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Perfection for Leslie Howard in the Grand Prix at Monmouth Horse Show

Freehold, NJ – August 17, 2006 – Thirty-one starters went to the post for the first ever Thursday Grand Prix competition at the Monmouth County Horse Show. When the smoke cleared, it was Leslie Howard of Westport, Connecticut, taking home the top two prizes and her student, Cody Auer, of nearby Fairfield, Connecticut finishing third.

The new Thursday feature, the $25,000 Paul Miller Automotive Group Grand Prix, was scored under USEF Table II Sec. 2a, Time First Jump-Off. Blake Alder of Germantown, Tennessee, designed today’s challenge. The Alder track featured 12 numbered obstacles, with 15 jumping efforts, including a double and a triple combination.

The starting field of thirty-one was whittled down to a line-up of ten for the timed tiebreaker. In addition to the ten clear, one competitor was clear, but couldn’t get home in time and was assessed a single time fault. Twelve riders had a single knockdown, two had two rails, and seven had more than eight faults.

Leslie Howard, the eventual winner, had three of the ten clear, and Linda Sheridan and Darragh Kerins had two each for the jump-off.

Howard got things rolling on Hip Hop, owned by David Goodwin. Howard cruised home clear in 32.919 seconds, a score that would eventually hold up for fifth place.

Howard lost her lead to the next rider in the ring, Darragh Kerins and Double H Farm’s Night Train. He shaved three fractions off of Howard’s time, breaking the beams in 32.598 seconds.

Challenges by Linda Sheridan with Tudor News, and Great Pleasure, ridden by Holly Orlando, fell short of the mark before the next lead change. Riding out of the fifth spot in the speed phase, Howard’s student Cody Auer and her mount Okido grabbed the lead, blazing home in a time of 30.144 seconds, over two seconds faster than Kerins.

Howard would only let Auer enjoy her leader status for a couple of moments as she returned next with her own, Lennox Lewis 2. Howard made a fantastic turn from 8c to 6 in the jump-off, and then left out a stride coming home to the final fence. Howard, with the crowd gasping for air, moved to the top of the charts in an incredible 29.550 seconds. But the best from Howard was yet to come.

Following a rail down for one of the favorite duos, Laura Chapot and Samantha, Howard wrapped up the win with an even more incredible ride on Dr. Wilson’s Midnight Hour. Even tighter turns and an even faster gallop to the final fence netted Howard a winning time of 28.450 seconds, 1.1 seconds faster than her previous ride.

Howard talked about her three mounts in today’s event, beginning with her “slow” ride on her first horse, Hip Hop. “She’s a mare that I got early this year and she had a lot of retraining to do. She was trained very German, the total opposite of the way I ride, and I thought I could change her around to my way of riding,” Howard explained. “By the end of Florida, I was ready to give her away for five dollars because she wasn’t coming around to my way of riding. But, I gave her a month off, and we took her to Spruce Meadows and it all began to click. And it’s been all up from there.” Howard admitted she was tempted to take off in the jump-off. “I started to go fast and then I said to myself, ‘she’s not quite ready yet and think about Sunday and think about the future,’ so I ended up at a nice pace,” she laughed.

“I was going to go slow on my second one (Lennox Lewis 2) too, but I got mad at Cody for not leaving out the stride to the last fence,” said Howard. “I just wanted to show her it could be done. Cody’s horse is wonderful, and she should have won this class. But I told her she couldn’t win if she added, and she added. So, I had no intention of going that fast with my young horse, but I just wanted to teach her a lesson,” she laughed.

“I was supposed to leave it out,” smiled Auer, admitting her mistake. “I just chickened out at the end. I saw it, it was there, but I just didn’t do it. I’m learning to go faster riding with Leslie though,” she laughed. “This was my first Grand Prix today, so I’m pretty happy with the result.”

Then Howard talked about her winning ride. “Midnight Hour is an older horse. He knows the ropes. You don’t mind going fast with him because he knows all the moves. I knew I would be the fastest,” she said with confidence. “It was just a matter of keeping the rails up.”

Howard also talked about the always dangerous Laura Chapot. “I was thrilled when she had a first round rail with Sprite,” laughed Howard, “and even more thrilled when Samantha had the knockdown in the jump-off. Laura is always faster than I am. She rides with a reckless abandon, and I knew if she was clean in front of me I would really have my work cut out for me.”

This is Howard’s first trip to Monmouth since 1969. “I rode in the 14 and Under Equitation, and Woodstock was going on when I was here last. So that really dates me, huh? In modern history though, it’s my first time,” she said with a smile. “They do a really great job here. Leo (Conroy) works really hard to make sure this show runs well, and they keep after the footing. The ring has a nice atmosphere, and I’m really glad to be here,” said Howard.

Howard will lead the way on Sunday afternoon as the $30,000 Stillwell-Hansen Grand Prix takes center stage. In that event last year, Laura Chapot finished first and second.

Rank Num Horse Name NAT R1 Faults R1 Time J/O Faults J/O Time

Results of $25,000 Paul Miller Automotive Grand Prix – Table II Sec. 2a-Time First Jump-Off Monmouth County Horse Show - August 17, 2006

1 421 MIDNIGHT HOUR LESLIE HOWARD 0.00 71.706 0.00 28.450 $7500


2 425 LENNOX LEWIS 2 LESLIE HOWARD 0.00 71.778 0.00 29.550 $5500


3 432 OKIDO CODY AUER 0.00 73.845 0.00 30.144 $3250


4 392 NIGHT TRAIN DARRAGH KERINS 0.00 72.577 0.00 32.598 $2000


5 423 HIP HOP LESLIE HOWARD 0.00 74.923 0.00 32.919 $1250


6 350 SAMANTHA LAURA CHAPOT 0.00 68.932 4.00 31.192 $1000


7 4 HOLOGRAPHY LINDA SHERIDAN 0.00 73.603 4.00 32.205 $750


8 39 GREAT PLEASURE HOLLY ORLANDO 0.00 75.783 4.00 33.590 $750


9 2 TUDOR NEWS LINDA SHERIDAN 0.00 73.930 4.00 35.619 $500


10 393 HOT WHEELS DARRAGH KERINS 0.00 73.342 $500


11 431 JOLIE DAME DU MARIAS CODY AUER 1.00 76.107 $500


12 347 SPRITE LAURA CHAPOT 4.00 68.881 $500


PHOTO CREDIT: Midnight Hour and Leslie Howard race to victory in the inaugural $25,000 Paul Miller Automotive Group Grand Prix on Thursday at the 111th Annual Monmouth County Horse Show. Photo ©2006 by Randi Muster.


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