Lexington, KY - May 19, 2007 - Today's $20,000 Bluegrass Classic at the Kentucky Spring Classic Horse Show had an exciting finish as Molly Ashe Cawley of Wellington, FL, and Lutopia raced to the win by 3/1000ths of a second over Copado and Aaron Vale.
Today's course was designed by Jose Gamarra and featured 12 numbered obstacles, including an option with a skinny wall that caught many competitors. The other trouble spot on course was the line from fence 10 to 11a-b, a one stride. The ride from fence 10 to 11 was either a long four stride or a short five stride.
Vale noted, "I thought it was 1.45m all the way around and had a tricky line there towards the end. It was quite difficult for a lot of people to make their minds up. My horse is so big that it was obvious to just do the four strides. He actually almost got deep there. It was tough enough, but it wasn't easy."
Ten riders were clear to advance to the second round. The time allowed was 80 seconds, but it was not a major issue in today's class. There were 12 riders with just four faults in the first round. The fastest four-faulters were Pablo Barrios on Tibor and Shane Sweetnam with Quidam Junior.
The first to return for the jump-off from a clear first round was Alison Robitaille on Pourquoi, a horse owned by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone. Robitaille had a respectable time of 38.231 seconds in the jump-off, but four faults came at fence 11a.
Next in was Vale on Copado, who is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest M. Oare. Vale and the nine-year-old Dutch stallion started out strong, and they made up the most time with an inside turn to fence 13, an oxer set on a hard turn. Vale completed the turn and jumped the oxer on a sharp slice across to the right, and then made another quick rollback to the next vertical. Vale kicked through the one stride and galloped to the last oxer, finishing clear in an astonishing time of 33.245 seconds.
Vale originally thought he would make up time in the first line and had not contemplated doing the inside turn. "I was thinking I could maybe get four strides in the first line, but when I jumped in, there was no chance there," he acknowledged. "When I walked the course, I didn't think it would even be possible to make that turn. Even after I jumped the fence before it, I wasn't planning on the turn. I thought if I was going to have a chance to win the class, that turn was going to be it since I wasn't able to leave the stride out in the first line."
"I just saw a perfect distance, and the horse was so focused," he went on to say. "He didn't get his attention on 11a as we had to turn by it, so he just focused right on the oxer, and it came up perfectly. It looked like it was meant to happen, you know? I looked in and saw something that was so good, I had to at least try it. It worked out perfectly and almost won us the class."
Eliza Shuford and her stallion Larentino were in next. Shuford took a slower pace and kept a clear round in 38.741 seconds, which would hold up for fifth place. Robin Sweely and Acorn Hill Farm's Tinka's Lad would follow them with another solid clear round and move up the rankings in a time of 38.480 seconds. Ireland's Kevin Babington and Souvenir stepped up the pace and ran around the jump-off course, but it cost them a rail at 11a. They finished with a time of 35.761 seconds.
The next tough competitor was Beezie Madden on Jet du Mesnil, one of her young, up-and-coming mounts that is owned by John Madden Sales. He was the first of two for her in the jump-off. She kept a somewhat slower, but steady pace with neat turns. They had a clear round and stopped the timers in 36.391 seconds, which would eventually put them into third place.
The class leader entered the ring next. Anyone who has seen Lutopia in the ring knows she is a severe threat to a winning time, and Ashe Cawley showed why today. She and the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, owned by Jane F. Clark, flew around in their unmatched style. Although Ashe Cawley did not complete Vale's the inside turn, Lutopia's innate speed carried her through the timers in 33.219 seconds, just three-hundredths fast enough to move into the lead.
Of the inside turn, Ashe Cawley remarked, "When we walked it, we all thought no. When Aaron did it, it really put the pressure on to have to do it because it really was a long way around if you didn't. I looked at it when I went in. It didn't look as bad to me when I was sitting on her as it did from the ground. Conrad Homfeld was watching and told me, 'I think you can out-run him if you go around.' It worked, but barely."
Ashe Cawley was not challenged throughout the remainder of the class. Ken Berkley and Alexa and Krista Weisman's Carlos Boy had a time of 38.975 seconds, but it came with eight faults. Kaiser de la Cour, ridden by Emily Williams, had one rail in the jump-off with a time of 39.764 seconds.
The final rider to face Ashe Cawley was Beezie Madden on her second mount, Select, who is owned by Elizabeth Busch Burke and John Madden Sales. Madden had a quick pace, but Select's lofty jump could not contend with Lutopia's speed. Madden finished clear in a time of 39.185 seconds.
Although Vale was slightly disappointed not to win, he was happy with the performance of his new mount, which he has only ridden for a few months. "We've been practicing at home, but it seems like it's starting to work here pretty quickly. I have to thank Mr. and Mrs. Oare for the opportunity to work with this horse," he said. "My horse is so big, and I'm just starting to figure out how to go fast on him. I'm just thrilled with this horse show here."
Today was a satisfying win for Ashe Cawley, who had been planning the Bluegrass Classic as the peak of Lutopia's competition in Kentucky. Before this class, Lutopia won two 1.45m speed classes and was second in a 1.40m class. "I wanted to win it," Ashe Cawley agreed. "That's what we aimed for and this was her big class."
Ashe was beaming about the victory with Lutopia, who is a seasoned contender in every class she enters. "She's such a competitor, that mare. She wants to win, probably more than any of us do," she smiled. "Speed is her forte. She's an amazing horse. It was great for her to get her confidence back after some time off."
The Kentucky Spring Classic Horse Show concludes tomorrow, Sunday, May 20. The highlight of the week is the $50,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix, CSI 3*, which is slated to start at 2 p.m. in the Sheila C. Johnson Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park.
For full horse show results and more information, please visit http://www.kentuckyhorseshows.com
Final Results: $20,000 BLUEGRASS CLASSIC 1.45 M, TABLE II, Sec 2a
1. LUTOPIA, MOLLY ASHE-CAWLEY, JANE CLARK, 0, 0, 33.219
2. COPADO, AARON VALE, M/M ERNEST OARE, 0, 0, 33.245
3. JET DU MESNIL, BEEZIE MADDEN, JOHN MADDEN SALES, 0, 0, 36.391
4. TINKA'S LAD, ROBIN SWEELY, ACORN HILL FARM, 0, 0, 38.480
5. LARENTINO, ELIZA SHUFORD, LARENTINO GROUP, 0, 0, 38.741
6. SELECT, BEEZIE MADDEN, ELIZABETH BUSCH BURKE & JOHN MADDEN SALES, 0, 0, 39.185
7. SOUVENIR, KEVIN BABINGTON, BARBARA WALL ROUX, 0, 4, 35.767
8. POURQUOI, ALISON ROBITAILLE, M/M BERTRAM FIRESTONE, 0, 4, 38.231
9. KAISER DE LA COUR, EMILY WILLIAMS, EMILY WILLIAMS, 0, 4, 39.764
10. CARLOS-BOY, KEN BERKLEY, KRISTA WEISMAN & ALEXA WEISMAN, 0, 8, 38.975
11. TIBOR, PABLO BARRIOS, ANNA LISA SMITH, 4, 72.957
12. QUIDAM JUNIOR, SHANE SWEETNAM, SHANE SWEETNAM, 4, 73.662
Photo Credit: Molly Ashe Cawley and Lutopia, winners of the $20,000 Bluegrass Classic at the Kentucky Spring Classic Horse Show. Photo (C) 2007 Jennifer Wood.
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