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Henri Kovacs and Sassicaia II Secure Second Grand Prix Victory

Lexington, KY - May 14, 2009 - Henri Kovacs never stopped smiling as he completed the victory gallop for his second grand prix win aboard Sassicaia II following the $30,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Spring Classic. On Sunday Kovacs had his first career grand prix victory during the $50,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix, and today he was ready to meet the challenge again. The duo galloped through the finish line in 28.20 seconds after a double-clear effort, setting a pace that seven other fault-free pairs would not be able to catch during the twelve-horse jump-off in the main outdoor stadium at the spacious Kentucky Horse Park. Today's class was the second event in the Hagyard Challenge Series, sponsored by the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.

Forty entries competed over today's first course, designed by Leopoldo Palacios, which included a triple bar, a skinny fence, a liverpool, a water jump with only the pole scored, a double combination and a triple combination. Twelve riders completed the long course without fault to advance to the short course. The jump-off round began over a single vertical followed by a tight turn to a single oxer. Riders then continued to a single vertical followed by the double combination. Finally the course ended with a single oxer and then riders galloped across the stadium to the last single oxer. Eight of the twelve riders that advanced to the jump-off left all the fences standing and raced the clock for the top finish.

Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden and Play On, owned by Allan Shore Jr. of Bedford, NY, were the first to complete a double-clear effort. The pair set a difficult pace to catch, stopping the clock in 29.61 seconds. Their time would hold up for sixth place honors.

Two more rounds would take place before Kovacs and Sassicaia II, owned by Plain Bay Farm of Middleburg, VA, entered the ring. Kovacs had a confident demeanor, knowing the speed the mare possessed. He picked up a fast gallop to the first fence and sailed over it with ease. The pair was easily catching Madden's time but when Sassicaia II had a hard-rub at the first fence of the triple combination the crowd held their breath waiting to see if it would fall. The rail stayed put and Kovacs kicked Sassicaia II into high gear to the last fence, crossing the finish line in 28.20 seconds. The pair had won the class, setting a pace that no other entries would be able to catch.

Next on course was Mario Deslauriers riding Vicomte D, owned by Jane F. Clark of New York, NY. They also left all the rails in the cups and came slightly closer to catching Kovacs' time, stopping the clock in 29.35 seconds and finishing in fifth place. Rebecca Johanson Hofmann and Corona, owned by Blue Hill Farm LLC in Salt Lake City, UT, finished second to Kovacs during Sunday's $55,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix and would have the same fate during today's class. Hofmann made a valiant attempt to pass Kovacs' time but she would fall short when she and Corona tripped the timers in 28.34 seconds.

Margie Engle competed next with Tosca 290, owned by Hidden Creek Farm of Oak Creek, WI, and she also wanted to win today's class. She pushed her mount hard to the last fence, but their time of 28.87 would fall just behind the leaders and garner the third place ribbon. Mario Deslauriers mastered the course with his first mount and would complete a second clear effort with Ardeche Van De Zelm, owned by Lisa Silverman of New York, NY, but their time of 29.05 would finish in fourth place.

Debbie Stephens, of Palmetto, FL, was the next to make a bid for the top spot in today's results with Chapeau Z. The pair was clear in a time of 29.93 seconds and earned the eighth place award. The final rider to complete a clear jump-off round was Cara Raether riding Ublesco, owned by Trelawny Farm LLC of Bedford, NY. The duo tripped the timers in 29.61 seconds, creating a tie for sixth place with Madden and Play On, and securing Kovacs' victory.

"I'm very happy, it's amazing to win two grand prix classes in a row," beamed Kovacs. "We go to every show to win every class, that is Katie's [Prudent] philosophy. She always wants us to have success and win everything, but I've won four classes and I'm really happy with that."

Kovacs continued, "The jump-off was a little bit wild. The last one I pushed her a little to make her fly and then the long one was just there. She's so fast when you just let her go. I added down one line and even when we add she is faster than the rest."

Today's win has improved Kovacs' standing in the Hagyard Challenge Series and brought him one step closer to the $50,000 Leading Rider Bonus, which he commented is "a great opportunity and great money for the rider."

The Hagyard Challenge Series is sponsored by the Hagyard Medical Institute, and concludes in September at the Kentucky National Indoor Horse Show. A $50,000 Leading Rider Bonus will be presented after the $50,000 CSI-W Lexington Grand Prix to the rider who accumulates the most points throughout the series.

"We wanted to sponsor this because we felt it was an opportunity for us to contribute back to the industry," explained Hagyard Medical Institute CEO Andy Clark. "We also wanted to sponsor a program that would give a Leading Rider Award because it's hard for the riders to win a significant amount of money. We have taken these Thursday grand prix and packaged them to be more relevant and meaningful so that riders will stay here longer. I think that's beginning to happen and it is because the Leading Rider Award is meaningful."

Clark continued, "It feels good to give back to your industry. Today's class was great and I am so impressed by the level of competition at this show. Henri had a great win and it is fun to see a fresh face. He is very enthusiastic. When he came in for the victory gallop he was smiling and his face was red with enthusiasm; that was pretty neat."

The Kentucky Spring Classic will continue tomorrow with the Open Jumper classes, as well as the Junior and Amateur-Owner Jumpers in the main outdoor stadium. The $55,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix, sponsored by Air 51 and Audi of Lexington, will be held on Saturday at 5 p.m. The show will conclude on Sunday with the $20,000 Bluegrass Lexington Classic.

For more information on the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows please go to http://www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.

To learn more about the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, please go to http://www.hagyard.com.

Photo Credit: Henri Kovacs earned his second grand prix victory aboard Sassicaia II during the $30,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Spring Classic. Photo By: Rebecca Walton Photograph may be used only in relation to this PMG press release


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