Saturday, Jun. 8, 2024

Anthem And Laura Kraut Conquer The $100,000 Budweiser AGA National Championship

All eyes were on McLain Ward and Quickstar II Z as they cantered into the ring as the last to jump off in the $100,000 Budweiser AGA National Championship, Dec. 5. All eyes, that is, except those of Laura Kraut. "I did not watch him go. I was behind the in-gate saying a prayer!" said Kraut.

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All eyes were on McLain Ward and Quickstar II Z as they cantered into the ring as the last to jump off in the $100,000 Budweiser AGA National Championship, Dec. 5. All eyes, that is, except those of Laura Kraut. “I did not watch him go. I was behind the in-gate saying a prayer!” said Kraut.

Kraut and Anthem were leading the class, with a clean second round in 58.82 seconds. Ward set off in a determined bid to grab the win. He and Quickstar showed the rapid pace that helped them win the $100,000 Lexus NHS Championship CSI-W two nights before and looked to be on the way to the blue. But their speed caught up with them, as Quickstar grabbed rails at the last two fences on her way to a 55.47-second time.

“I know Quickstar is quick, because I used to ride her,” said Kraut. Ward’s sponsor, Hunter Harrison, bought Quickstar from Kraut last year. “I was neat and efficient, but I knew I would have to be a little lucky to win. I left the door open a bit.” Ward’s 8-fault score left him in fifth.

The clean and conservative strategy also worked for Maggie Jayne, who at just 20 was competing in just her first AGA Championship. She’d turned in a fabulous clear first round as the first one in to tackle Conrad Homfeld’s course. She followed it up with a clear second round 65.33 seconds. “My goal was to have a clean round. Jubulent isn’t a very fast horse, so I just wanted to be smooth and get around,” said Jayne. She certainly wasn’t disappointed with her second place, though, in her biggest finish yet. “I’m just really excited!” she said.

Alison Firestone rode Casanova to third place with a four-fault round in 61.25 seconds. “I definitely took a shot at it, and it was working out great until that last fence!” said Firestone. Casanova just caught the front rail of the last oxer in front.

Georgina Bloomberg, who had a fabulous second-place finish behind Ward on Friday night in the $100,000 Lexus NHS Championship CSI-W, rode Riviera to another great finish, taking fourth in the AGA class with a 62.85-second four-fault second round.

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The AGA Championship ran as a two-round class, with the time of the second round determining the placings. So, essentially, the second round was a long jump-off, with 11 fences and a long track. Homfeld’s genius course designing showed again, as the class specification called for eight to return for the second round, and eight of the original 26 starters jumped clean in the first round.

Earlier in the day, the junior and amateur-owner hunters took center stage in the grand prix field. Ellen Toon and In Disguise clinched the win in the NHS Junior/Amateur-Owner Championship with a phenomenal second round, scoring a 90.66 average from the five judges. Toon is relishing riding the classic bay gelding, who has a an amazing record in the professional divisions with Shachine Belle.

“I can’t even describe what his jump feels like. All these years, I’ve been watching him go, and that’s been so exciting. But it’s even more exciting to ride him. If you get anywhere in range, he just explodes off the ground. He’s just amazing,” said Toon.

Carolyn Kelly’s trainer, Ken Berkley, had his own success yesterday in the NHS Open Hunter Championship, but today was her day to shine. Kelly, 15, rode to the top of the Victor Hugo-Vidal Equitation Championship, leading from start to finish. “It’s so exciting to win a big class like this,” she said. “I feel like I’ve gotten so much stronger. My eye has gotten better, I’ve gotten stronger, and I know my horse so well now,” said Kelly.

Kelly has had the ride on Kontiki for a year and a half, and she also competes in the junior hunters on him. The Hanoverian gelding also did the grand prix classes with Berkley, so he’s a real all-around horse. “He’s just extremely intelligent. It’s like he knows which division we’re doing. He picks up on everything. He thinks ‘Oh, I’ve got boots on, I must be doing the equitation.’ It’s amazing,” she said.

Kelly began the class by winning the flat phase yesterday, and then topped the hunter phase yesterday with a an 89.66 average score. She placed second in the jumper phase today with a 71.3 score to Cortie Wetherill’s 83 average, but her overall performance was good enough for the championship.

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