International competition is back in full swing in the Bluegrass state today at the Kentucky Horse Shows (KHS) Spring Classic, and the $38,700 Welcome Speed 1.45m CSI3* certainly made an exciting start to the week. The perfectly manicured Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park presented combinations of horses and riders the opportunity to vie for a ranking win in the showjumping realm, and the blazing sun cast shadows over the fences that made the test all the more difficult. After seeing 11 clear rounds soar successfully over the obstacles, Cathleen Driscoll (USA) has proved to her KHS competitors yet again that she is a tough one to beat.
With a change in course designers at KHS comes a set of new challenges, and Portugal’s Bernardo Costa Cabral was sure to bring them. Today’s course featured a menagerie of inside track options, tight rollbacks (guarded by other fences, no less) and multiple changes of direction. Costa Cabral, an FEI Level 4 course designer, recently laid down the courses at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Omaha, Neb., and has many other international championships under his belt. He saw today’s set-up as no different than a final showdown, ensuring a strenuous one-round competition.
Driscoll made an impression early on as fourth in the order by navigating a clear round at 60.90 seconds with Go With The Flow to catapult her into first place. Tanimara Maria Macari Carillo (MEX) followed closely behind at 73.170 seconds; however, the nearly three-second gap between the two’s finishing times left room for riders to wiggle their way onto the podium. It wasn’t long before Michael Walton (USA) and Captain Chacco filled that gap, beating Macari Carillo’s time by 1.690 seconds. His newly achieved second-place standing didn’t last, though, with Richie Moloney (IRL) and Rocksy Music taking a strong and determined approach to the track, finishing with a time of 69.650.
By the time Driscoll returned on her second mount, Don Stewart’s Flotylla, she came out of the gate ready to go. Perhaps it was her decision to take the six-stride option, instead of seven strides, from fences 1 to 2 that made all the difference in both of her rides. However, she was not able to make the podium in two spots like she did last week at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show’s (KSHS) Welcome Speed 1.45m CSI3* due to a fence down in the first half of the course, combined with an unfortunate utilization of the outside track in the course’s final rollback.
Aaron Vale (USA) and Cristo Beech appeared later in the order, taking notes of the key faults and advantageous approaches from the combinations that appeared before them. The 12-year-old stallion hails from the Anglo-European Studbook and is highly regarded for his consistency and seamless adjustability. These attributes assisted the pair in securing the second place podium finish with a time of 61.170 seconds.
Luis Larrazabal (VEN) also put up a good fight with Condara, making brilliant stride modifications in each line to maintain equilibrium over the course’s toughest fences and taking over third place. However, Rupert Winkelmann (GER) and Duverie, his own 10-year-old Selle Français, used Driscoll’s strategy in the first line to shave down a stride and splice fence 3 to get to 4 in an efficient manner. This ultimately knocked Larrazabal out of the top-three rankings.
Driscoll’s impression remained true throughout the 32-entry start list, as she held onto her first place spot until the very end. The 30-year-old athlete took over the international competition at KSHS last Wednesday, May 10 by finishing first and second on Flotylla and Arome respectively. Go With the Flow, a 12-year-old Zangersheide mare owned by Plain Bay Farm, wanted her time to shine this week, so the two maintained power throughout and utilized tight, accurate turns to secure the top spot.
Following today’s impressive rounds is tomorrow’s $38,700 Spring Classic 1.45m CSI3*, which will see many of the same athletes as today on top of over 20 new entries. KSHS’s final FEI class will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 20 with some of the sport’s best riders fighting for the $145,100 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix CSI3* prize.