Lexington, KY – August 4, 2012 – The applause and excitement could be heard resounding throughout the Kentucky Horse Park tonight as the $50,000 Rood & Riddle Grand Prix got underway in the Rolex Stadium. It was the fifth day of the Kentucky Summer Classic, and the nation’s top riders gathered to show under the bright lights of the stadium for a share in the prize money, and the desired $8,000 SSG ‘Go Clean for the Green’ Digital Riding Glove promotion bonus. Out of 33 entries only five were able to ride the first course clear, and progress into the arduous jump-off. It was Blythe Marano and Urban who wowed the crowd tonight, taking the top earnings and the bonus money. Aaron Vale piloted Palm Sunday to the second place finish as the only other rider to go double clear.
Anthony D’Ambrosio designed tonight’s track, using bending lines, tight turns, a vertical-oxer double combination, an open water jump, and a triple bar-oxer-vertical triple combination. The jump-off course began over a standalone vertical near the in gate and moved them with a left turn over an oxer. From there, they then had to use their mount’s pace to their advantage to clear a large space and ride to a vertical and make a hard right rollback to a skinny vertical. Upon landing, they then navigated toward the triple bar-oxer combination, shortened from the previous round, and with a right turn take an oxer along the outside and race to the final vertical to break the beam.
Blythe Marano, was the first to outwit D’Ambrosio’s shortened course. She guided Urban, owned by Riverview Farm of Franklin, TN, to a speedy jump-off time, leaving all rails intact as she utilized Urban’s sure footing to her advantage. The duo tripped the timers in a mere 43.770 seconds, setting the target time as the pathfinder.
“Mainly I saw that the inside turn to the triple bar would make me appear to be going faster than I was,” Marano described her plan of action when recapping the jump-off. “I wanted to make it so that everyone else thought that was where I made such good time, and have to chase it. Fortunately it worked out for me tonight, because that is exactly what happened in almost every round.”
“He was a little fresh going into the jump-off. I think since we made it clear in the first round so early in the order, he had time to relax. I think that he almost thought it was a day class and that the jump off was the night class,” Marano laughed. “The course was great for me tonight, and when I walked it, I knew he was going to be great. ”
Aaron Vale and Palm Sunday, owned by Amen Corner Farm of Folsom, LA, entered the ring behind Marano, using a quick plan to their benefit. It seemed as though Vale was going to best Marano’s time. He held a strong pace throughout the track, he opted for a larger turn going outside to the double combination, it cost precious seconds. Vale legged his mount over the final obstacle, and finished in 43.449 seconds to eventually secure the second place award.
“I am thrilled with how tonight went,” Vale remarked. “I tried my best there to win, but I had to keep my horse in mind. I just picked this horse up in the spring, and this is his first week doing the Grand Prix. I am trying to get his confidence back, and I have been trying to take it a little more careful in the jump off.”
Vale continued, “If he reached out a little more, I might be able to leave out strides, but he just doesn’t have the confidence yet, and I can’t push him to go there until he is ready. I am thrilled though, especially for this being his first week of Grand Prix events. He did a great job, and has proven himself consistent. I couldn’t ask him to make the turn inside that Blythe did heading into the combination. I was doing my best to keep pace, and we only came in one second behind. He was great, and I couldn’t have asked for more tonight out of him.”
The jump-off continued as the spectators wondered if anyone would be able to catch Marano’s time and accuracy. Pablo Barrios was the next to try aboard Zara Leandra, owned by the ZL Group of Wellington, FL. The duo was very speedy to each obstacle and took a sharp route to the final oxer, slicing the seconds into the last line. It was the expense of the turn that earned them a four-fault total, and finishing in 41.453 seconds to take the third place.
Rebecca Conway and Twister, owned by Blue Hill Farm of Salt Lake City, UT, rode to a consecutive four-fault finish in 44.703 seconds. They lowered the second oxer of the double combination, falling behind Barrios as the next fastest four-faulter. When Shane Sweetnam returned for the jump-off aboard Diktator Van De Boslandhoeve, it was clear that he had the win in mind. The pair raced through the turns, and kept pace with Marano’s efforts; however, they nicked an unlucky rail in the double combination, as well. Sweetnam’s time of 42.326 seconds earned him the fourth place finish, with Conway taking the fifth.
Tonight’s winners, Marano and Urban, have been long-time partners, a team for the last six years. “I know him really well, and he needs a light ride. He doesn’t need a lot of leg at all. Typically the long runs don’t work for me, and knowing him so well, I was thrilled with tonight’s track. It benefited our style immensely.”
Tonight’s exciting grand prix competition was held in conjunction with the Kentucky Horse Park’s “Hats Off Day,” presented by Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Spy Coast Farm and Central Bank. It is a salute to the horse industry in Kentucky. Admission to the show grounds was free today, and a magnificent crowd turned out to see the world’s top equestrians compete at the highest level.
In addition to competing for the winning title and a share in the prize money, riders had the opportunity to win $8,000 in bonus money as a part of the SSG Riding Gloves ‘Go Clean for the Green’ promotion—riders wearing the SSG ‘Digital’ Riding Gloves with the SSG horse head logo clearly visible during all rounds of competition in designated events are eligible for the bonus. Tonight all five of the riders sported the gloves, guaranteeing that the bonus would be collected. Marano was thrilled to be presented with the check, and raved about the difference the gloves have made in her riding.
“I think everyone knew tonight was the night, and everyone wanted it,” Marano explained. “It’s funny, you go in and sometimes you wear gloves, and sometimes you don’t. Tonight I decided that without a doubt they were going to be on my hands. I knew that I was going to win, and not be gloved when I first bought them in Florida, but I was not about to let that happen.”
Marano continued, “I think I am going to share the bonus money with my groom, Jose. He has been with Urban just as long as I have, and he really deserves it.”
The bonus money will refresh after tonight, going into the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show as a $2,000 bonus opportunity. Second place finisher Aaron Vale admitted that he is looking forward to the continuance of the promotion.
“I had it the other night, but I blew it, and the money was even larger tonight,” Vale explained. “You have to thank them for that opportunity, I think a lot of people are having fun with that. I hope they are getting great exposure, it is a wonderful incentive. We need more things like that. It was a beautiful midsummer night under the lights, and we have them to thank for being a part of it.”
The Kentucky Summer Classic will conclude tomorrow with exciting hunter action as the Kentucky Horse Park is transformed into the premier pony destination in the nation for next week’s USEF Pony Finals. The exciting Kentucky Summer Series will return August 15-19 at the Kentucky Horse Park with the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show, providing more jumper action and the long-awaited $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals.