Very rarely do competitors tie in a one-round speed class, but Canada's Erynn Ballard and Israel's Sydney Shulman did just that in the $36,000 Keystone Classic Speed Stake Friday night at the 2019 Pennsylvania National Horse Show (PNHS). Both went clear during their rounds and stopped the clock at an unbeatable 52.59 seconds.
Riding ninth in a field of 25, Ballard quickly surpassed early pacesetters with the blistering time of 52.59 seconds aboard Skymaster LLC's Judge Hof Ter Zeedycke. No other competitor could catch that time as the class continued, until Sydney Shulman and Azilis Du Mesnil, owned by Jill Shulman, entered the ring as the eighteenth to go in the order.
"In a class like this when there are so few strides in between the jumps, it was pretty technical, which is why I think there was a tie," Ballard said of the Michel Vaillancourt-designed course. "Basically through the entire course, you did no more than eight strides between the jumps. It makes it harder to go super fast, or much faster than somebody else. You have to be accurate - it's how fast your horse is in the air, how easy they ride."
Ballard and her team saved Judge Hof Ter Zeedyckefor Friday's Speed Stake after competing in Wednesday's $15,000 Dash for the Cash, knowing they had a chance of taking top honors.
"Judge is really straightforward, and I know him well," Ballard said, noting that she started competing with the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood in Florida last winter. "He just gave me a great round tonight. I walked all of the turns in my course walk, and I stuck to my plan and nailed all the strides, and it paid off."
Earning a total of 15 points from their classes this week, Ballard and "Judge" also tied with Beezie Madden and Jiva for the Open Jumper Speed Reserve Championship. Taking the top honor and the Showday Farm Challenge Trophy as Champion was Shulman with Azilis Du Mesnil, who earned a total of 21 points.
"I really look up to and really like Erynn, so it's great to be up (on the board) with her," Shulman said. "I actually didn't follow my trainer's plan tonight, so I'm lucky I ended up staying (at the top). I was supposed to do one less stride in the first line, but I ended up adding because I didn't see it."
Noting Vaillancourt's courses are usually hard for her, Shulman successfully rode to the win under extra pressure, with Michael Desiderio stepping in as her trainer because John Roach and her mother Jill were unable to attend. It was also Azilis Du Mesnil's first time indoors.
"She's not normally my speed horse, but I thought (these would be) nicer classes to introduce her to indoors to let her go forward a little bit and teach her," Shulman said of the 9-year-old Selle Francais. "She handled it great, and every night she got better."