Green Cove Springs, FL –The opening week of the 2009 Jacksonville Winter Series began the new season with international flair as New Zealand native and 2008 Olympic rider Sharn Wordley claimed the first victory at Thursday’s Lucky Sevens Welcome Jumper Stake presented by new sponsor Arlington Toyota.
Wordley said the 11 year-old Westphalian gelding Zorro and he are starting their new year off “quite nicely”. Owned by Filip Amram, Zorro is no stranger to winning having scored victories in Europe prior to moving to the US. “He won some seriously big grand pries over there. He’s one of Filip’s main guys.” Wordley complimented Zorro. Taking on a field of 18 world-class athletes, Wordley was one of only 3 riders to make the final jump off round and brought all three mounts with him. Joining him was German born Wilhelm Genn and Florida based Megan Edrick.
Renowned designer Pierre Jolicoeur had the honor of designing this week’s challenges. The first round course was a technical layout of 13 obstacles at regulation 1.35M (maximum height 4’5”) with a time allowance of 81 seconds. Riders had to navigate tracks that swept fast into several serpentine turns. “It was a good course.” Wordley said. Returning to the irons after “a nice holiday” in his homeland of New Zealand, Sharn confessed this was the first ride in nearly two months for him, “I competed five in a grand prix back in November, but spent the past month relaxing on the beach back home.” The pair had a clear and quick run of 75.664. He had clean rides with his own “boys” Olympic mount Rockville and Epson Pierreville, finishing clean in 79.225 and 72.106 respectively. An abbreviation of the first layout, the jump off consisted of a mere five horses playing beat the clock. Jolicoeur set a 40 second limit to traverse the length of the arena over 6 fences including the double combination of 4AB [vertical – vertical] right before a rollback to the final obstacle. Wordley and Rockville were first out; a slight nick of a rear hoof dashed hopes of a win and left them with 4 faults in 35.361 seconds. Megan Edrick moved up in the order with the Procedures, Inc entry Kandel to turn in a flawless run of 33.409 and an early lead. Wordley elected to retire second mount Epson Pierreville and returned to the ring with Zorro. The duo certainly left their mark as they burned through the course and crossed the timer clear in a blazing 30.294 seconds leaving only Wilhelm Genn and the amazing little mare Happy Z to create an upset. Close-but not close enough, Genn and Happy went clear in 30.998 seconds.
Official results of the Lucky Sevens found Sharn and Zorro holding the top spot, 2nd went to Wilhelm and Happy Z, 3rd to Megan Edrick and Kandel, 4th to Sharn and Rockville, and 5th to Sharn and Epson “Peanut” Pierreville. This trio of riders would return for Saturday evening’s featured event the $25,000 Privett & Associates Grand Prix.
Other highlights of the week included, making it’s debut at the Jacksonville Winter Series, The Pooch Paddock – the first on sight doggie day care played host on Friday evening to exhibitors with a canine themed dinner party. Catered by local favorite, Le Pavillion Restaurant, guests enjoyed a sumptuous banquet and had a howling good time. The Pooch Paddock’s CEO [Canine Entertainment Officer] Alison Kratish even provided doggie bags of chew bones and toys that owners could take back to Fido and Fifi.
Week one also saw the crowning of the season’s first hunter champions. Palm Harbor, Florida resident Mary Eufemia had a pair of championships to celebrate, in the 1st Year Green Working riding Paula Pell’s entry Unbelievable and the Conformation division with Madison Miller’s Black Pearl. Owner- trainer Sandra Lobel’s Ringo with Amanda Steege in the irons won the Baby Green Hunter section. Over in the Pre Green Hunter divisions the 3-foot champion was Four Seasons owned by Steven Pischke and ridden by Megan Edrick, while Julie Curtin and Karen Frandsen’s Empire were named the 3’3 champs.
