Saturday of the Kentucky Spring Classic closed with the week’s highlight event, the $131,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix CSI3*, honoring the late Mary Rena Murphy. Forty-one horse-and-rider combinations were tested over Guilherme Jorge’s (BRA) 16-effort course which saw 11 athletes finish clear to move into the jump-off round, but once again Ireland’s Darragh Kenny was unstoppable to claim the Saturday night victory under the lights on the second week of the Kentucky Spring Horse Show series, this time with brand new mount, Balou du Reventon.
Kenny and Ann Thompson’s Balou du Reventon just started showing together two weeks ago, but they are on an impressive streak after finishing second in Thursday’s $35,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic CSI3* and jumping to a number of clear rounds during their new partnership in Kentucky. Saturday night amplified their success as they flew to a clear round in 41.54 seconds to capture the featured grand prix victory. The 12-year-old Oldenburg stallion is already showing promise as an option for Kenny in this year’s World Equestrian Games.
“I’ve known the horse for a long time,” Kenny said of Balou Du Reventon. “I always thought he was an amazing, incredible horse. I never thought I’d be lucky enough to get the chance to ride him and I was very lucky that my owner, Ann Thompson, decided to buy the horse for me and it’s one of the most incredible horses I’ve ever sat on in my life. He doesn’t want to knock jumps down. I think he jumped eight rounds over the last two weeks and he didn’t knock a jump down once.”
Overall, Kenny was thoroughly impressed by the Guilherme Jorge’s course design and the way his plan played out in the ring. “The course was really nice. Guilherme did a super job – he always does a brilliant job. It made for a very good jump-off having 11 clear [rounds]. I was very happy with the way my horse jumped. I just kind of did my plan and it worked out very well. In the jump-off, Margie went quick and I just took a chance with him and I ran and it worked out today.”
Early pathfinder, Margie Engle (USA) was the first to produce a clear round with long-time partner Royce, and first to return for the jump-off round. She and Gladewinds Partners, LLC’s 14-year-old Oldenburg stallion put on the pressure with a clear round in a time of 42.08 seconds, but their time was just overtaken by Kenny and the pair finished in second place.
“I was first in the jump-off today, so I wanted to go medium-fast to put a little pressure on the ten people to follow me,” Engle shared. “With ten people behind me I knew it would get quite fast. Just showing [Royce] here I know that the footing is always fantastic here and it takes little out of the horses to jump. Royce hasn’t shown for about seven weeks so I’m just trying to do a class. He felt great today. I didn’t go crazy fast tonight. I didn’t want to take any chances because right now I’m just trying to keep him in bubble wrap until the summer because he still has observation events [for the World Equestrian Games].”
Rowan Willis (AUS) and his own Blue Movie, an 11-year-old Anglo European Warmblood mare, followed with a clear jump-off round in a time of 42.55 seconds, speeding to a third place finish. The pair recently traveled to the United States in February to capture a notable victory in the $265,000 Longines Grand Prix CSI5* at HITS Ocala.