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It's a first for Katherine Bardis at the $25,000 Memorial Day Classic Grand Prix

BURBANK, CA - Katherine Bardis of Pebble Beach, CA sped into the record books by winning her first grand prix, at the $25,000 Memorial Day Classic (May 26). Last to go in the four horse jump-off, Bardis rode C&S Partnership’s 11-year-old, bay mare, Pariska 2 in an unbelievable 33.436 trip, besting second place, Kasey Ament by close to two seconds. After crossing through the finish markers she shouted, “I finally won a grand prix!”

Following cool weather during the earlier part of the horse show, the weather could not have been more perfect for this popular event held on the grass field at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. A tented VIP section and umbrella tables line three sides of the field with bleacher seating on the fourth. The atmosphere was electric, starting off with a presentation inducting Marcia “Mousie” Williams into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. A brass quintet played for the ceremony and then played the National Anthem as Francisco Flores in a white officer’s uniform carried the flag in tribute to Memorial Day on the black Friesian, Phantom’s Music of the Night.

Thirty horses started over course designer, Scott Starnes’ fifteen element course. Fence 12 at the far end of the ring, a wide oxer, following a bending line from a vertical at 11 seemed to cause the most problems. It come down for more than a third of the class, including 2007 winner Mark Watring, who picked up a sixth place finish.

Four riders managed fault free rounds which earned them a chance to jump-off. Ament led off on Carol Bird’s W.C. Swing, making this the gelding’s his first grand prix appearance. She set a blistering pace, going clean in 35.077. The buzz at the back gate was that this time could not be beat. Next in the ring was Francie Steinwedell-Carvin riding the Prentiss Partners’ Splitfire. The pair got caught at the combination, pulling rails at both 5a and 5b. Galloping hard to the final two elements, they still only managed a time of 36.267, and a third place finish. Third to go was Natasha Merback and Samar. Merback took a chance on the inside turn from fence 1 to 4, but it was not her lucky day as Samar refused and then had a rail at 5a. With the added time, they had 11 faults and the fourth place ribbon.

Having the luxury of watching the others go, 20-year old, Bardis, who is coached by Richard Spooner and Chris Pratt was unwilling to play it safe. “I’ve been second a bunch of times,” she explained after the class. “I didn’t want to lose. I figured I was going to be first or last. I know my mare and she’s the fastest thing I’ve ever sat on. I knew if I left everything up and I was smart, we could do it.” Right from the start, Bardis showed that she has learned lessons in speed from her main coach and mentor, Richard Spooner, often dubbed the “Master of Faster.” Bardis set a blistering pace. She chose the outside option to jump 4, but took a tight right to the combination. When she cleared the yellow oxer by the in-gate, the crowd was on its feet watching the clock and cheering. Bardis barely paused as she sliced across the big, red wall (jump 14), and then she made the left roll back to the final element at 15, a wide, orange triple bar, which Pariska easily cleared, resulting in a big win for a young woman and a little mare. “She’s a little small,” Bardis said while signing autographs, “but she has a lot of heart.”

The grand prix may have been the showcase event of the Memorial Day Classic, a five day USEF “AA” rated event and a World Champion Hunter Rider show, but there was a lot of action earlier in the week.

Professional rider, Laura Van Meter led her Team L.T.A. to victory in the Memorial Day Classic Equitation Challenge. The last line of the course called for a hand gallop to the final fence and Van Meter put on the gas to reach a perfect spot, eliciting wild cheers from the crowd and her team mates, junior rider Theo Boris and amateur rider Amy Brubaker. This class has become one of the most popular classes, and the winning professional receives an eight day-seven night stay at Marriott’s Maui Ocean Resort on beautiful Ka’anapali Beach, sponsored by Langer Equestrian Group. The junior and amateur winner both receive retro fat-tire bikes presented by LA Saddlery.

Another set of bragging rights went to the equestrians competing at the CPHA Foundation Bowling Benefit held on Friday night after the first round of the team equitation competition. With a bowling alley right across the street from the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, this fun fundraiser has been growing each of its three years. George Chatigny, a board member of the CPHA Foundation organizes the annual event. "Big thanks to LEG and the Memorial Day Classic for promoting and scheduling the bowling benefit with the horse show." The turn out was larger than ever and the event raises several thousand dollars for the CPHA Foundation and its valuable programs.

Over the three years, team rivalries have formed, and this year the LEG Up Bowlers were hot to regain their title, and the Back Street Bowlers were determined to retain their victory from last year. In the end, the LEG UP Bowlers (Walt Malkeiwicz, John Chatigny, Rob Outwater, Reece Apmadoc, and Marnye Langer) out rolled the Back Street Bowlers, led by George Chatigny, by a little over 50 pins.

Amateur rider Gail Horrigan, who also won an Amateur Equitation class, was the high score woman bowler. Aaron Pizer, a student from Illinois earned the high score men’s award and is the first bowler in the event’s three year history to break the 200 score barrier for a single game.

On Sunday night, junior rider, Samantha Harrison (Karen Healey, Trainer) of La Canada Flintridge, CA and her horse Triple Lutz topped a field of thirty riders to win the inaugural USHJA Hunter Derby at the Memorial Day Classic Horse Show. Harrison’s face was beaming when asked about the format of the class and her victory, “It was so exciting.”

Spectators packed both the table seating on the berm and the bleacher seating flanking the Los Angeles Equestrian Center’s Large Oval Arena, which had been transformed for the event by course designer Chris Collman and his crew. Natural split rails, brush boxes, and coops created an impressive array of class hunter jumps. In the handy round where the top twelve horses returned, Collman devised a course that required riders to jump a trot fence out of the arena, jump several obstacles, and then jump back into the ring over some split rails and straw bales anchored by two wagon wheels placed in the wall of the arena.

The class became a showdown among Nick Haness and Coffeetalk (Whitney Downs), Natalie Rae Medlock and Y2K (Hap Hansen), and Samantha Harrison on Triple Lutz. While Haness earned the highest score for the round, Harrison prevailed to capture the entire competition.

Theo Boris, who rides with Laura Van Meter and was the junior member of the winning equitation team, enjoyed additional success at the Memorial Day Classic. He won the USEF Medal and the Low Jr/AO Jumper Classic. Erin Murphy (Jim Hagman) was a star in the pony ranks. She won all the Medium Pony Hunter classes on Follow Me (McKenna Skelton) and the Pony Hunter Classic. Skelton rode her large pony, Balthazar to a clean sweep in the Children’s Hunter Pony and won all but one class of the Green Pony Hunters. The pair earned the show championship, sponsored by Markel Insurance, in both sections.

Other champions earning prizes sponsored by Markel Insurance included Gina Groth (Philip Klipa) and Neverland in the Adult Amateur Hunters 51 & Over, and Nicole Kane (Mary Gatti) finished as champion and reserve champion in the Amateur Owner Hunters 18-35 with her horses Aspen and North Shore. In the open sections, John Bragg piloted Castle Hill (Stephanie Ray) to the First Year Green tri-color, and Cunningham (Mary Slouka) to the Regular Working victory.

Full results and standings are available at http://www.langershows.com. The complete calendar of all Langer Equestrian Group’s shows are online at http://www.langershows.com and LEG Up News provides media services.


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