It was Ladies First in Thursday’s $40,000 SOVARO® FEI Speed Stake presented by Lisa & Mario Deslauriers and Lynn Tarnopol, as two-time US Olympic medalist Leslie Burr-Howard and mare Donna Speciale blazed to the top of the class at the 43rdHampton Classic.
The pair won this class in 2016, the last time Donna Speciale competed at the Classic.
With a final time of just 59.71 seconds over the winding 14-effort course designed by Canada’s Michel Vaillancourt, they were the only pair to post a sub-minute time of the 46 who started.
Mexico’s Santiago Lambre was second with Dingeman in 61.79 seconds, and Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam third with Cyklon in 62.48 seconds.
Burr-Howard likens her fleet-footed mount to a ‘cutting horse’ in terms of instinct and reflexes, two very positive attributes in a top speed horse.
“She instinctively has a sense of where the next jump is,” described Burr-Howard. “If you just lean a hair to the right she knows the next jump is to the right, and vice versa. She’s very intuitive that way. She’s very attuned to the weight of the rider shifting. And she’s game.”
Burr-Howard continued: “She trusts herself incredibly. She really has tremendous self-confidence, even around the barn. She’s the alpha female for sure – It’s her way or the highway. But in the ring she just does it faster and quicker than the others. Can’t fault her for that!”