The final day of the Kentucky Spring Classic concluded jumper competition in the Rolex Stadium with the $35,000 Bluegrass Grand Prix, sponsored by Audi of Lexington, to close out the spring horse show series. Course designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA) tested 31 athletes across his 16-efforts track, but Ireland’s Kevin Babington (IRL) was the only double-clear pathfinder with Mark Q to claim his second consecutive National Grand Prix victory of the series.
The technical track only saw four clear rounds consisting of just three different riders as Babington directed two mounts to the jump-off. Babington first entered the second round aboard his own Double O Seven 7, but with one rail the pair ended on four faults in a time of 43.260 seconds, to be overtaken and they finished in fourth place.
Next in the ring, Alex Granato (USA) and Moyer Farm LLC’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Beorn, followed to better their time in 41.221 seconds, but with one rail down they still left room for improvement. The duo once again claimed the third place prize, repeating their finish in last week’s $35,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix.
Todd Minikus (USA) returned next aboard Amex Z, the 9-year-old Zangersheide mare owned by the Bit By Bit Group, to fly to the speediest time of 39.168 seconds, but also misplaced one unfortunate rail and the 4 fault total placed the pair into the second position.
The last to enter the jump-off round, Babington knew all he needed was a clear, conservative round aboard Mark Q and the duo delivered as the only horse-and-rider combination to produce the long-awaited double-clear effort in a time of 47.272 seconds. He and the 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding claimed the win to repeat Babington’s victory in last week’s $35,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix with Super Chilled.
Originally, Babington wasn’t planning on showing Mark Q in the class. “I wasn’t planning on showing [Mark Q] this week, but my groom pointed out that he would be too fresh for Devon, so I should do him in the class. He’ll have next week off and then he’ll go to Devon. He didn’t do a lot when we were in Wellington, so he needs to get back up and running. He hadn’t jumped a jump since last week. He ended up being great today.”
Babington continued, “he’s 16 years old now so I use him sparingly. But he’s a good old soul. He is heading to Devon next, which he has won twice, so we’re going to try one more time.”
Earlier in the day, the $20,000 Under 25 Grand Prix saw 18 horse-and-rider combinations tackle the 16 effort track created by Guilherme Jorge (BRA). Six athletes jumped clear rounds to qualify for a competitive jump-off that saw each athlete pushing the time limit. Abigail McArdle and Plain Bay Sales LLC’s Fanta Light B were the fastest pair in the jump-off to stop the timers at 35.025 seconds.
“I thought the course was excellent today. Guilherme [Jorge] makes fantastic courses all the time,” shared the young professional. “With the jump-off, I went second to last, so I sort of knew what I had to do. There was one inside turn I was waiting to see if anyone did. Lacey [Gilbertson] I knew was the fastest in the class, so I asked her what she did on the way out. She went around and did eight strides. I had walked that eight. I am on an 8-year-old that’s very inexperienced so for the eight I was going to have to nail everything just right and I did.”
McArdle plans to continue to bring eight-year-old the young mare up the Grand Prix level ranks.
“This is a sale horse of Adam [Prudent] and mine’s. This Florida season I moved her up to the 1.40m and 1.45m [classes] and she had a couple of big wins including at Palm Beach Masters and in the CSI2* in Wellington. With young horses you have to move them up and down and this whole two weeks I’ve definitely been building up to win one of these. Being 8, I think she’s got super potential. She’s a little horse with a huge personality. She doesn’t know what she can’t do yet. I’m going to keep moving her up and making her a grand prix horse until she is sold. I hope to get her into some of the grand prix classes this summer.”
Lacey Gilbertson and her superstar mare, Baloppi, come in close for second at 35.037 seconds. Gabriela Reutter and Juan Reutter’s Atticus Diamant jumped to third with a time of 34.707 seconds.