Wayne, Il. – Aug. 10, 2017 – Horse-and-rider combinations gathered in the SmartPak Grand Prix Arena for the $5,000 Welcome Grand Prix on Thursday afternoon in the third week of Equifest. The course for the grand prix required riders to navigate several technical lines, including a triple combination. For riders who made it to the jump-off, there were roll-backs and tight turns in store before they could make it across the finish line.
Striving to have a clean first round, just six pairs made it to the jump-off clear and under the time-allowed of 76 seconds. Taylor McMurtry and Quilotta 2 completed the first round clear in a speedy 63.191 seconds, the leading time going into the second round. Unfortunately, the pair knocked a rail in the jump-off, finishing with 4 faults and a time of 34.697 seconds.
Thomas Cerra and McGregor held the second fastest time in the first round of 65.339 seconds. The horse-and-rider combination also knocked a rail however, completing the jump-off in 34.941 seconds with 4 faults.
Haley Gassel and Quite Dark 2, owned by Westwind Equine Training Center, finished their clear first round in 65.999 seconds, the next fastest behind Cerra and McGregor. The pair set the standard high for the jump-off, finishing double-clear with a time to beat of 34.262 seconds. In the end, no others were able to match Gassel and Quite Dark 2, and they took home the first place prize.
Holly Shepherd and Loretta Patterson’s Sky High finished in second place behind Gassel, going double-clear with a jump-off time of 35.486 seconds. Serah Vogus and Celestina completed the top three in the grand prix, achieving double-clear rounds and crossing the finish line in the jump-off in 39.243 seconds.
The Welcome Grand Prix set the stage well for the $25,000 Grand Prix scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 12 at 4 p.m. in the SmartPak Grand Prix Arena. Preceding Saturday’s competition, the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby will begin at 8 a.m. on Friday morning.
$5,000 Welcome Grand Prix
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Faults / Time / R2 Faults / Time
1. Quite Dark 2 / Haley Gassel / Westwind Equine Training Center / 0 / 65.999 / 0 / 34.262
2. Sky High / Holly Shepherd / Loretta Patterson / 0 / 68.834 / 0 / 35.486
3. Celestina / Serah Vogus / Serah Vogus / 0 / 70.045 / 0 / 39.243
4. Cumana / Mattie Hatcher / Mattie Hatcher / 0 / 66.828 / 4 / 34.497
5. Quilotta 2 / Taylor McMurtry / Taylor McMurtry / 0 / 63.191 / 4 / 34.697
6. McGregor / Thomas Cerra / Thomas Cerra / 0 / 65.339 / 4 / 34.941
7. Bull Run’s Levi / Bryn Sadler / Showcase 81 LLC / 4 / 64.802
8. Kingston / Jordan Gilchrist / Jordan Gilchrist / 4 / 65.074
9. Hit Me Van’t Zorgvliet / Michael Tokaruk / Ilan Ferder / 4 / 65.494
10. Cristiano / Mattie Hatcher / Mattie Hatcher / 4 / 66/736
11. Compis / Stephen Foran / Lauren Robishaw / 4 / 67.337
12. Ilan / Michael Tokaruk / Maarten Huygens / 4 / 67.409
Haley Gassel – $5,000 Welcome Grand Prix Winner
On Quite Dark 2:
“I’ve had him since the beginning of 2013. He actually had seven months off of showing from October to May and he just did his first grand prix back last month. He’s just now back at this level. He had really minor injuries, but it we needed to take the time off and do what we needed to do. He always goes into the ring wanting to win. Always. It doesn’t matter if it’s a schooling class or it’s a grand prix; he goes in and wants to win the class. He’s really lazy, sluggish and friendly outside of the ring. He’s basically a gentle giant. He should’ve been a dog because he just loves to lick on you and cuddle.
He’s huge, almost 18 hands. It’s kind of funny. But as soon as he steps in the ring, he hears the buzzer and it’s just off to the races. He knows it’s time to go. Even though he’s so large, he’s really great at turning. A lot of people I know when I had first had him said, ‘He’s too big, he’s not going to be that fast. He can’t turn that tight.’ This horse can turn on a dime. He has such a massive stride that he just covers ground so incredibly well.”
On the course:
“It was nice! I like that it wasn’t over the top or anything. I liked that this course was a little bit shorter and nicer, especially for a Welcome. It wasn’t too big or technical. I’m interested to see how it will be set for Saturday!”
“This is my first year here. It’s nice, I like it a lot. I’m really impressed!”