November 5, 2011 - The Open Jumper action at the Alltech National Horse Show, 128th Edition, wrapped up tonight with a fast-paced jump-off during the Alltech National Horse Show $250,000 Grand Prix CSI-W. Richard Spooner and Cristallo set the pace with tidy inside turns and a clear effort, beating Great Britain's Nick Skelton aboard Carlo 273 by just three-tenths of a second. Jessica Springsteen and Cincinatti Le Silla rounded out the three as the fastest four-fault combination during the short course.
Richard Jeffery set a large, technical track for tonight's first round to challenge the horse and rider combinations. It included a triple bar, an oxer-oxer double combination, and a challenging vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination going towards the gate. Only five riders managed to complete the course with all fences in place and return for the short course. They began over an oxer-vertical double combination before making a very sharp inside turn to a second oxer. Riders then had a long gallop to a single vertical before making another sharp turn to the wall. Finally, they made a right turn to a vertical-oxer double combination before galloping home over the last wide oxer.
Spooner and Cristallo, owned by Show Jumping Syndicates of Agua Dulce, CA, were the first to master the technical course and qualify for the speed phase. The "Master of Faster" did not disappoint when he returned to the ring with his veteran mount. He made a very nice inside turn to the first wide oxer, and followed it with another very tight turn to the wall before galloping home over the double combination and final oxer. Although it almost seemed that the turn to the wall would be too much, Cristallo leapt over it without a rub and the pair broke the beam at 37.970 seconds with all the rails intact. The pair set a pace that no other horse and rider combinations would be able to catch, and eventually led the night's victory gallop.
"I knew it was a tough field of riders behind me," explained Spooner after his win. "When I go into jump-offs I don't like regrets. I wasn't going to try to leave a lot on the table. I went out and went as fast as I felt I could, and focused on leaving the jumps up. I took a big risk to the wall; I got a bit lucky there. I was concerned a bit that my wheels would fall off going to the last combination there. I am sure Nick was quite optimistic that would happen as well, too. Cristallo held it together though, and really came through for me."
Skelton was the last to challenge the short course with Carlo 273, and the speedy duo produced the only other fault-free round. They also managed to catch all the inside turns, and although they had a fast gallop through the end of the course, a slow start proved costly when they tripped the timers at 38.33 to place second.
"I didn't really get the distance I wanted to the first fence, so I ended up having six strides to the vertical," said Skelton. "Then, when I turned, Carlo just sort of stopped dead. I stood still for a split second, so I knew I was well down then. I knew from the rustic to the end of the course I was pretty quick. I thought if I got five to the second I probably wouldn't have beat him anyway, and I probably wouldn't have gone as hard then as I did. I was very pleased with Carlo anyway; he jumped very nicely this week."
Margie Engle and Indigo, owned by Griese, Garber, Hidden Creek, and Gladewinds of Wellington, FL, stepped into the Alltech Arena following Spooner. Their attempt at the first inside turn proved less successful as they lowered the height of the wide oxer. Engle then chose a more conservative pace and track for her mount, earning them a four-fault score in 46.71 seconds for the fifth place honors. The Netherland's Harris Smolders and Exquis Oliver Q, owned by Axel Verlooy, were faster than Engle, but still conservative and also had a hard time after the first turn. The pair produced a four-fault effort in a time of 44.05 seconds for fourth. Young rider Jessica Springsteen of Colts Neck, NJ, had the fastest four-fault round after committing to the sharper turns with Cincinatti Le Silla. They had an error at the same oxer, but stopped the clock at 40.660 to garner the third place award. Springsteen was also the winner of the Leading Lady Rider Award presented by Martha Jolicoeur, while Skelton earned the Audi Leading Rider Award and a one-year lease of an Audi Q-7 for his efforts during the week.
The ASPCA Maclay National Championship will be held tomorrow, an event that Springsteen was victorious in during her junior years, and she was excited to have more success at the Alltech National Horse Show. "I definitely can compare the pressure. I think the pressures were just as high for me as a junior when I was competing in the Maclay and as they were tonight competing in the Grand Prix. Cincinatti Le Silla is amazing to ride; she's very light. She is one of the most fun horses I have, you feel like you're floating when you go around the ring."
This marked the first year that the Alltech National Horse Show has been held at the Kentucky Horse Park, and the first year that Alltech has joined forces with the prestigious event. "I love the National Horse Show, I was lucky enough to do it one year at the Garden, my last junior year, when I was doing the equitation," commented Spooner. "I have a kind of fondness for it. There is a lot of prize money. I heard that the facility was phenomenal, the management was going to be excellent, and obviously the prize money is a big factor. Whenever you are planning a trip you have to think of the risk-reward, and there's a lot of reward coming here and that makes the decision a heck of a lot easier."
Alltech President and Founder Dr. Pearse Lyons noted, "When our winner came and he had this big check, he said it was worth the journey. Well, for us I think it was also worth the journey to have you guys here. I have to say that I am always awed by the size and power of those animals. I salute you and I say to you that I hope all three of you and the rest of the riders and the rest of the people out there competing will be with us next year, you all come back and see us."
"They really did a fabulous job with this year's Alltech National Horse Show, it was really on par with any indoor horse show in Europe or anywhere in the world," said Former FEI Secretary General, Michael Stone. United States Chef d'Equipe George Morris added, "The Alltech Arena is an ideal location for the National Horse Show, it is perfect for all the horsemen and horses, and it really captured the feel of Madison Square Garden."
At the end of the night, Alltech National Horse Show President Mason Phelps, Jr. commented, "We will certainly be back next year and it will be bigger and better. I am getting together with the people at Alltech on Monday to brainstorm about what we're going to do to give exhibitors more prize money, classes, and days in the schedule. We are going to look at more options for next year. I promise you that we are bringing back all of the parts of the National Horse Show that we saw at Madison Square Garden years ago, they're all coming back little by little: the saddle horses, the coaches, and of course the best jumping, and if the FEI looks at us favorably, hopefully a Nation's Cup!"
The Alltech National Horse Show, 128th Edition, will come to a close tomorrow with the Maclay National Championship for the ASCPA Maclay Horsemanship Classes - Presented by Hadfield's Saddlery as the highlight event. Tonight's events benefited the United States Equestrian Team Foundation, and tomorrow's class will benefit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For more information about the 2011 Alltech National Horse Show, 128th Edition, please visit www.nhs.org.
Alltech National Horse Show $250,000 Grand Prix CSI-W
1 67 CRISTALLO RICHARD SPOONER 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 37.970
2 78 CARLO 273 NICK SKELTON 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 38.330
3 17 CINCINATTI LE SILLA JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN 0 0 0 0.000 4 0 4 40.660
4 83 EXQUIS OLIVER Q HARRIE SMOLDERS 0 0 0 0.000 4 0 4 44.050
5 31 INDIGO MARGIE ENGLE 0 0 0 0.000 4 0 4 46.710
6 97 ROYCE LJUBOV KOCHETOVA 0 1 1 81.350
7 69 TALOUBET PAULO SANTANA 4 0 4 73.850
8 54 PJOTTER VAN DE ZONNEHOEVE MCLAIN WARD 4 0 4 75.110
9 39 AVENIR CHRISTINE MCCREA 4 0 4 75.420
10 1 ATHENA CHARLIE JAYNE 4 0 4 76.740
11 80 INTERTOY Z SCOTT BRASH 4 0 4 76.790
12 61 AHORN VAN DE ZUUTHOEVE RICHIE MOLONEY 4 0 4 76.810