Harrisburg, Pa., October 19, 2009 -- Brazilian superstar Rodrigo Pessoa headed the winning line-up of international show jumping riders in the October 17 $75,000 Grand Prix de Penn National World Cup Qualifier on the final day of the 64th Pennsylvania National Horse Show.
Pessoa, Olympic gold medalist and three time World Cup winner, aboard Let's Fly, was the eighth rider on course and the first to navigate the course designed by Steve Stephens without a rail down.
"I have been riding him for a little over a year and a half," said Pessoa. "I started him in the bigger classes this year in Florida, and he has been doing really good. This is his fourth big Grand Prix this year. He won a big Grand Prix in Charlotte in April, in Rome he won the big CSIO and in Jacksonville, and he placed in big Grand Prix in Europe over the summer--he's really been fantastic for us."
The enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd watched six more horse and rider combinations exit the ring with faults before Leslie Burr Howard of Westport, Conn., and Lennox Lewis 2 thrilled them with a fault-free round and the assurance of a jump off.
Ljubov Kochetova, hailing from Russia, with her mount Aslan were the next pairing to leave all the rails up followed by Mario Deslauriers and Vicomte D. Carlos Boy and Ken Berkley added their names to the jump off list as did Erynn Ballard of Canada and her mount Robin Van Roosendael. Of the six countries represented in the class, four would be sending riders into the jump off.
Pessoa entered the jump off first with determination and a plan. When he and Let's Fly were finished they had turned in another fault-free round and stopped the timers in 33.73 seconds.
"The jump off, you know, going first I thought I had to come up with something to make it difficult for the rest of them," said Pessoa. "With all those good riders coming behind, you have to come up with something. So there was a little gap after fence 2 to go inside and I thought if I did that it would be hard enough to be beat. I had to do it, take the chance, and it worked out for me."
Howard and Lennox Lewis 2 set out to catch the leader, but were not as lucky. Lennox Lewis knocked down two rails for an eight fault penalty in a time of 37.69 and would finish the day in sixth place.
Kochetova and Aslan, a giant of a horse, navigated the jump off course without penalty, but their time of 40.10 seconds left lots of room for them to be overtaken. They would finish the class in third place.
Mario Deslauriers and the 11-year-old Vicomte D did not have luck on their side as the big grey took down a rail at fence five and in the combination for a total of eight faults in a time of 36.64. As the fastest pair with eight faults, they finished in fifth place.
Ken Berkley, hailing from Flemington, N.J., and Carlos Boy almost made it around fault free, but the last fence was their undoing and they crossed the timers with four faults in a time of 36.77 and ended in fourth place.
Erynn Ballard was the last to go with her huge Belgian bred gelding Robin von Roosendael. The horse won over the crowd as he stood there in the middle of the ring like a statue except for the flapping of his lower lip. When he moved off, he did so with purpose and after the six fence jump off, crossed the timers with a clear round in 39.13 seconds. The round would place them in second place.
The 65th Pennsylvania National Horse Show will run October 14-23, 2010, at the Pennsylvania Farm and Show Complex in Harrisburg, and will again feature 10 full days of hunter and jumper competition with both amateurs and professionals vying for the coveted championships. The Pennsylvania National hosts 10 national championships. The competition highlight is the Grand Prix de Penn National on Saturday evening.