Kocher, first in the ring, piloted Darius De W, owned by Eye Candy Jumpers, over the course with his typical go-for-broke style, and was the first of only six horse and rider combinations that managed to get around the track without penalty from a starting field of 42 entries.
The course, designed by Oscar Soberon, features 16 jumping efforts and a tight time allowed of 85 seconds. Soberon's course, with a winding track and three combinations, left no room for either the horses or the riders to catch their breath. Those riders that kept pressing forward had little trouble with the time allowed, but those that were a little tardy across the ground found themselves with time penalties.
Kocher and Darius De W returned first in the jump-off and put down a trip that would be impossible to beat. They completed the shortened course in 39.82 seconds to claim victory.
"This is my first time winning a big class at Split Rock," said Kocher with a laugh. "These courses were perfect for me and my horses. There was a lot of space between the jumps. I am not great with lots of jumps in small areas. It was a nice course, just right for a two-star 1.45 ranking class, but you had to keep moving, because time was a little short."
Alex Matz might have a very impressive legacy to live up to, but he is well on his way, as he guided Cashew CR to a second place finish. Matz and the 11-year-old bay gelding owned by Dorothy Matz, turned in double clear rounds with a jump-off time of 40.43 seconds.
Sarah Segal rode Robert Segal's Performance EP and captured third place. Segal and the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare posted a time of 40.83 seconds.
Baloutinue and Adam Prudent also turned in double clear rounds but were not as fleet of foot, and had to settle for fourth place with a time of 42.28 seconds.
Fifth place went to Karl Cook with the 9-year-old mare Fecybelle, who gave the crowd quite a show. As Fecybelle sped toward the final jump, she had a little bobble that sent Cook out of the saddle. He rode the neck through the timers and eventually climbed back into the tack. He had crossed through the timers in 39.82 seconds, exactly the same as Kocher's winning time, but with the final fence coming down for four faults.
Kocher qualified two horses for the jump-off and placed sixth with his second mount, Abelone Ot Lowlands Z. They had a faster time, 38.99 seconds, but dropped two rails for eight faults.
"I went too fast. I got greedy," Kocher admitted. "She is young, only eight, and I pushed her a little too much, but I am really proud of her."