Ocala, Fla.—Feb. 16
The future looks bright for Darragh Kenny after his new ride Alpha VDL topped their second grand prix together. “He’s a big, easy-going horse. I’ve shown him a few times now and nothing fazes him,” said Kenny. “He has a big stride and for a big horse he is amazingly light on his feet.”
That lightness translated into speed as Kenny and Alpha VDL sped around the jump-off of the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix on Feb. 16. They topped a large field of 51 riders by shaving more than a second off the second-placed time to lay claim to the gray gelding’s first grand prix.
Kenny, of Wellington, Fla., started riding the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Corland—Kersina) last fall; Alpha VDL’s previous riders include Nicole Shahinian Simpson and Matt Williams. Owner Eva Castegren bought him at the VDL auction in Wellington in March 2013. He was the highest-priced horse at the auction, with a final price of $490,000.
Alpha VDL spent most of 2013 in the 1.35- and 1.40-meter classes, jumping in his first grand prix with Williams in July. Williams showed him up to the 1.50-meter level on the West Coast, at the Thunderbird venue in British Columbia. Kenny got the ride in the fall.
Most grand prix competitors felt the track designed by course designer Martin Otto of Muenster, Germany to be challenging. The time allowed was set at 71 seconds, but later raised to 73. The course was consistent with knock-downs and time faults as Otto’s track tested the competitors. First to post a clear round was Lazaro and Jordan Coyne of New Port Richey, Fla., and only four others would follow them to the jump-off.
Returning first, Lazaro, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood, and Coyne finished with 4 faults and a time of 37.7 seconds, which was good for fourth. Quality Girl a 12-year-old warmblood mare with rider Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, Fla., in the irons finished second in the Zoetis Million at Saugerties (N.Y.) last year and pulled a rail at 10B for 4 faults and finished with a time of 38.28 seconds for fifth place.
Third to jump and making it look easy was the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Viriato ridden by Scott Keach of Reddick, Fla., with two double-clear rounds during the class for owner Southern Cross Equestrian. Keach established the time to beat at 44.90 seconds with Viriato. This would ultimately give them a third place finish. Next to jump off was Fernando Cardenas of New Hill, N.C., aboard his 10-year-old Oldenburg stallion Quincy Car. With no faults and a speedy time of 43.75 seconds, they finished second.
Kenny was definitely the underdog on a horse with little grand prix experience, but he and Alpha VDL prevailed in the thrilling five-horse jump-off, going clear with a time of 42.24 seconds for the win.
$50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis