Conyers, GA.—MAR 21, 2009—Fresh off a glorious winter circuit, legendary Olympic Gold rider Joe Fargis of Middleburg, VA kicked off the opening week of the 2009 Atlanta Spring Classics with a victory in the Spring Welcome Stake aboard Diams III.
Fargis, who is one of the most recognized riders of equestrian sport, faced off with some of the nations best up and coming athletes in Thursday’s event presented by the Classic Equine Equipment Company. A challenging 16-effort layout by one of the most respected course designers Michel Vaillancourt didn’t rattle any of the competitors despite the numerous roll backs that had horses traversing the vast Olympic arena to beat the 84 second allowance. First round action saw the rails dropping until the fourth horse in the order Marcus Aurelius owned and ridden by David Jennings were the first to go clear in a fast 79.69. Only four others would join them for the abbreviated second course of 7 obstacles including Mary B. Schwab and OEJI Farm’s 17 year-old Selle Francis mare Diams III, also taken clean in the starting round by Fargis in 74.295 seconds.
A seemingly easy layout of 8 efforts and generous time allowance of 48 seconds, the true test of the deciding round came at the last 3 fences as riders came off a tall vertical to then rollback tight right, heading over a wide oxer and immediately take a sweeping left turn towards another vertical. Surviving this gauntlet meant only a gallop to the final oxer. Marcus Aurelius and Jennings were again the first tested and passed with flying colors, stopping the clock at 40.941 and setting the bar high for those to follow. The two-time Olympic veteran Joe Fargis, fondly known as “Jumping Joe” to his many fans did not disappoint or miss a stride with partner Diams III giving an encore performance to cinch the win in a blazing 39.346 seconds.
2nd place went to Trading Places with Daniel Geitner riding for owner Kyle Register in a final clear time of 39.759. Marcus Aurelius and David Jennings claimed the 3rd position with a time of 40.941 while Jack Hardin Towell and Boo Van Het Kastanjehof took the 4th spot in a time of 41.244, and rounding out the top five was owner-rider Kitt Ritter piloting Jumbo Jet with a finish of 41.885 seconds.
Show jumping thrills continued on Saturday evening with the $25,000 Cherry Blossom Grand Prix presented by the Classic Company. Crowds lined the walls surrounding the arena to cheer on their favorites. Designer Michel Vaillancourt once again created a course to test both a horse’s endurance and a rider’s skills with another 16 effort layout that had the usual suspects- double and triple combinations, liverpool, tight turns, and as always the infamous Vaillancourt “bogey” fence. This time a skinny vertical early in the course at fence #5. Despite an allowance of 84 seconds the first horse on course sadly fell victim to the bogey. Next in was the young pro Hardin Towell with Boo Van Het Kastanjehof making their way clear in 82.20, as would next in Michael Tokaruk with new mount Roger Rabbit going clean in 83.77 to assure a jump off round. The next clear round would go to the eventual victor Tracey Weinberg of Lovettsville, VA riding her 13 year-old “tiny” Holsteiner mare Linda Z in a time of 78.99. When asked about the “bogey” fence Weinberg agreed it was the sticky part early in the run, explaining that coming off the triple combination –the last oxer required some leg to get out, but heading to the bogey was “such a careful 5 [strides] to a very skinny bland jump.” Like others she confirmed when walking the course you “knew” that was going to be the problem spot. “It was the hardest ride she’s [Linda Z] ever given me in a big class. She was very fresh and I didn’t anticipate it.” a laughing Weinberg shared, “She had a couple of hard rubs in the beginning of the course and I thought I’m in trouble, I have to help her out a little bit and then she picked up her own rhythm and relaxed a little bit towards the end of the course.” That extra energy served the pair well, not only did they make the jump off party, but Weinberg now found herself taking on “the boys club” as the only female in the group of nine to return.
“Those men were ganging up on me! The other day we were walking in the Welcome and there were four in front of me and I said, what are you doing? You’re all ganging up on my little pony!” a teasing Weinberg defended her 15 hand partner, but was quick to add, “I’m new to showing in this area and they’ve all been so welcoming and so supportive. They’ve been great.” Maybe so, but the little lady still got the last laugh in the 8 effort final round with a blazing clean time of 40.271 well below the allotted 48 seconds. The pair blasted through the in-gate and never looked back, “I knew I had a strong contingency behind me so I just went for it.” Weinberg said. She stated there was never any qualms about “going for it.”
“It feels AMAZING!” Weinberg gushed of her big victory. And when asked about beating her trainer and mentor Joe Fargis, she graciously said, “To be in the hunt with him, even competing in the same classes with Joe is a privilege and an honor. He’s as happy for his students when they do well as he is for himself. And that means a lot to all of us who ride with Joe.” Weinberg also confided next month will be her 50th birthday and all she’s asked for “is a good ride this season.” Apparently Linda Z is saying Happy Birthday Mom early with this their biggest win to date in their third season together. We can’t wait to see what the mare brings to next weekend’s party.
Official results for the Cherry Blossom Prix included Hardin Towell in 2nd place with Copado-owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Oare with a clear time of 40.802. David Jennings and Marcus Aurelius in 3rd place with a time of 42.573. Owner-rider Hardin Towell aboard Boo Van Het Kastanjehof in a time of 42.574 and completing the top five owner-rider Michael Tokaruk with Lord Byron with 4 faults in 38.207.
The Atlanta Spring Classics continue through March 29th with showing taking place Wednesday through Sunday each week. Classes begin daily at 8AM until approximately 4:30PM. Admission is free and each Saturday evening will host an exciting $25,000 Grand Prix jumper event. For more information or results on the Spring Classics visit http://www.classiccompany.com
or call the show office at 770-602-2510.
Photo: Tracey Weinberg & Linda Z ©Flashpoint Photography
*Photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/atlanta-spring-classics-fargis-weinberg-03-09.html">Atlanta Spring Classics Open with Big Wins for Fargis and WeinbergAtlanta Spring Classics Open with Big Wins for Fargis and Weinberg</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com