Wayne, IL – July 27, 2013 – The applause and excitement could be heard resounding throughout the Lamplight Equestrian Center this afternoon as the $10,000 1.40m Open Stake got underway in the Grand Prix Ring. It was the fourth day of Equifest I, and the nation’s top riders gathered to show under the blue skies for their share in the prize money, and the coveted $500 SSG Digital Riding Glove promotion bonus. Only three horse and rider combinations were able to ride the first course clear and progress into the arduous jump-off. It was Grand Prix rookie Stephanie Novas who wowed the crowd today, taking the top earnings and the bonus money with Amyra R. Brittini Raflowitz piloted Elios to the second place finish as the only other rider to go double clear, also picking up the third place with her second mount, Zacca Zoeloe.
Manuel Esparaza designed today’s track, creating a technical course including bending lines, tight turns, hard rollbacks, a vertical-oxer double combination and a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination. The jump-off course began over a vertical heading away from the in gate, and then required a hard left rollback over an oxer. They then took the oxer from the outside line and continued forward through a right turn over a vertical leading into the double combination. Speed was key as they approached the final line, taking the oxer and racing toward the vertical to break the beam on the other side.
Raflowitz, was the first to outwit Esparaza’s first round course, and she was the first to tackle the shortened track with Zacca Zoeloe, owned by Maarten Huygens of Wellington, FL. It seemed as though her plan would go perfectly to plan until she came off of the inside turn to 3 and found a tight distance to the oxer of the double-combination. They pulled out before the oxer, costing them their clean round and time, but they proved good enough for the third place finish.
“That is the biggest class he has done yet, we’ve really worked on raising him up slowly,” Raflowitz explained. “I couldn’t of asked him to perform any better. He jumps better and better every time. Third place isn’t bad, especially for his first 1.40m class. I was really happy.”
Novas and her own Amyra R entered the ring behind Raflowitz, using a quick plan to their benefit. In a blaze, she erupted from the in gate and took the course with ease. Opting not to take any quick turns and rather focus on foot speed, Novas piloted Amyra R to a double-clean effort in 33.883 seconds. This was only the second time Novas has competed at this height and her first Grand Prix win.
“I actually really liked the design. I had done the Lows and Highs earlier, so I had ridden the lines. The jumps were definitely bigger which made me nervous, but I reminded myself not to have high expectations,” Novas said. “There were only three of us in the jump-off. I wanted to set a pace that Brittini would have to work to catch. Amyra R was really good out there, especially considering that I rode off my eye. I didn’t walk the course because we were so busy earlier, but she is very adjustable so it was easier for me to ride the lines. She has a very even step, and I can change my mind last minute if need be.”
Novas continued, “We have been working on getting her to back off of the jumps. She is very hot and she really does like to go. She is very brave. We have to slow her mind down, and keep her relaxed.”
The jump-off continued as the spectators wondered if Raflowitz would be able to catch Novas’ time and duplicate the same accuracy. As she entered the ring, the spectators were on the edge of their seats, knowing that Elios, owned by Huygens, was the Welcome Stake winner with Raflowitz in the irons on Thursday. Elios shaved off seconds with his large stride, and Raflowitz opted for the inside turn from an oxer to the vertical leading into the troublesome double combination. It seemed as though she would catch Novas, but as she tripped the timers, the scoreboard showed her a full second behind. Their clean effort in a time of 34.970 seconds was enough to claim the second place.
“He’s amazing right now,” Raflowitz said of Elios. “He’s jumping the most amazing I’ve ever felt. I mean, second? I don’t care that we didn’t win, he’s fantastic and that’s all that matters. He tried, and it was wonderful.”
She continued, “Going in first, I didn’t get to watch anyone else so I didn’t know how to run it. I thought the inside turn was easy enough to do, just to make sure we were all quick. We didn’t know what his time would be, so better safe than sorry. I am so happy that we went double clean. Consistency is his key quality right now and I couldn’t be happier. He’s just going and going and going and keeps getting better and better.”
David Dorner rode Barack, owned by Sarah Kemper, to the fourth place finish as the fastest of the four-faulters. Natalie Hansen and Raise The Bar finished fifth, while Raflowitz rounded out the top six with K.T. Undercover, owned by Michael Kirby.
Tonight’s winners, Novas and Amyra R, have not always been as smooth as they were today, starting with a taxing beginning. “We had a troublesome time at the beginning. Lance, my trainer, really liked her, and I really liked her, too, but when we got her she was definitely a little inexperienced. She hadn’t jumped larger than a 1.20m. We didn’t jump above a 1.15m for a long time, and it took us a while to make it around a course. She obviously turned out great. I am so proud of how well she did out there today,” Novas explained.
In addition to competing for the winning title and a share in the prize money, riders had the opportunity to win $500 in bonus money as a part of the SSG Riding Gloves promotion-riders wearing the SSG ‘Digital’ Riding Gloves with the SSG horse head logo clearly visible during all rounds of competition in the designated event are eligible for the bonus. Although Novas normally rides sans gloves, she decided to pick up a pair before the class, and according to her, “It was the best investment I have made, who knows, maybe they’ll be my lucky riding gloves!” Novas was thrilled to win the check, and raved about the difference the gloves have made in her riding, especially concerning the grip. She admitted that she will wear them again in tomorrow’s Jumper Classics.
“I really like it here,” Novas concluded. “I have been doing pretty well, so that definitely helps. The grounds are beautiful, the footing is really good, and they have a lot of classes, which Amyra R needs because she never runs out of energy.”
Equifest I will conclude tomorrow with exciting jumper action as the Lamplight Equestrian Center hosts the$1,500 Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic and the $7,500 Cavalor Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. The Children and Adult divisions will also have their time to shine in the ring during their Jumper Classics earlier in the day. Equifest II will return July 31 – Aug. 4, offering more jumper action as well as the long-awaited $35,000 Grand Prix de Lamplight.
To find out more about Lamplight Equestrian Center, go to: http://lamplightequestriancenter.com/.