The $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic proved to be a challenge for the 41 horse and rider combinations that were entered on first Thursday of the Kentucky Summer Horse Show Series. Only three riders, all men, were able to make it over the long course, designed by Kentucky’s favorite course designer: Bobby Murphy. In the end, Chris Ewanouski and Castle Point Farm’s Binja raced across the timers to take home the top honors with a time of 38.906 seconds. Alex Granato and Carlchen W came in second with a time of 39.456 seconds, while Australia’s Scott Creech and Chicco W rounded out the top three spots with a time of 41.741 seconds.
Ewanouski is no stranger to the Rolex Arena. A summer resident of Lexington, he routinely shows and teaches clients at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show Series and has had several important victories here, as well. Listed as seventh in the original order of go, Ewanouski closely followed Alex Granato on Carlchen W as early clears in the class until Creech and Chicco W posted the final clear round almost an hour later.
“Binja has a huge stride and is really scopey, so a lot of those lines that might have been comfortable for some people or maybe even a little forward actually ended up really steady for her. I had to be mindful of that everywhere when I watch other people,” Eqanouski reflected of his first round.
Heading into the jump-off, Ewanouski knew that he would need to take advantage of the 12-year-old KWPN mare’s large stride in order to catch Granato, who is notoriously quick and leaves no room for error on the part of his fellow riders.
“Her stride really worked in my favor. All of the lines in the jump-off were a little forward so there wasn’t anywhere that I had to really slow down except maybe into the double combination. She’s lightning fast at turning, especially to the right, and I caught a really good one at the oxer at fence three and I took a little bit of a chance at the second to last vertical off of that right slice. I think those were maybe the two places where she was a little faster.”
Binja, who had several top ten finishes recently at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, made two important tight right turns at the beginning and end of the jump-off to inch out Carlchen W. The large bay mare, who also competes in the High Junior/Amateur divisions with her owner, Lindsey Strafuss, won the class with half of a second to spare.
“She’s been awesome,” Eqanouski said of Binja. “She’s super scopey and really brave. She’s very honest, very straightforward and has a huge stride. She has all of the things that you want in a horse.”
The athletes in tonight’s class were especially competitive as the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic was the third class in the Hagyard Challenge Series, which promises the top riders a sizeable bonus at the end of the summer. The series consists of seven grand prix classes and, following the final event, a cash prize of $50,000 will be awarded to the rider who accumulates the most points throughout the series. With series leading riders spread out across the country, the race for the bonus is still incredibly intense.
Riders were further competing for the title of Leading Open Jumper Rider of the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. Presented by Envisian Products to the Open Jumper competitor that accumulates the most points over the week-long schedule, the Leading Rider Award is another reason that many riders choose to compete multiple horses in the bigger classes.