Saturday evening at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show saw the return of the $134,000 Kentucky Spring Grand Prix CSI3* in the Rolex Stadium. After 93 entries tried their hand in the grand prix qualifier Thursday night, 49 horse-and-rider combinations returned to the ring in top form, attempting to walk away with the lion’s share of the prize money. Following a competitive seven-horse jump-off, it was Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Jack Snyder’s Babalou 41 who came back with a vengeance to earn a repeat victory after earning a top spot in the grand prix during the 2018 Kentucky Spring Horse Show.
Darragh Kenny and Babalou 41. Photo by Phelps Sports
Anderson Lima’s (BRA) 16-effort course proved tricky for most athletes. Diego Vivero (ECU) and Haras Mystic Rose’s Zambia Mystic Rose were the first in the order of go, and produced the first clear of the night. The next clear round wouldn’t be seen until 24 trips later, when Scott Keach (AUS) and Fedor tackled the technical course in expert fashion. Lima’s course featured a number of tricky elements, including a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination directly to another oxer. While the time-allowed set at 79 seconds did not pose an issue for most, athletes fell victim to jumping faults in various locations throughout the course with 13 combinations incurring 12 faults or more.
“I think Anderson [Lima] did a brilliant job on the course,” commented Kenny. “It was fantastic that there weren’t quite as many clear rounds as the other night, so I thought he did a great job with that. I thought there were two difficult lines – the triple bar to the double [combination] and then the triple combination. I did eight strides to the double and most people did seven so I think that helped my horse to jump it better and then I was just lucky that she jumped the triple really well.”
The jump-off saw a total of seven horse-and-rider combinations, with the first double clean and clear ride set by Keach with a time of 49.67 seconds. Keach set the pace, but each rider to come would challenge his time by putting in a faster round. Crowd favorite Margie Engle (USA) and Gladewinds Partners LLC’s Royce followed with a faster time of 48.90 seconds, thanks to her longtime partner’s naturally long stride that carried her across the lengthy jump-off course.
Margie Engle and Royce. Photo by Phelps Sports
Engle’s pace would hold up for two more trips, until Kenny and Babalou 41, a 13-year-old Oldenburg mare, entered the ring ready to defend their title from last year’s $131,000 Hollow Creek Farm Grand Prix CSI3*. The mare’s naturally quick pace and ability to take slick turns set them up to end on a quick time of 47.84 seconds, nearly a full second faster than Engle’s time.
Directly following Kenny’s round, Ali Wolff (USA) and her steady partner Casall, a 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding, tried their hand at the course. With the crowd egging her on, Wolff appeared as if she might best Kenny’s swift time, however she fell just half a second short, ending on a time of 48.26 seconds to finish the night in second place. Wolff and Casall have been partnered together for seven years and look to try their hand at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair and Upperville Colt & Horse Show next on their schedule.
Third place was ultimately claimed by Engle and Royce, a 14-year-old Oldenburg stallion that has been partnered with the Olympic athlete for more than seven years. The pair are a crowd favorite at the Kentucky Horse Show, regularly placing in the top three. At the 2018 Kentucky Spring Classic, Engle and Royce placed second in the $131,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix, and have since continued to have top placings in grand prix classes across the country.
Kenny’s victory tops a successful week for the Irishman at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, having multiple wins aboard various rides in the Rolex Stadium. Kenny and Babalou 41 have been partnered together for just over a year and have had notable success across the globe. In the €1,000,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen, the pair placed fourth after having helped the team from Ireland capture second place in the €200,000 Mercedes-Benz FEI Nations Cup CSIO 5*. But their partnership hasn’t been without its hiccups either.
Darragh Kenny and Babalou 41. Photo by Phelps Sports
“After her win in last year’s grand prix, she was amazing through the summer but unfortunately she had colic surgery and we spent the whole winter working to get her back to her best again. She finally feels like she’s there. It’s nice to have her back to her old self again.”
The duo is back on track, and while they won’t be returning to Kentucky for the second week of the Spring Classic, they are heading to Canada for Spruce Meadows and then off to Germany for the Aachen Grand Prix.
$134,000 Kentucky Spring Grand Prix CSI3*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. Babalou 41 / Darragh Kenny / IRL / 0 | 76.67 / 0 | 47.84
2. Casall / Ali Wolff / USA / 0 | 73.70 / 0 | 48.26
3. Royce / Margie Engle / USA / 0 | 76.93 / 0 | 48.90
4. Fedor / Scott Keach / AUS / 0 | 76.01 / 0 | 49.67
5. Zambia Mystic Rose / Diego Vivero / ECU / 0 | 76.06 / 4 | 49.49
6. Cornwall BH / Amanda Derbyshire / GBR / 0 | 78.21 / 5 | 57.74
7. Escada VS / Jenni McAllister / USA / 0 | 77.23 / 8 | 49.72
8. Armani SL Z / Eugenio Garza / MEX / 4 | 72.01
9. Kirschwasser SCF / Shane Sweetnam / IRL / 4 | 72.44
10. California 62 / Andrew Ramsay / USA / 4 | 73.81
11. Casper / Sharn Wordley / NZL / 4 | 73.85
12. Rocksy Music / Richie Moloney / IRL / 4 | 74.75