Second Week of Jacksonville Winter Just as Action Packed
Green Cove Springs, FL -
The second week of the Jacksonville Winter Series is proving to be just as full of nail biting excitement as the opening event. Kyle King, now based in Ocala, FL riding Finnete for owner Robin Cox took top call in Thursday's Lucky Sevens Open Welcome Jumper Classic sponsored by Ring Power.
Kyle and Finnete, a 13 year-old bay Hanoverian mare found this win especially sweet. "She's been out of competition for almost a year." King began, "It just felt great to be back in the ring with her!" Facing a field of 29 determined athletes, Kyle was one of only 8 to advance to the jump off round.
So after a series kick off with the renowned Dave Ballard as course designer the question is how do you follow that act? Simple, you bring in the great Michel Vaillancourt! Known for his technical test, he's sometimes called the "Where's Waldo" designer as his courses always have that "little hidden trick". Michel has long been a favorite of top riders and show managements in the US and aboard. For the Welcome he set a 12-obstacle layout [15 efforts] that when walked appeared fair and straightforward, but true to his nature the "simplest of test" became the trick in round one. The majority of riders acquired at least 4 faults either at fence #4, an oxer with a 5-foot spread or at fence #5, a tall vertical [4'6"] set on the outside track. "It was a little short going from #3 [vertical] into that oxer. I think a lot of the horses just miscalculated." King explained.
Finnete passed the first round test below the allotted 84 seconds with a clear time of 83.197. "She just got right into it." Kyle expressed of his partner, "Like she hadn't been off." He went on to say the course rode very well, "The management here always takes great care with the footing for us. And what can you say about Michel that hasn't been said before. His courses always challenge us and bring out our best."
Heading into the final round of 6 obstacles- 7 efforts the challenge became one of speed and finesse. The determining factor would be how one came off fence #3- the choice would be an immediate hard right to rollback over the #6 triple bar or take the "scenic route" around and loose precious time. With an allowance of only 40 seconds most all riders took the challenge, Kyle and Finnete were no exceptions blazing through the course effortlessly in a clear 33.955 to cinch the win.
Rounding out the top five positions for tonight's Welcome Classic were in second place owner-rider Sharn Wordley on Epsom with a clear round time of 34.379. Third place went to Hugh Graham with Jamestown for owner Kingridge Stables in a clean 34.383 seconds. The fourth position went to Roberto Teran on board Distant Star for owner Kingridge Stables with a clear time of 34.597 and completing the fifth spot was Sharn Wordley aboard his own Mr. Flanagan in a clear time of 34.634. "You can bet it'll be a great Prix on Saturday with this group coming back. I know I can't wait to take them on again.", the evening's winner laughed.
Continuing the thrilling show jumping action tonight saw the $15,000 Children's and Adults Jumper Classic take center stage. The event sponsored by Elements, an architectural and interior designs company, with offices in Tampa and Miami, truly got into the spirit of the event by holding their own competition months ago. Architects and Designers of the firm were challenged to design their own jump with the winner's jump being constructed and used throughout the Jacksonville Winter Series. It debuted at this evening's main event.
Speaking with Michel prior to the classic I asked him to talk about designing for this group. "Normally it's about the same with any child-adult group. You have about half the class that will be really strong and sometimes half of the class is a little bit weaker. I think the test is very fair. Time allowed is kind of short so that will promote the smooth ride.and there's a few little tricks out there.", the designer grinned, "It's still very classic as far as the course is concerned." he added. When asked for his tricks or hot spots of the course Michel smiled and said, "Well the triple coming early on in the course might get some, but the Elements vertical is a bit of a spooky kind of fence and because of the time allowed [79 seconds] their going to have to do an inside turn to it and that may get tricky."
38 came to play "Where's Waldo" with Michel this evening and his first round of 13 obstacles [16 efforts] kept his reputation in tact with almost half falling victim to his tricks. From the 17 survivors came tonight's winner Alissa Kinsey of Ft Myers, FL a self admitted "one girl show" with her 11 year-old Hanoverian mare Grisset who cruised through the first round in a clean 75.583 seconds.
"I drove 5 hours just for this class." an exuberant Alissa said after her victory gallop. Partnered with "Big Moma" as she's known at home for "just about a year" the pair began showing in the Adult Jumpers this season. "Last weekend we were second at WEF in a big class there so it was a good warm up for this." Asked her thoughts on the first round Alissa replied, "I thought it was actually quite difficult being that it's inside, it's night, and the horse's are out of their normal routine. He built a real technical course with a lot of the jumps heading into the corners of the ring and that Elements jump they designed was really the bogey for everybody with the tan colored rails almost matching the color of the ground. She [Grisset] actually over jumped it." Alissa laughed and added with a more serious tone, "Overall the course was really nice with a nice flow to it, but it did ask a lot of questions of the riders." As Grisset pawed the ground for attention and eyed the crystal trophy, which could easily hold the mare's favorite cookies Alissa relived the final round. "Pretty hard. I was a little worried, not the kind of track I usually prefer for my horse." The 7 obstacle [8 effort] layout was not designed with merely speed as the objective. Riders had 43 seconds to navigate the shorten course which "required" a big choice to be made, either go with two tight inside turns - the better strategy to beat the clock but could easily cost faults with one wrong breathe or taking the cautious outside turns which would cost time. "It [the course] doesn't really suit our style but we tried. We made it work" Alissa said with a giggle of their quick-clean finish in 33.421.
While chatting about the win, it became clear what her expression of being a "one girl show" truly meant. As we talked she held Big Moma [Grisset], blanketed her with one hand, and juggled her trophy from one arm to a safe spot on the ground all with great ease. Wearing many hats aside from her riding helmet, Alissa is the groom, trainer, chauffeur, and sole sponsor of her great passion to live-work with horses. Alissa said of doing everything solo, "I'm not gonna say I love it, but I am proud of my accomplishments as a result of doing the work myself. I do it with all 7 of my horses. It's very hard but it's so rewarding." Tonight she loads the trailer and drives back to Wellington. "Tomorrow she gets the day off and then Sunday morning we compete at WEF then load up and head to the next event." The one girl show goes on.
This evening's top five include Elizabeth Porath riding Le Beau Cheval for owners Meadow Hill Stables finishing in second place with a clear final time of 36.768. Third place went Kyle Matkovic aboard Keeper for owner The Bullneck Barn LLC in a clear time of 38.275. Fourth went to Clayton Russell piloting Victory for owner Vick Russell in a final clear time of 38.834 and fifth place went to Dr Juan Gamboa riding Don Camilo for owner Javier Gamboa in a clean time of 39.998.
The Jacksonville Winter Series continues through February 10th with classes Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 8AM until about 5PM except for special events on Saturday evenings at 7PM such as this weekend's big $25,000 Gateway Capital Development Grand Prix to benefit the Donna Hicken Foundation.
Admission to the shows are free, a $5 donation is requested for special events, which in turn is given to various local charities.
For more information or results on the 2008 Jacksonville Winter Series please visit www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at 904-284-9492.