven grand prix events that make up the Hagyard Challenge Series, sponsored by Hagyard Medical Institute and presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Following the final event in the series, a cash prize of $45,000 will be awarded to the rider accumulating the most points throughout the series for the Leading Rider Bonus.
Twenty-seven riders competed over tonight’s first round designed by Richard Jeffery of Bournemouth, England, which featured an open water with a scored lath and pole, a oxer-vertical double combination, and an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination. Only three riders were able complete the technical track without fault and advance to the jump-off. The short course began over a single oxer to two single verticals, a second oxer, the first two obstacles in the triple combination, and finished with a gallop over a large oxer near the gate.
“It was a good course,” noted eventual winner McLain Ward. “Obviously it is very hot, so I am sure that was a factor. It is a great venue with great footing and good lighting. I thought it was a difficult course, but very appropriate.”
McLain Ward managed to advance to the jump-off with two mounts, and tackled the shortened course first aboard Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve, owned by Louisburg Farm of Boston, MA. The duo left nothing to chance, picking up a fast gallop and never holding back. They jumped easily over each obstacle and raced across the finish line in 32.69 seconds, going straight to the top of the leaderboard and eventually leading the victory gallop.
“Pjotter is an incredibly careful horse and very fast,” said Ward. “I have made mistakes in jump offs where I have tried to go medium and do just enough, and sometimes if just go and try to win it works out the best. So I was going to try and go as fast as I could and put the pressure on.”
Shane Sweetnam was next in the ring with Diktator Van De Boslandhoeve, owned by Sweet Oak Farm of Wellington, FL. They had a slightly more conservative speed and caught the back rail at the first oxer in the double combination, incurring four faults in a time of 36.14 seconds for the fourth place award. Ashlee Bond and Chivas Z, owned by Little Valley Farms of Hidden Hills, CA, had trouble at the same fence, but with a quicker time of 33.29 seconds they scored the third place honors.
Ward entered the ring last riding Louisburg Farm’s Vocas, and with the win well in hand the duo kept a more conservative canter and focused on leaving all the rails intact. They were able to successfully accomplish their goal, breaking the beam at 42.514 seconds and taking home the second place prize.
“It was a good nights work, both horses really went nicely I was lucky the other two had a rail so with Vocus I could go a little slow in the jump off,” explained Ward after his victory. “I knew he wasn’t going to be as fast as Pjotter, who is a quick horse, and he jumped well. Ashlee’s horse is very fast and wins a lot, and she is a fast rider so I knew had to do enough at the beginning.”
Ward continued, “Pjotter and Vocus are actually polar opposites. Pjotter is super careful a lot of blood very sensitive. Vocus has no blood, big jumper, super brave, and very quiet. They are really great horses with a great owner, Beth Johnson at Louisburg, and they have had a lot of success this year, so I hope to continue that. They will jump Sunday and then a little rest before going to the Hampton Classic.”
Tonight’s class was part of the Hagyard Challenge Series, which offers a very lucrative $45,000 Leading Rider Bonus to the top rider at the end of the Series. “I think it is wonderful to have the Rider Bonus,” commented Ward. “I think it is a reward for consistency, which is something I always strive towards. They have great events and I think there is a lot of quality over the Series and the winner is usually a pretty strong combination.”
Ward is no stranger to the Kentucky Horse Park, and is happy to be competing at this year’s Kentucky Summer Horse Show. “There is a brilliant stadium, great footing, and a very good organization here,” he said. “Hugh Kincannon has been a great horseman for a long time and they really think about the horse first. You just can’t beat the venue!”
The Kentucky Summer Horse Show will continue tomorrow with the start of the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers and on Sunday the first week of competition will conclude with the $40,000 Kentucky Summer Grand Prix on Sunday. Riders will return to the Kentucky Horse Park next week for the Kentucky Summer Classic, followed by the 2011 USEF Pony Finals, the Bluegrass Festival Classic, and the KHJA Horse Show.
For more information about the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
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