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Atlanta Fall Classics Opener is a Cornucopia of Action

Conyers, GA.—November 9, 2008—Mother Nature provided crystal blue skies, a blaze of fall colors and perfect riding temperatures for the opening of three weeks competition at the Georgia International Horse Park. “What a wonderful week to kick off the finale to our show season! And what great talents we have for it!” Bob Bell, president of the Classic Company said.

Following a nearly 3 year absence from Atlanta, Aaron Vale proved he’s no veiled threat but the real deal during this first week of show. Based in Ocala, FL, Vale over took 21 tough competitors to clinch victory in Thursday’s Classic Equine Equipment, Inc sponsored Open Jumper Welcome Stake. After riding his own 8 year-old “blue eyed” Belgium bred Sinatra IV to a double clear finish on the Allen Rheinheimer designed course of looping turns, Vale spoke of the afternoon class, “There’s no such thing as easy. Anytime you’re jumping at this time of year, at this time of day, there’s some funny shadows that can come into play. I saw a few stops out there, it could be related to the sunlight, but overall it was a great course.” The pair stopped the clock with a jump off time of 33.538 well below the allowed 47 seconds.

“I’ve had him [Sinatra] a while, he’s won some decent classes, but I kinda just started riding him a little bit different over the last couple of days and I’m quite happy with my new approach.” laughed Vale about their last minute strategy change. Aaron’s next step includes the $25,000 Atlanta Fall Grand Prix on Sunday where he’ll partner with Sinatra again, 8 year-old Electric, and seasoned veteran Platinum.

Finishing second in the Welcome was Kyle King aboard the Cimarron Farm entry Paola, 3rd went to New Zealand Olympic rider Sharn Wordley riding Rockville, 4th to jumping veteran Chuck Waters on 747, and completing the top five was Wordley again with the Filip Amram owned Zorro.

Over in the hunter rings, Palm Harbor, FL resident Mary Eufemia reined supreme with dual Championships. The Paula Pell entry Unbelievable was awarded the Championship title in the Green Working division while Madison Miller’s Black Pearl wore the tri colors in the Conformation section. Local favorite Julie Curtin of Woodstock, GA certainly had her Bases Loaded this week as the pair claimed the Pre Green 3’3 Championship and Ocala, FL based Hunt Tosh put Robert Hunt’s Ledger in the top spot for the Pre Green 3’ division.

Week one drew to its close with the most anticipated class, the $25,000 Atlanta Fall Grand Prix sponsored by Brook Ledge Horse Transportation. An international field of 29 competitors turned out to vie for bragging rights and the big check. Providing this week’s jumper-course challenges was Zionsville, IN native Allen Rheinheimer, know best for taking advantage of the former Olympic arena’s full measure in order to test both rider and horse’s physical prowess as well as the strength of their partnership. From the starters only 7 survived the twists and quirks of the 14-obstacle first round, among them fresh from the 2008 Olympics New Zealand team member Sharn Wordley was the only competitor to bring two mounts into the final run.

It’s not uncommon for some pros to have rituals or lucky charms they use prior to a big ride-even if they don’t always confess so. For today’s winner, Derek Petersen of Archer, FL, it’s “my magical Antares saddle!” a chuckling Petersen admitted to never riding the gelding in anything else since their first win came after switching to the new saddle. Paired once more with Jordan Coyne’s 8 year-old Dutch bred Lazaro, this duo found no issues with round one and clocked in clear at 81.60 (below the 89 second limit). “It was technically very difficult because if you got there early in the 5 stride to the vertical then that second oxer was right there on top of you.” Petersen explained the hot spot of round one, the last line-a triple combination of vertical to oxer to oxer. “It [the second oxer] was a little wider than you wanted to do and if you put your leg on very hard- you landed right onto the third one so you had to set in the middle of the three and still have enough umph to ride out.” This was evident by more than 60 percent of the field failing to come through unscathed. Petersen however felt the combination was some of his best jumps, explaining that with Lazaro’s scope he almost has to try to make some of the other jumps a challenge for the talented gelding. Wordley went clean in round one aboard the Filip Amram owned Zorro, stopping the timer at 84.51, but the abbreviated 40 second course of 7 jumps caught the pair over the last obstacle costing Wordley 4 faults in a fast 33.229.

Round two found Petersen following Wordley’s first mount and convinced that a bold move was needed to put distance between Lazaro and those to come. Just off the second jump, a tight vertical, Petersen made an extreme left inside cut and rolled right, almost directly into the next vertical. Upon landing he hit the pedal and Lazaro rocketed over the remaining four jumps leaving scorch marks on the final oxer from their blazing time of 27.936 seconds. “If we were turning right after that vertical instead of left it would’ve been ok to go around, but it was a left and I knew I wanted 7 strides to the Swedish afterwards so we went for it.” Petersen said. And as he already knew those coming after him followed his cue, some successfully –some not, but none quick enough to catch Lazaro.

Petersen and Lazaro returned to the arena for presentation of the trophy and a victory gallop with Van Halen’s song Jump booming from the speakers. As they neared the end gate Lazaro broke into an impromptu victory dance, picking each hoof up in perfect sync to the music. “He loves winning!” a smiling Petersen said to the crowd. The dancing duo will return to compete in three more prix over the next two weeks in Atlanta with a promise of new cha-cha steps if they prevail as winners.

Official results placed Aaron Vale and Sinatra IV in 2nd with a clear final time of 28.126. Sharn Wordley riding Epson Pierreville to 3rd place with a clear time of 30.083. Fourth went to Daniel Geitner aboard Trading Places for owner Kyle Register in a clean time of 30.694, and rounding out the top five was Kyle King with Paola for owners Cimarron Farm, LLC in a final time of 28.345 with 4 faults. Indications from all point to a thrilling rematch next coming Sunday at 2pm.

The Atlanta Fall Classics continue through November 23rd with showing taking place Wednesday through Sunday. Classes begin daily at 8am until approximately 4:30pm and the public is invited. Admission is free and each Sunday will host an exciting $25,000 Grand Prix jumper classic at 2pm. For more information or results on the Fall Classics visit http://www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at 770-602-2510.

Photo: Derek Petersen & Lazaro ©Flashpoint Photography

Photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release


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