Lexington, KY – May 22, 2021 – As the penultimate day of the Kentucky Spring Classic drew to a close, a total of 55 international athletes took to the Rolex Arena with their respective mounts to contend for the top prize in the highly-anticipated $137,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix CSI3*, sponsored by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Just six athletes navigated clear efforts to qualify for the jump-off and only two-tenths of second separated the top three. In the end, it was New Zealand’s Sharn Wordley and Verdini D’Houtveld Z who bested the field of talented competitors and rode home with first place honors, as well as valuable points towards the 2021 Hagyard Rider Challenge.
The United States’ Ken Krome offered an exciting first round 13-obstacle course with jumps reaching up to 1.60m in height, challenging athletes from start to finish through a triple bar, liverpool, and a triple-combination that stumbled a number of athletes to leave them out of contention for the jump-off. Molly Ashe Cawley (USA) and Adamo, owned by Louisburg Farm, put their best foot forward as the first pair in the arena and the first to successfully find their way around the track, leaving all of the rails intact. At the conclusion of the first round, just five additional athletes would add their name to the jump-off list, including Alex Matz (USA), Chandler Meadows (USA), Wordley (NZL), Nicholas Dello Joio (USA) and Allison Robitaille (USA).
Krome’s shortened 7-fence jump-off course brought new challenges forward, including introducing two new fences on course and offering multiple opportunities to slice and dice through the track. As the pathfinders, veteran Ashe Cawley and Adamo left nothing to chance as they narrowly left all of the rails in the cups and crossed the timers in 39.86 seconds. Immediately taking over Ashe Cawley was 25-year-old Matz and Cashew CR, owned by Dorothy Matz. The pair managed to shave just three-tenths of a second off of Ashe Cawley’s time to slide into the top spot on the leaderboard, notching 39.66 seconds on the clock.
Meadows and her own Christy JNR would attempt to unseat Matz, however, the duo knocked one rail on course to finish on four faults in 41.60 seconds. Immediately following, New Zealand native Wordley wowed the crowd riding Lauren Balcomb’s Verdini D’Houtveld Z with ease around the difficult track, leaving it all in the ring for their shot at the winner’s circle. The pair galloped through the finish line in 39.62 seconds, narrowly taking over first place by a margin of just four-hundredths of a second. Though Dello Joio aboard Opium du Soufflet and Robitaille aboard Ginger Pop would try their best to claim victory, it was ultimately awarded to Wordley and Verdini D’Houtveld Z for their impressive effort. Matz and Cashew CR finished out the class in second place, while Ashe Cawley and Adamo rounded out the top three.
The future is bright for Wordley and the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, as the pair has their sights set on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Recently shortlisted, Wordley has been preparing the green gelding for their shot at a podium finish later this year. Wordley only started moving up Verdini D’Houtveld Z to the 1.50m height over the last couple of months, but he spoke highly of the talented gelding’s progress and is looking forward to showing off his skills in Tokyo.
Wordley’s win also earned him valuable points towards the 2021 edition of Kentucky Horse Shows’ Hagyard Rider Challenge, placing himself in top contention for the lion’s share of the bonus prize money. Hagyard Equine Medical Institute has hosted the Challenge series since 2006 and the highly sought after bonus prize of $20,000 will be awarded to the professional rider accumulating the most points in the classes that make up the Hagyard Rider Challenge series. Just two events remain for athletes to nab points toward the grand prize, including the $50,000 Hagyard Grand Prix, taking place Saturday August 7th at the Kentucky Summer Classic, and the $50,000 The Betsy Grand Prix, presented by Hagyard, set to take place at the Kentucky National Horse Show. The presentation of the Leading Rider Award award will take place during the Kentucky National Horse Show in September. To read more about the events included in the Hagyard Rider Challenge, click here.
Prior to the start of the class, Ashe Cawley and her groom Ezequiel Barcena were awarded the Equis Best Presented Award for the turn-out quality of Louisburg Farm’s Adamo. After strict evaluation at the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Horse Inspection Wednesday, the ground jury, led by Ralph Alfano from Wellington, FL, selected Cawley, Barcena and the 16-year-old Belguim Warmblood gelding as the Equis Boutique Best Presented Horse Award.
Show jumping competition at the Kentucky Spring Classic will conclude Sunday with the Under 25 Grand Prix and the Bluegrass Grand Prix.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Sharn Wordley – $137,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix CSI3*, sponsored by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, winner
On the jump-off:
“[Verdini D’Houtveld Z] is only 10-years-old and just started at this level during the last couple of months. We are actually on the shortlist for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, so he is quite green for that. I did not want to go too fast because I am trying to instill confidence in him, but I still wanted to go fast enough to try and win it because it was a good money class to win. I always like winning in Kentucky because it is our home town for us. It was tough. I added one stride over the vertical so that I could leave one stride out on the rollback. I equaled it out by doing one more and one less. I was planning on doing one less stride coming home, but I didn’t quite get the shot I wanted from the second to last jump, so I had to swing in and I thought I maybe lost it there, but I just got in enough.”
On the first round:
“It was a really difficult course. To me, that did not jump like a CSI3* I had jumped in a long time. It was tough, a big course, very technical and you needed to be very careful. It is a really good horse I have in [Verdini D’Houtveld Z]. It is my wife, [Lauren Balcomb’s], horse, so it helps when you have a horse like that. You just have to follow the numbers.”
On Verdini D’Houtveld Z:
“He did a whole season of 1.50m classes last year so he has plenty of experience at the 1.50m level. He is really just a great horse and he has all the attributes and what you need for a top grand prix horse.”
On his upcoming plans:
“We have a week off and then we may go to Tryon, North Carolina or just go straight to Upperville, Virginia. Then we have a quiet month of jumping since [Verdini D’Houtveld Z] has had a busy couple of months. So we will do a few smaller classes at the World Equestrian Center down in Florida and then we will probably go to Europe for a grand prix, and then to Tokyo.”
On Kentucky Horse Shows:
“I love Kentucky. It is one of my very favorite horse shows. It is really one of my favorite rings to ride in, always.”
$137,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix CSI3*, sponsored by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time / R2 Faults | R2 Time
1. Verdini D’Houtveld Z / Sharn Wordley / NZ / Lauren Balcomb / 0 | 70.870 / 0 | 39.620
2. Cashew CR / Alex Matz / USA / Dorothy Matz / 0 | 72.100 / 4 | 39.660
3. Adamo / Molly Ashe Cawley / USA / Louisburg Farm / 0 | 72.760 | 0 / 39.860
4. Christy JNR / Chandler Meadows / USA / Chandler Meadows / 0 | 71.190 / 4 | 41.600
5. Opium Du Soufflet / Nicholas Dello Joio / USA / Rocking D Ranch / 0 | 72.590 / 8 | 38.600
6. Ginger Pop / Alison Robitaille / USA / Bertram Firestone / 0 | 72.280 / Withdr
7. Truman / Amy Millar / CAN / Millar Brooke and Overland / 4 | 74.040
8. Caillou 24 / Karl Cook / USA / Signe Ostby / 1 | 74. 600
9. Dez Ooktoff / Roberto Teran / COL / Roberto Teran / 2 | 75.180
10. Millionmind / Emily Ward / USA / Steven Barnes / 3 | 76.370
11. Orafina / Kent Farrington / USA / Kent Farrington LLC / 4 | 67.670
12. Bellissimo Z / Ashley Vogel / USA / Ashley Vogel / 4 | 70.250