“Before she came along, I was kind of half thinking about just being a trainer and starting a feed business," Kevin Babington said of Shorapur. "But, she came along and really put the skip back in my step and I think she is really, really special."
After their win in the $75,000 Agero Grand Prix at the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament, Babington even went so far as to compare her to his former Olympic and World Equestrian Games mount, Carling King. "I've always said that she is the next [Carling King],” Babington noted.
Carling King was on everyone’s minds at the Halifax, Mass., show on Aug. 17. During the pre-grand prix ceremonies, Babington’s great mount, who recently passed away, was honored with a wonderful video production on the big video screen ringside. Put together by Jeff Papows and his staff, the video left the crowd without a dry eye in the house as the career of the legendary Carling King played out for all to see. Once the video was complete, it was announced that going forward, the Leading Rider trophy at Silver Oak will always be known as the Carling King Leading Jumper award.
But the day for Babington was only getting started.
By the time the competition was done, Babington and Shorapur had raced to an electrifying win in what can only be described as a tremendous jump-off in the main event, the $75,000 Agero Grand Prix.
Then, at the very end of the prize giving ceremony, it was announced that Kevin Babington had won the Carling King Trophy as Silver Oak's Leading Jumper Rider for 2014.
"This last three weeks have been amazing," said Babington. "We won three grand prixs including this one. It's just been incredible and the Carling King trophy means so much to me. It brought tears to my eyes. I always knew how great of a horse he was, but just to see a flashback of what he actually was and what he had done, was incredible."
Silver Oak’s grand prix day was clouded somewhat when the news came down from the warm-up ring that Margie Engle, competing at Silver Oak for the first time, had suffered a broken collarbone in a fall.
Jumping the final jump before heading to the ring, Engle's mount tripped on landing. The horse went one way and Engle the other with the resulting injury. This is a particularly tough blow for Engle, who had just been named to the Hermes U.S. Show Jumping Team for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games with her mount, Royce.
The 11-horse jump-off looked like it might be over right from the start as defending champion Paul O'Shea returned first with Calista and laid down a heck of an opening run. Really flying on the long runs, O'Shea did the 10 strides coming home and finished in a speedy 40.838 seconds.
A few riders chased him, but had rails.
O'Shea then appeared to put a lock on a Silver Oak title for the second year in a row when he went clean again, this time with his top mount, Primo de Revel. Again doing the 10 strides coming home, O'Shea beat his own time by 5/10ths of a second and moved to the top of the charts in 40.32 seconds. As it turned out, he would be 1.7 seconds too slow and would finish in third place by the time the class was over.
Everyone was excited to see Jeffery Welles return next with Prem Dollar Boy. Welles had just finished near the top of the charts in the first class of the day in a real horse race with Kevin McCarthy and can ride a jump-off course as well as any rider in the business. Today though, his mount didn't have the same plan in mind as Jeffery did and stopped suddenly after the rollback to fence 15. Welles parted company and finished in 10th place.
Babington, as the next to go with Shorapur, put the class out of reach. Making all the handy rollbacks and gambling on the 10 strides coming home, Babington broke the beams in a winning time of 38.62 seconds, almost two seconds faster than O'Shea.
"I had a chance to see Paul go," said Babington, "and I planned on doing six down the first line and I thought to myself, to win this, I need to go five down the that line, so I changed my plan as I was cantering up to the first jump, and then I made the good run for the last fence."
Lucy Deslauriers, competing in just her second big-time grand prix (and her second against her father), had a fabulous second ride aboard Hester. A bit of greenness might have cost her a bit of time on a couple of the rollbacks, but she flew home in an impressive 40.60 seconds which would wind up in fourth place.
Father, Mario Deslauriers couldn't have been prouder. "Today was just her second time in a grand prix and she was very impressive," he smiled. The first round, she did the entire plan and in the jump-off, I thought she was beautiful. A little inexperience had her make a turn a little wider and that cost her one or two seconds, but I'm really happy for her," he said.
Mario had the next chance on his big, imposing chestnut, Scout de la Cense. And he made a real run for the title. Coming home just a little bit short of Babington's time in 39.86 seconds, the duo would take home second place honors.
“The last fence, I kind of chickened out a little bit. It's a horse I've been bringing along all summer and doing the grand prixs with. It's the first time he would have gone double clear so I wanted to set him up a little bit and add in a stride. It was very close on the time. I don't know how close, but it was close enough," he said. "I wanted to go a little bit straighter than the other guys because he is a little inexperienced. He is only 8 years old."
That left it all up to Paul O'Shea and his final mount, but a run for the money on this one was never in the plans. Riding River Dance Semilly, O'Shea cruised home in a comparatively leisurely pace of 42.81 seconds—fast enough for sixth, but not nearly fast enough to win.
"He is still quite green,” O’Shea said. “He's only a 9-year-old. He has done a lot of good things and I was just getting him ready for the Hampton Classic. It could have helped to have Primo going last, but it was Kevin's day. He was obviously a lot faster than me, but my four horses jumped great today."