Lexington, Ky.—May 17
Margie Engle’s in contention for a spot on the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, so taking the top check in the $75,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix, sponsored by Audi of Lexington, at the Kentucky Spring Classic while U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland was watching was key.
Engle and Royce had to best a 22-horse jump-off, showcasing speed that Engle has been nurturing for years with Royce. "I went faster than I normally do with Royce," admitted Engle. "Slow and clean wasn't going to be a big piece of it, and I've spent a lot of time just going slow with him. It was good practice for him to take a shot and practice going quicker. He's starting to ride so much better. He sliced so quickly to the second jump, and then back on the double. That's where it's nice to have scope, he just exploded over it.
"With that many in it, and with me going early in the pack, I knew there were fast ones behind me, but I feel like we're really starting to form a partnership now. He’s not naturally a fast horse. He's a slower, scopier type, but he covers a ton of ground,” she continued. “I knew that I could turn hard to the double because he has so much scope that he can jump through there easily. He sliced the vertical in the middle really nicely too. He hasn't done many jump-offs like that, so I am really happy with him."
It has been a great two weeks for Engle in Kentucky, who just won last week's $75,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix with Indigo. This was the second year in a row she’s won the $75,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix with Royce. "Last year was kind of a turning point with him. [In this class last year,] I didn’t go as fast as tonight, but it was the first time I really started to push him. I don’t think I've ever ridden a horse with his scope and ability. The rideability is getting better and better, and I am really happy with the partnership."
The next stop for Engle and Royce will be the Devon Horse Show (Pa.), followed by the Lake Placid Horse Shows in New York, and then they will head to Hickstead (England) and Aachen (Germany) to compete on the Nations Cup teams as part of the observation events for the short-listed riders.
"Last summer I did some [Longines Global Champions Tour shows with Royce], and even showing two rounds was not really taxing on him," said Engle. "That was the first time I had to show him a couple days in a row, and I think he's got the ability to do that and not just do one class a week. At the World Equestrian Games it's a lot of rounds. His natural scope and carefulness is amazing."
Engle concluded, "I am lucky to have nice owners. They have been really supportive, and they stood by me when I was injured. I feel really lucky to have people like that supporting me. Royce had a lot of raw ability when we got him, and they were fine with me taking our time and not going fast. Now it's paying off."
Shane Sweetnam with Eregast van't Kiezelhof and Pablo Barrios aboard Ambosell had set the early pace in the jump-off, but had to settle for second and third, respectively.
"Eregast van't Kiezelhof can really cover the ground, but he's not used to doing jump-offs so he has to learn that a little bit," noted Sweetnam. "I thought he did a good job. Maybe when he's done a few more jump-offs, he can be even a little quicker than that. I was happy with him though."
RESULTS: $75,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix
1. ROYCE MARGIE ENGLE 0-0/39.326
2. EREGAST VAN'T KISHANE SWEETNAM 0-0/40.171
3. AMBOSELL PABLO BARRIOS 0-0/41.937
4. VDL WIZARD CALLAN SOLEM 0-0/41.939
5. BOO VAN HET KASTANDREW WELLES 0-0/42.457
6. CARRABIS Z RICHIE MOLONEY 0-0/45.077
7. CHILL R Z CHARLIE JAYNE 0-0/ 45.379
8. CAMBITO PAIGE JOHNSON 0-0/ 46.109
9. VALESKA CHARLIE JAYNE 0-0/ 48.343
10. QUALITY GIRL TODD MINIKUS 0-4/38.919
11. AMMERETTO DAVID BEISEL 0-4/39.593
12. SOLERINA SHANE SWEETNAM 0-4/39.831