CONYERS, GA—JUNE 22, 2008— Week I of the Atlanta Summer Classic was highlighted by two spectacular weekend events: The $25,000 ASG Software/USHJA International Hunter Derby and the $25,000 Central Equine Grand Prix, held Friday and Saturday evening, respectively, at the Georgia International Horse Park’s Olympic Stadium.
On Friday night an astounding 39 hunter teams gathered under the lights for the International Hunter Derby. After the tight turns were negotiated, the jumps cleared, and the gates opened and closed, it was Elizabeth Towell-Boyd of Camden, N.C., aboard the Roger Smith-owned Castello who claimed victory. This marked Boyd’s second Derby in the series. She and Castello also captured the win at the Aiken Spring Master on April 27.
The two-round Derby was characterized by the Classic Round, which offers various fence heights and such essentials as an in-and-out jump and bending lines. And round two, the Handy Round, which challenges riders with any combination of tight turns, roll backs, mounted opening/closing of gates, trot jumps, bank jumps, and other innovations designed to showcase the daring of the rider and the true athleticism of the horse. Boyd took 1st in both rounds.
It was just beautiful out there,” noted the night’s big winner. “They did a wonderful, wonderful job.” And the course, designed by Allan Rheinheimer, was beautiful and demanding. “It was tough under the lights, too” said Boyd. “The horses where jumping pretty careful. It’s a huge course, and some did get a little lost in the field. I had one problem on my first horse [the Sarah Ward-owned Onassis] when I tried to do one of the bigger options—a very, very up-and-down vertical. He was being great, but I truly think he just didn’t get his eye on it,” she continued. “It retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have tried it, but you know, you’ve got to go for it!”
Boyd and Castello certainly went for it. The 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding is “really good at [Derbies],” laughed Boyd. “He has a lot of experience. He was imported as a jumper then he was so nice and jumped in such good form that we turned him into a hunter, and he just stepped up to the plate tonight.”
Boyd commented also that this High Performance Hunter Program is “a great thing for the industry” and she looks forward to future events. “I believe that as it grows it will encourage owners to buy Derby horses in the same way they buy Grand Prix horses. Maybe syndicates will come together to purchase Derby horse for professionals.” And, she continued, “when there are over 40 entries in a class, that’s great. That kind of attendance will encourage horse shows to keep having them.”
Friday’s event was the 18th round in the inventive yearlong series that was developed by the USHJA to bring tradition and basic riding principles back to the sport of showing hunters. The High Performance Hunter Program initiated in St Louis, MO in December 2007 and will conclude in Tyler Texas this November,
Coming in second to Boyd was her client, Sarah Ward, riding her own Voltaire, who came from 9th after the Classic round (“The handy course is really what makes or breaks it,” noted Boyd.) Third place went to L’Aigle Noir with Jamie Steinhaus in the irons, 4th was Chris Nelson aboard Von Trapp, and rounding out the top five was Megan Edrick and Vegas.
On Saturday, spectators gathered once again in the former Olympic arena, this time for the $25,000 Central Equine Grand Prix, which was won by Aiken, S.C.’s Daniel Geitner aboard the 9-year-old Rhinelander mare Sympa, owned by Mrs. Charles Bostwick.
Of an opening field of 24, only seven horse and rider teams negotiated the Michele Vallaincourt-designed course well enough to earn a spot in the jump off, including Leopoldo Paoli with Remonta Escaupul, Hardin Towell with both Copado and Rockefeller (with whom he won the Lucky Sevens Welcome Stake earlier in the week), and Derek Petersen aboard both Vondergraaf and also Heaven Bound.
For many, the very last jump proved fatal, including Towell, who appeared to have the class nailed until Copado dropped the final rail, landing him in 5th place with four faults.
Fourth on course in the twisty jump off, Geitner and Sympa got the job done without error and a winning time of 36.73.
“It was a very nice layout,” Geitner said of the course. “The last fence [in the jump off] was the original triple combination, the original 12A-B and they took out C. It was at the end, and lot of the horses just thought they were done,” he added. “That last jump was a half stride—you either did it in either seven or eight, and I think a few people just got up the line a little early and had that one down.
“I went in 4th,” he continues of the jump-off, “and just tried to have as quick a round as possible, put the pressure on, and luckily it just worked out.”
Of his winning mount, Geitner noted that Sympa, a still-young mare, has been maturing well. “She’s a bit of a late bloomer, but she’s really beginning to figure things out. She’s a fighter,” he adds. “She likes to win.”
And she does.
The Atlanta Summer Classic continues next week, June 25-June 29, with more exciting Hunter Jumper competition and events, including the Outback Steakhouse-sponsored Horses Helping Horses charity dinner on June 27 and the $25,000 Outback Steakhouse Grand Prix on Saturday June 28. For more information contact the Classic Company show office at 843-768-5503.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/hunter-derby-atlanta-summer-classic-06-08.html">Thrilling Hunter Derby and $25K Grand Prix Highlight Week I of the Atlanta Summer Classic</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com