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Gassel Pilots Quite Dark 2 to the Winner’s Circle in the $35,000 Classic Grand Prix

The $35,000 Classic Grand Prix, presented by EMO, took place Saturday night in the Olympic arena at the Atlanta Fall Classic. Former Olympic Assistant Course Designer, Manuel Esparza, set the first round time allowed at 82 seconds and only five horse and rider teams advanced to the jump off.

The field of Grand Prix riders competing in Saturday night’s $35,000 Classic Grand Prix, presented by EMO, are all well known, but it was the youngest amateur rider, Haley Gassel of Lenoir City, Tennessee and her own Quite Dark 2, who won the class.

“I’m kind of the underdog here,” said Gassel. “This is just my second full year showing Grand Prix and I’ve had ‘QD’ [Quite Dark 2] for about two and a half years,” she said. “I worked my way up, starting with the Highs then the Grand Prix. After I won my first one [Grand Prix] last July, I always thought that if I could win one per year, that would be good,” she said. “I knew that this year was almost done and although I have had good placings, I was trying not to be too hard on myself if I didn’t make my goal,” she said.

Gassel and Quite Dark 2 were the last to go clean in the first round, posting a time of 78.098 seconds, earning the enviable last to go spot in the jump off round.

Gemma Paternoster of Wellington, Florida, winner of Thursday’s $7,500 Horseflight Open Welcome, and fresh back to the competition ring after recovering from a broken shin bone, was the first to take on the jump off round on her own Osiris. The pair had turned in a clear first round effort in a time of 77.767 seconds and followed it with a fault-free jump off round in a time of 49.612 seconds, well within the 66 seconds time allowed.

Lauren Hester of Lexington, Kentucky, in the irons of Hester Equestrian LLC’s Clueless P, followed Paternoster and turned in a clear round with a time of 43.958 seconds and set the new time to beat.

One of most well-known, high speed Grand Prix riders, Laura Linback of Morriston, Florida, followed Hester in the irons of Rolling Acres Farm’s Whittaker MVNZ. The pair turned in a fault-free jump off round in a time of 42.613 seconds and took the lead.

Glenn Hartigan of Canton, Georgia, riding his own Z-Coco Cabana, followed Linback in the jump off round. A rail at the second fence with a time of 46.678 seconds would see the pair finish in fifth place overall.

Hassel and Quite Dark 2 were up next. “I’ve gone up against Laura for the past couple of years and I know she is extremely fast,” commented Hassel. “When I ride against her, I have to find ways to beat her,” she said. “But I didn’t watch her go and I didn’t know her time. I only watched Gemma and part of Glen’s and it worked out,” she said. “Sometimes I imitate what they are doing and by not watching them, it allowed me to have my own ideas on what to do and that worked out for me,” she added. Gassel turned in a fault-free round in a time of 40.729 seconds, winning the $35,000 Classic Grand Prix, presented by EMO.

“The jump off was really fun,” commented Gassel. “He [Esparza] made it so you couldn’t run around the whole course, which I prefer. There were a few tight roll backs and my horse is really good at turning tight. Even though he is huge and almost 18 hands, he can really turn that fast,” she added. “I thought he did a great job with the course and included lots of galloping and turns,” she said.

“I love Manuel Esparza courses,” she continued. “He is very fair and builds according to who is in the classes and he builds appropriately. The jumps were plenty big enough at m 1.40-m 1.50 and the technicality was right on,” said Gassel.

With Gassel and Quite Dark 2 stealing the lead, Linback and Rolling Acres Farm’s Whittaker MVNZ would finish in second place. The yellow ribbon was awarded to Hester and Hester Equestrian LLC’s Clueless P. Fourth place honors went to Paternoster and her own Osiris. This is the last horse show Osiris will compete in before being shipped back to England to enjoy retirement.

Hartigan and his own Z-Coco Cabana finished in fifth, followed by Daniel Geitner of Aiken , South Carolina and Lionshare Farm’s Creativo. Geitner and Creativo turned in a four-fault, first round effort in a time of 73.383 seconds.

Linback returned for the seventh place ribbon, this time in the irons of Woodrun Acres Farm’s HH Dauphin. The pair turned in a first round effort in a time of 73.514 seconds and four jump faults.

Leann Kelly of Valatie, New York and Honorway Farm LLC’s Leander finished in eighth place after a first round effort resulting in eight jump faults in a time of 80.034 seconds.

Richard Cheska of Waukesha, Wisconsin and his own Alonso du Monselet finished in ninth place, followed by Amy Yoder’s Stitch, ridden by Carlos Aramburo of Red Banks, Mississippi. Paternoster returned with her own Zonneglans to pick up the eleventh place ribbon.

“I’m really excited that I won,” said Gassel. “I have been coming here since I was a kid showing Short Stirrup. So just to be out there with them makes me happy,” she added.

Kastel Denmark Style of Riding Award

Annie Miller of Salt Lake City, Utah, winner of Sunday’s $10,000 Barry Lane Memorial Jumper 1.15 m Classic, was awarded the Kastel Denmark Style of Riding Award. This honor is awarded to the rider who exhibits the best American style of riding and possesses the respectful, dignified, courteous and workmanlike manner of a true sportsman.

The 20th anniversary show of the Atlanta Fall Classic kicked off at the Georgia International Horse Park, home to the 1996 Olympic Games, on Wednesday. There are few stalls available, so if you haven’t sent your entries in yet, call the office at 843.768.5503 or email jonathan@classiccompany.com to reserve your stalls now. Then enter online at horseshowsonline.com and remove the hassle from filling out entries!

The Classic Company is a USHJA’s Members Choice Award winner, recognized for producing top quality show jumping events in the United States. For more information on Classic Company and its exhibitor-friendly, top quality hunter jumper events, please visit them at classiccompany.com or call them at 843-768-5503.

All sponsorship, marketing and press inquiries should be directed to Lisa Engel, Sponsorship, Marketing and Public Relations Director at lisa@classiccompany.com.

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See you at the ring,
Bob Bell
The Classic Company, Ltd.
Phone/FAX: (843) 768-5503
Post Office Box 1311 Johns Island SC 29457

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