Atlanta Fall Classics Opener $25,000 Grand Prix was
Conyers, GA - November 9, 2008
Mother Nature provided crystal blue skies, a blaze of fall colors and perfect riding temperatures for the opening of three weeks competition at the Georgia International Horse Park. ?What a wonderful week to kick off the finale to our show season! And what great talents we have for it!? Bob Bell, president of the Classic Company said.
Week one drew to its close with the most anticipated class, the $25,000 Atlanta Fall Grand Prix sponsored by Brook Ledge Horse Transportation. An international field of 29 competitors turned out to vie for bragging rights and the big check. Providing this week's jumper-course challenges was Zionsville, IN native Allen Rheinheimer, know best for taking advantage of the former Olympic arena's full measure in order to test both rider and horse's physical prowess as well as the strength of their partnership. From the starters only 7 survived the twists and quirks of the 14-obstacle first round, among them fresh from the 2008 Olympics New Zealand team member Sharn Wordley was the only competitor to bring two mounts into the final run.
It's not uncommon for some pros to have rituals or lucky charms they use prior to a big ride-even if they don't always confess so. For today's winner, Derek Petersen of Archer, FL, it's "my magical Antares saddle!", a chuckling Petersen admitted to never riding the gelding in anything else since their first win came after switching to the new saddle.
Paired once more with Jordan Coyne's 8 year-old Dutch bred Lazaro, this duo found no issues with round one and clocked in clear at 81.60 (below the 89 second limit). "It was technically very difficult because if you got there early in the 5 stride to the vertical then that second oxer was right there on top of you."
Petersen explained the hot spot of round one, the last line-a triple combination of vertical to oxer to oxer. "It [the second oxer] was a little wider than you wanted to do and if you put your leg on very hard- you landed right onto the third one so you had to set in the middle of the three and still have enough umph to ride out."
This was evident by more than 60 percent of the field failing to come through unscathed. Petersen however felt the combination was some of his best jumps, explaining that with Lazaro's scope he almost has to try to make some of the other jumps a challenge for the talented gelding.
Wordley went clean in round one aboard the Filip Amram owned Zorro, stopping the timer at 84.51, but the abbreviated 40 second course of 7 jumps caught the pair over the last obstacle costing Wordley 4 faults in a fast 33.229.
Round two found Petersen following Wordley's first mount and convinced that a bold move was needed to put distance between Lazaro and those to come.
Just off the second jump, a tight vertical, Petersen made an extreme left inside cut and rolled right, almost directly into the next vertical. Upon landing he hit the pedal and Lazaro rocketed over the remaining four jumps leaving scorch marks on the final oxer from their blazing time of 27.936 seconds. "If we were turning right after that vertical instead of left it would've been ok to go around, but it was a left and I knew I wanted 7 strides to the Swedish afterwards so we went for it.", Petersen said. And as he already knew those coming after him followed his cue, some successfully, some not, but none quick enough to catch Lazaro.
Petersen and Lazaro returned to the arena for presentation of the trophy and a victory gallop with Van Halen's song Jump booming from the speakers. As they neared the end gate Lazaro broke into an impromptu victory dance, picking each hoof up in perfect sync to the music. "He loves winning!, a smiling Petersen said to the crowd. The dancing duo will return to compete in three more prix over the next two weeks in Atlanta with a promise of new cha-cha steps if they prevail as winners.
Official results placed Aaron Vale and Sinatra IV in Second with a clear final time of 28.126. Sharn Wordley riding Epson Pierreville to Third place with a clear time of 30.083. Fourth went to Daniel Geitner aboard Trading Places for owner Kyle Register in a clean time of 30.694, and rounding out the top five was Kyle King with Paola for owners Cimarron Farm, LLC in a final time of 28.345 with 4 faults. Indications from all point to a thrilling rematch next coming Sunday at 2pm.
The Atlanta Fall Classics continue through November 23rd with showing taking place Wednesday through Sunday. Classes begin daily at 8 am until approximately 4:30 pm and the public is invited. Admission is free and each Sunday will host an exciting $25,000 Grand Prix Jumper Classic at 2 pm.
For more information or results on the Fall Classics visit www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at 770-602-2510