June 20, 2014--It's been a long road to the top for Johnny B Good, but now he's proving himself well worth the effort. He and John Pearce were the final and fastest competitors in the jump-off and clinched the victory in the $15,000 Open Welcome Stake at Summer in the Rockies III.
"Johnny has been amazing here," Pearce, of Bermuda Dunes, CA, said. "He's been such a slow horse to develop. I never thought he would ever do this, to be honest. I'm really, really happy with him."
Twenty-five horse and rider combinations came out to test their skills over the first round set by noted course designer Guilherme Jorge in the Kathy and Brad Coors Family Grand Prix Arena at the Colorado Horse Park.
The most taxing part of the first round course came toward the end. After navigating a right hand turn from fence 7, an oxer, to 8abc, a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination, riders had to set their horses up for the liverpool at fence 9, which was also the highest oxer on course at 1.45m and resulted in rails for several competitors. After clearing the liverpool, riders tackled an in-and-out to an oxer, and some incurred faults in that line as well.
Four out of the first five riders were clear in the first round, but a long drought followed with numerous four-fault rounds but no clears. Finally, two of the last four to go joined the jump-off and made it a six-horse contest for the win. The class was run under the Table II, Sec. 2 (a/b) format, allowing riders who jumped a clear first round to choose whether to return at the end of the class or immediately go on to their jump-off. Two riders, Armando Hassey and Megan Jordan, chose the "b" option and stayed in the ring to jump off.
Hassey and Eminem were first to proceed to the jump-off, laying down a solid time of 41.520 seconds but incurring four faults at fence 3. Jordan and Atlantis were next and set a speedy target time for the four returning horses and riders, maintaining a quick pace and making nimble turns to go double clear in 40.607 seconds.
Scott Lenkart and Impulsive, first of the returning group, took an aggressive line to fence 14, a vertical off a blind turn, and didn't quite get their eyes on it. They circled and completed with four faults in 48.661 seconds. Matt Cyphert and Lochinvar, next up, had the crowd on the edge of their seats as they sped through the jump-off and broke the beam in 40.808 seconds, just barely shy of the leading time. Paul Rohrbach and Camerino followed with a double clear effort that was a few ticks off the leaders in 41.796 seconds.
Pearce was last to return with Johnny B Good, owned by Forest View Farm, and he took full advantage of the opportunities to slice turns and leave out strides. He approached fence 14 at a sharp angle and was luckier there than Lenkart.
"I really jumped off the blind turn and just nailed it," he said. "Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. Even if you see it, sometimes your horse doesn't see it. He just was right on it. And then I did seven strides instead of nine across the middle to fence 1, and that's where I won the class."
He and Johnny B Good completed the short course in 38.838 seconds, giving them a comfortable victory.
"Johnny's been super," Pearce said. "He's not the most powerful jumper in the world, but he seems to get it done, and he's careful. He's got a lot of heart and tries hard. He doesn't have easy scope, but when he needs it, he seems to find it."
Pearce acquired the now-12-year-old Johnny B Good when the horse was 7 in a trade for "a young hunter that wasn't very good."
"I got him and he was stopping at the time, and I thought, well, if I get the stop out of him, I might be able to sell him as a kid's horse or something," Pearce recalled. "I couldn't sell him as a kid's horse because he was just so difficult. He's sensitive, yet stubborn, and he's a difficult horse in the mind. So I ended up riding him and keeping him. Now he's getting a lot of good results. I think it's just the partnership."
Second place finisher Atlantis, owned by New Venture Investments, also once seemed an unlikely candidate for success at the upper levels of show jumping. Rider Megan Jordan of Oregon City, OR, spotted the Czech Republic Warmblood at a small show in Washington.
"There was nothing about him that you should like, but I did," she said. "He walked in the ring and was a little out of shape, and he's obviously not the prettiest horse, and he doesn't move well, but he just walked in the room with a swagger and I couldn't stop watching him."
Jordan asked to try him out and loved him right away. She put together a syndicate to purchase him, and he has paid her back with high placings in the jumpers.
"He is so consistent and so careful," she said. "He is just an amazing horse with a heart of gold. He always pays attention and is incredibly careful and scopey."
She also rode Top Shelf, the $15,000 Open Welcome Stake winner last week at Summer in the Rockies II, and Scandalous in the class, but neither reached the jump-off. Atlantis was last of the three to jump, and Jordan said she benefited from her trips on the other two to work out how to best ride Jorge's course.
"I think this course designer is really clever," she said. "He lulls you into thinking it's not so bad, and then that liverpool is higher and it's all by itself at the end of the ring and at the end of the course. It took me three times to ride that right!"
"He does it in a very clever way that's very fair for the horses," she added. "I don't see horses coming out that are going to have to drop down and school something. I see horses that are a little more clever after. I love that in a course designer - I don't feel like he traps anyone. I really have enjoyed his courses this week."
Jorge said he felt it was a quality class and he would be ramping it up for Saturday's $30,000 McElvain Energy Grand Prix.
"This was the first chance I had to see them all jump and see what we're going to have for Saturday," he noted. "I know that we have a good group here and I can go a little stronger than this, so that's what I'm going to start working out."
"I was expecting a little more than six clear, between eight and ten, but I think it was a good class," he said. "There were a lot of four faults, so I think they're going to be ready for Saturday."
Jorge first designed at the Colorado Horse Park in 2000 at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, and he is back this year for the first time since 2011. He said he was pleased with the facility improvements that have been made.
"Now we have new footing on the grand prix field, and I'm sure the competitors and the horses appreciate that," he commented. "Of course, it makes our job easier."
Results: Summer in the Rockies III - Thurs, June 19
$15,000 Open Welcome Stake
1. 401/Johnny B Good/Forest View Farm/John Pearce/4500.00
2. 329/Atlantis/New Venture Investments/Megan Jordan/3250.00
3. 197/Lochinvar/Matt Cyphert/Matt Cyphert/1950.00
4. 448/Camerino/Wells Bridge Farm Inc/Paul Rohrbach/1200.00
5. 274/Eminem/Taggert Enterprises LLC/Armando Hassey/900.00
6. 141/Impulsive/Scott Lenkart/Scott Lenkart/700.00
7. 450/Akkato/Wells Bridge Farm Inc/Paul Rohrbach/600.00
8. 361/Vernon G/Kelsey Van Ackeren/Kelsey Van Ackeren/425.00
9. 330/Top Shelf/Margie Gass/Megan Jordan/425.00
10. 371/WildThing/Rancho Corazon, LLC/Chenoa Mc Elvain/350.00
11. 148/Zeros/Farfetched Farm/Kristen Blomstrom/350.00
12. 311/Chestina Z/Bjorn Ikast/Bjorn Ikast/350.00