|Lauren Hester Rises to the Occasion, Winning $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at Kentucky Summer Horse Show|
|Written by Lauren Baker|
|Friday, 29 July 2016 11:44|
With only nine career grand prix wins under her belt, the pressure was on as Lauren Hester took the stage with Warinde B in the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. The only American rider to advance to the jump-off, hometown favorite Hester gave it her all to earn the win, besting veteran five-star riders Pablo Barrios and Shane Sweetnam.
“I’m on cloud nine, and I’m really happy,” Hester said of her win. “It was so exciting to be the only American and Lexington rider in the jump-off because I really had the crowd behind me.”
Out of a field of 46 entries, Sweetnam and the Blue Buckle Group LLC’s Cobolt were the first to go clear in 79.718 seconds over the Alan Wade-designed track. The course featured a tricky oxer-to-skinny combination that dashed many competitor’s hopes at a clear round.
After several more riders attempted Wade’s course, with many falling victim to the time allowed of 82 seconds, Venezuelan Olympian Barrios and his own A S D Farfala delivered the second clear round of the night with a time of 80.751 seconds, adding their names to the short list.
“The course was pretty tough, and I knew when I walked it that it was a good course,” Barrios said. “It was very delicate and the time allowed was perfect. It really made you ride quicker, which makes you susceptible to mistakes.”
Among the last to go, Hester piloted Hester Equestrian LLC’s Warinde B to the night’s third and final clear round in 78.785 seconds, much to the crowd’s delight.
“I thought I had the third to last rail down, and I thought ‘darn it,’” Hester said. “But then the crowd cheered. When I made it to the jump-off I laughed and thought, 'This is not fair competing against these top five-star riders. I felt like an underdog with my tiny mare, who is 15.3 hands.”
The three riders returned for the jump-off, with Sweetnam and Cobolt attempting the short course first. Despite laying down a fast round in 44.142 seconds, Sweetnam pulled a rail in the combination coming to the final fence to take home third place.
Barrios and A S D Farfala returned next, and delivered a careful effort to finish clear in 47.234 seconds to finish in second.
“There were only three of us, and I didn’t want to go too fast,” Barrios said. “After seeing Shane have one down, I knew that if I had a clear round at least I’d be second. Farfala is a super mare, but Lauren really deserved the win tonight and showed really great, quick riding.”
The final pair to return, Hester and Warinde B came ready to win, equipped with a plan that would shave seconds off the previous times. Hester cut strides out of every line, expertly navigating the turns as tightly as possible to blaze through the timers in 43.043 seconds – a full four seconds faster than the second-place time.
“She’s a really fast horse,” Hester said. “She's sensitive and spooky and can be all over the place, but she is so nice and I love her.”
Hester said she purchased Warinde B 5 years ago, when the mare was only 8 years old. Hester said the two have built a strong partnership over the years, with tonight marking the duo’s fifth grand prix win together and Hester’s tenth career grand prix win.
“She is my favorite,” Hester concluded. “It took me a long time to get to know her, but now we are finally on it! Last year she got hurt and had a little bone bruise, so she came back in May of this year. She was going well, but now she is really great. I am just on cloud nine.”
The grand prix’s title sponsor, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, is one of the oldest and largest equine veterinary practices in the world. Founded in 1876, the institute offers a staff with qualifications unparalleled by any single non-university veterinary group in the equine industry, and Hagyard veterinarians have dedicated themselves to the health and well being of the horse.
The facility at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute offers 13 digital radiology systems, 1.5 Tesla Siemens MRI, nuclear scintigraphy, an on-site laboratory, an on-site pharmacy, full medical and surgical services, 24-hour emergency services and hyperbaric medicine. The practice has performed veterinary medicine for more than 137 years and is currently composed of over 50 experienced veterinarians, with 13 board certifications in specialty areas of medicine, surgery and theriogenology. For more information on the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, please visit www.hagyard.com.
Upcoming highlights during the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows include the $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby, the $10,000 Under 25 Grand Prix, the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic, and $50,000 Rood & Riddle Kentucky Grand Prix.
For more information about the Kentucky Horse Shows please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
RSUE 2106 WARINDE B LAUREN HESTER USA 0 78.785 0 43.043
2 1391 A S D FARFALA PABLO BARRIOS VEN 0 80.751 0 47.234
3 176 COBOLT SHANE SWEETNAM IRL 0 79.718 4 44.142
4 1081 KINGDOM CHRISTINA KELLY IRL 0+1 82.745