Closing out a perfect start to the series was this evening’s $25,000 Privett & Associates Grand Prix presented by the Clay County Tourist Development Council. Seats filled quickly as 7 o’clock drew near and the first of 23 equine athletes came on deck. Designer Jolicoeur saved his masterpiece for them- creating a canvas of 16 strenuous efforts to challenge both mind and body in less than 80 seconds. Six horses- five riders would emerge victorious over the tester. Among them the evening’s best artist, Ocala, Florida based Aaron Vale and Platinum. “I thought it was a really good design from Pierre.” Vale stated right off and added, “He [Pierre] got some rails down without making it too-too big.” No doubt referring to the triple combination at 7ABC [oxer to vertical to oxer], which caught many horses by surprise. Jolicoeur shared the secret was “a perfect V turn off of fence #6 into the combo.” If not angled just right it could, as Vale said “look a lot bigger when you rode down to it and catch you off guard.” Something he learned on second mount Sinatra IV who’s only rail down came as a result of slight miscalculation.
Platinum, owned by ABC 4 Horses, is a 13 year-old Hanoverian gelding whom Vale has been partnered with for nearly two years. The pair was the third to make a clean trip around the arena and stopped the timer at 77.901. “He jumped some big prixes in Europe, but unfortunately after only 2 shows here last year he got injured and this is his third show back.” Vale’s pride in the comeback was evident by a broad smile as the gelding walked by. “We’ve got him back in the winners circle! Healthy and hopefully knock on wood he’ll stay that way because he’s quite effective in the show ring.”
Of those returning for the final round only Thursday’s winner Sharn Wordley had multiple rides- bringing both Zorro and Epson Pierreville back. “Another fun ride.” Wordley said of the evening. Joining Vale and Wordley was fellow Ocala resident Kyle King with new mount Gigolo for owner Niko Goyette, along with Sparr, Florida and crowd favorite Chuck Waters aboard his 747, and a pair of ladies from Maryland- owner/rider Mary Nicholson Leffler and Gerona 92. With a 45 second allowance and twisting-hair pin turns, the final 8 effort round was clearly a challenge of wits and courage. Kyle King had the honor of setting the pace and set it he did bringing Gigolo clean across the final jump in 37.251. Next up, Zorro and Wordley attempted to slice the time, but fell short with a clean round finish in 38.235. Enter Platinum- there was nothing blonde about his attitude, he was here to seize the moment and clocked in clean at 36.071. “I knew I was quick, but I didn’t actually get the smoothness I wanted. But this is only my 5th show on the horse. I mean I was thrilled to be clean and all, but I’m thinking about jumping the World Cup next week so with that in mind I just wasn’t happy with the way I got around the course. I was just hoping to be a little smoother, a hair more relaxed-not slower though.” Vale said through chuckles. Three others tried to claim the lead, but fell a little short of their goal.
Final results for the $25,000 Privett & Associates Grand Prix were: Aaron Vale and Platinum in first place; 2nd went to Kyle King and Gigolo; 3rd to Mary Nicholson Leffler with the Rolling Acres' owned Gerona 92 finishing clear in 37.996; 4th to Sharn Wordley and Zorro, and completing the top five was owner-rider Chuck Waters and 747 with 4 faults in 43.771.
As mentioned Vale and Platinum will return for week two and a shot at the $100,000 Green Cove Springs CSI3*-W Grand Prix along with some the world’s most elite riders, including several of the 2008 Olympic Gold and Silver Medal winners.
The Jacksonville Winter Series continues through February 1st with classes Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 8AM until about 5PM except for special events on Saturday evenings at 7PM such as next weekend’s big $100,000 Green Cove Springs CSI-W Grand Prix featuring. Admission to the shows is free.
For more information or results on the 2009 Jacksonville Winter Series please visit http://www.classiccompany.com
or call the show office at 904-284-9492.
Photo Credit: Aaron Vale and Platinum by © 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/wordley-vale-jacksonville-winter-triumphs-01-09.html">Wordley & Vale Launch the 2009 Jacksonville Winter Series with Big Triumphs</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com