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.
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.
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.
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*.
The first week of the Kentucky Spring Horse Show series concludes in the Rolex Stadium on Sunday with the $15,000 Under 25 Grand Prix, and the $35,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix will directly follow. In the Stonelea Ring, hunter competition at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show will conclude with the USHJA International and National Hunter Derbies.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Darragh Kenny – $134,000 Kentucky Spring Grand Prix CSI3* winner
On the first round:
“I think Anderson [Lima] did a brilliant job on the course. 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.”
On the jump-off:
“Babalou  is just so naturally fast. She was great and she jumped fantastic in the jump-off. She is just so naturally fast and she knows how to run and jump. She’s had great success in this ring for a long time so I’ve been very happy that she was so good today too.”
On Babalou 41:
“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. Next she will jump two weeks in Spruce Meadows in both grand prix classes and then I will aim her for the grand prix in Aachen [Germany] again.”
On Kentucky Horse Shows:
“I’ve been lucky and I’ve had great success here the last two years. Unfortunately I’m not here next week but I really like this show. They do a super job. I really like being in Kentucky and it’s a real horse area which I like a lot. The footing is great and the course designing is super. They do an excellent job with everything so I really like to come here with my team [at Oakland Stables] each year.”
Ali Wolff – Second place
“We’ve been together for about seven years. I bought him to be my first sales horse and to go into business and that obviously did not turn out. He has such a big heart and that’s what propels him through all of these courses. I can put him into any situation and he will cover for me without any problems. I cannot say enough good things about him. I think he’s really come into his own these past two or three years. I trust him with anything and I can go in there day or night and he is just perfect. He’s quite reserved if you don’t know him but he’s just a goofball. He really loves bananas and donuts, but his favorite thing right now is gummy bears – he’ll just stick his head out and twist his head with his tongue out. He has a such a huge personality, especially at home.”
On her upcoming plans with Casall:
“I don’t think we’ll jump him next week because he was just so good tonight. We’ll show him next at Devon in two weeks and then we will go back-to-back with Upperville [Colt & Horse Show], which was our good spot last year so we’ll try our hand at that again. We’ll play it by ear for the summer and maybe go to Michigan. We like to let him do some nice fun classes and then step him up to the bigger classes, which is where he really likes to shine.”
On the jump-off:
“I knew Darragh [Kenny] was fast. We have a running joke that I always get beat by the Irish so it was typical. I know that if I try to ride faster than anyone else I’m probably going to make a mistake. The course was a little tricky tonight and the jump-off was very long and delicate. Nothing really came up nicely for me tonight. I had to balance a lot and take a second, so I never really felt like I could get in my pace and just cruise. I had to balance to the last fence regardless and Darragh just got me there. It is always super close and Darragh is just a great competitor so I’m happy to finish in second.”
On Kentucky Horse Shows:
“I love Kentucky because it’s three hours from my house. All of the big money, CSI3* classes are coming to the midwest which is really nice. You see double the amount of competitors this year and everyone from Old Salem is coming here so it’s really nice to have this rejuvenated competition here in Kentucky. It’s a great venue and the horses are so happy to be out of Florida and on the huge grass. The horses just feel their best here with the big ring and beautiful footing, even with the rain. Here in Kentucky is like a second home.”
Anderson Lima – $134,000 Kentucky Spring Grand Prix CSI3* course designer
On the first round course:
“I was expecting one more clear for tonight – my call was eight. I am so glad with the results tonight. The footing here is fantastic and the jumps are great to work with. When you have the first one clear, it can be a bit scary. Diego [Vivero] just rode so well tonight and made it look easy. Other riders after him I think got a little bit careful and a little unlucky too but I am really happy with the outcome of tonight. There were a lot of questions on the course, almost everywhere. I was a little surprised that so many people had fence 9a, the vertical into the triple combination, down. I was expecting that to not cause as many faults as it did. Faults came everywhere really, though.”
On the jump-off course:
“When you have a long final line like that in the jump-off, if riders are clear, they just go for it. It was a super nice jump-off. Ali [Wolff] rode so well tonight, she almost had it. Darragh [Kenny] definitely made up his time from [fence] 5 to [fence] 9c in the jump-off. He was so fast in his turn there, so I think that’s where he made up time. He is such a smooth rider you don’t feel that he goes that fast but he is so sharp and confident in what he is doing. He is such a fantastic rider.”
$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