Conyers, GA.—March 29, 2009— George Lucas’ Storm Troopers from the blockbuster Star Wars films were created as an elite army with no fears, just a determination to be victorious. This week saw a need breed of Storm Troopers at the Atlanta Spring Classics finale. Shaker Heights, OH based David Jennings and partner Marcus Aurelius triumphed over Mother Nature in the Lucky Sevens Welcome Stake and the Atlanta Spring Grand Prix, both presented by Classic Company.
Despite torrents of rain that came and went throughout most of Thursday, Jennings had no qualms about competing in the former Olympic ring. “No, the footing was just fine. The ring was a little sloppy in spots, but the crew here do a great job at maintaining it.” Thursday’s winner said. Allen Rheinheimer had the task of designing a course that encompassed both the safety and challenge of athletes. Taking advantage of the full measure of the large arena Rheinheimer created a test of 12 obstacles [14 efforts] that included a pair of double combinations- 4AB oxer in vertical out and 8AB vertical in and oxer out along with a couple of tight roll backs and heights ranging up to 5’. The generous time allowance of 87 would be Rheinheimer’s gift to most riders. “The test was more thinking about whether or not you drop strides out to shortcut or play it safe. Overall the course was straight forward- as long as you thought it out.” Jennings said.
Partnered with 15 year-old Marcus for about a year now Jennings shared, “It’s taken some time to build a mutual trust with each other, but we had a great run this winter and each show we’re jelling together more and more.” The pair was the second clean round with a time of 78.609. Five others would advance with Jennings to the jump off round, among them Canadian favorite Margie Gayford with the Wingberry Farm entry Show Girl, Minnesota’s Scott Lenkart would be the busiest rider with two mounts- Odaus and Un Prince both owned by Martha MacMillan and Aiken, SC’s Daniel Geitner with Trading Places for owner Kyle Register. The seven effort final round began at fence #1 and from there snaked it’s way across the width of the arena with a 48 second cap on the time. “It was a nice series of turns and broken lines. Quick and steady all the way.” Jennings said of their 38.047 victory.
Official results found Daniel Geitner and Trading Places is 2nd place with a clean time of 39.035. Scott Lenkart and Odaus took the 3rd spot with a clear 40.277 while Margie Gayford picked up the 4th placing with a clear 42.073 and completing the top five were Scott Lenkart and Un Prince finishing with 8 faults in 38.057.
Given the amount of rain that fell over Friday and Saturday most show managers would have been inclined to throw in the towel. Classic Company president Bob Bell admits he considered it, but “the Storm Troopers stopped me.” Bell went on to explain to his surprise more riders were seeking him out to make sure he wouldn’t cancel the remaining classes. “One lady standing by me at a hunter ring said that if weather was a deciding factor for showing her horses…well she would have taken up darts.” So press on through the various weather elements competitors did. Though Bell and Rheinheimer did decide it best to move the Grand Prix to Sunday morning into the Covered arena “just in case”.
The starting field of the $25,000 Atlanta Spring Grand Prix was a balanced mix of young promising horses and seasoned professionals like the victorious Marcus Aurelius whom Jennings owns and rides. Experience may have been just the edge needed to conquer the unique first round of 12 obstacles, with 15 strong efforts, as Rheinheimer seemed to hold nothing back on a course that included everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. The 78 second allowance put many a rider on notice as they walked the indoor course comprised of such elements as the 6AB combination [oxer in vertical out] with a bending right turn over the 4’9” oxer fence #7 followed by an instant sharp right to the dreaded 9ABC triple combo [vertical in to oxer to vertical out]. “Just a little something to get their attention.” Rheinheimer joked. And for those who faulted that triple definitely caught their attention.
The first to take on that challenge was Aiken, SC based Daniel Geitner, whose numerous hunter and jumper top placings have proven him a viable threat. Breaking the start timer with Mrs. Janet Peterson’s 15 year-old champion Artur 28 the pair scored a clear round time of 74.58 seconds. Fourth in the order was Scott Lenkart aboard the MacMillan Sport Horse entry Impulsive who landed the next clean ride in 75.40. Following was Camden, SC based Hardin Towell riding Boo Van Het Kastanjehof to another clear ride in 75.15. Waiting on deck was Jennings and Marcus. The pair crossed the start timer and never looked back going clean in a quick 74.63. When the last of the field finished Rheinheimer had 9 determined horses advancing to his final test.
The jump off of 7 obstacles [8 efforts] within 42 seconds proved to be an arduous testing of athletes, the course’s only straight line came at starting fence one to two, but from there became a technical series of twists and turns to the final fence. Geitner and Artur 28 were first back, but an unfortunate pair of rails thudding the ground left them with 8 faults in 38.828. Lenkart on Impulsive, the first of two rides for him, set the pace with a clean run in 36.654. Next was Hardin Towell on his first mount “Boo” turning in a clean ride of 37.821. David Jennings and Marcus knew the task at hand as they galloped into the ring. “He’s really good at tight turns so that wasn’t a real concern.” Jennings said. A clear time of 36.561 backed up the statement. Upon exiting the ring most riders would hang out at the in gate to watch fellow competitors, but after a chat with Scott Lenkart –whom Jennings had just taken the lead away from- David Jennings was observed being a true sportsman as he stood ring side to coach Lenkart on second mount Un Prince through the rough spots of the jump off. When asked about “helping the competition”, Jennings simply blushed and smiled. Un Prince and Lenkart went clear in 37.019. Despite valiant efforts the remaining four horses couldn’t unseat Jennings from the top spot. “It was a good course- a good week.” a smiling Jennings said. Like a cross between a Storm Trooper and a US Post Man, David Jennings triumphed over all obstacles this week, both man and nature made. Asked what’s next? Jennings replied, “A little more showing and then Marcus gets a well deserved vacation.”
Final results included rider Scott Lenkart with Impulsive and Un Prince placing second and third respectively; fourth and fifth place to Hardin Towell aboard Cotopaxi 2 (finishing clear in 37.507) and Boo Van Het Kastanjehof respectively.
For complete results or information on the 2009 Atlanta Spring Classics visit http://www.classiccompany.com
or call the office at 843.768.5503.
Photo: David Jennings & Marcus Aurelius ©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/david-jennings-marcus-aurelius-atlanta-spring-03-09.html">David Jennings & Marcus Aurelius Dominate Atlanta Spring Finale</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com