July 25, 2014--Pablo Barrios will soon be crowned king of the Kentucky Horse Park, and Zara Leandra will be his queen. Tonight, the dynamic duo notched yet another $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic victory. The Venezuelan native won both of the events during the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, and that was following his domination of the series in 2013. It appears to be a repeat year, as Barrios grabs a firmer hold on the 2014 Hagyard Challenge Series, which awards a $50,000 Leading Rider Bonus to the top finisher following the culmination of the series in September.
Forty-eight horse and rider combinations gathered at the Rolex Stadium for the Kentucky Summer Horse Show's $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic. World-renowned course designer Steve Stephens tested entries with 13 numbered obstacles that included three double combinations, an aqueduct wall and a liverpool oxer. The technical lines had many of the riders leaving the ring with faults next to their name, but nine made it to the jump-off.
The final test featured multiple rollbacks and opportunities to gallop across the ring and slice fences. Ireland's Shane Sweetnam was the pathfinder as the first to return with Solerina, owned by Sweet Oak Farm and Spy Coast Farm. They were able to quickly navigate the track without error and set the pace to beat at 36.600 seconds.
Three rounds later, Chris Ewanouski entered the arena with Orbetello, owned by Hampton Farms. Although they are still forming a partnership, Ewanouski and Orbetello proved they were up to the challenge when they made a hard slice across the ring after the wall. With all the rails intact they broke the beam at 36.285 seconds.
"When you start going fast with Orbettello, he gets even more careful. He gets sharp, so I knew I could be really fast at the beginning of the jump-off," explained Ewanouski. "I really caught Shane to the wall and then to the last jump. We really tried to fly there. I just got the ride on him this spring, and he's done a lot so far in his career, so I'm very lucky and fortunate."
Unfortunately for Ewanouski, Barrios was the final rider to compete with his veteran mount Zara Leandra, and as they landed off of one of the middle verticals it was clear why they are leading the Hagyard standings. They raced over the final obstacles without touching a rail and blazed across the finish in 35.350 seconds to capture the victory, relegating Ewanouski to second place and Sweetnam to third place.
"I was very tight to the combination," admitted Barrios. "She jumped the combination in the first round really, really good so I took advantage of that, that she would jump it again good. She jumped it really good."
Despite her victory tonight, Barrios will not be entering Zara Leandra in Saturday's $50,000 Rood & Riddle Grand Prix. "I did this class with her because I really want to win the bonus," he commented. "I'm taking her and Antares to the World Equestrian Games and the Nations Cup Finals, and they will each jump in one. Then she will rest until the Central American Games in November. We need to qualify for the Pan American Games there, and we're the defending champions, so I really want to take my best horse. I think that is Zara Leandra."
Barrios added, "She should be resting right now, but she's in top shape. I knew that this class wouldn't affect her, but for the moment I will only do the grand prix with Antares."
Before he goes abroad, Barrios is focused on winning the $50,000 Hagyard Leading Rider Bonus. "It's a little more pressure with this class with Zara Leandra because I feel like she should automatically go clear," he said. "It's so nice to have a horse that you know her percentage of clear rounds is higher than the rounds that she has faults. The Hagyard series puts a little more pressure on, but I think I'm better under pressure."
Barrios concluded, "I really want to thank my sponsors and my team. My sponsors include Purina, Der Dau, Choice of Champions, Healthy Coat, Animo and Devoucoux, and this would not be possible without them."
The next event for Barrios will be Saturday night's $50,000 Rood & Riddle Kentucky Grand Prix. The class will get underway at 7:30 p.m. in the Rolex Stadium, and is held in conjunction with the Kentucky Horse Park's Hat's Off Day, a celebration of the horse and its impact on the state of Kentucky.