Tuesday, May. 28, 2024

Chiacchia Takes Championships In Both Young Horse Divisions

Darren Chiacchia kicked off his American Eventing Championships performance by sweeping the Young Event Horse divisions today, Sept. 12. The Ocala, Fla. trainer guided Jean Kopperud's Hanno to the top of the 5-year-old division and rode his own gelding Dibelius to a win in the 4-year-olds at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Ill.

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Darren Chiacchia kicked off his American Eventing Championships performance by sweeping the Young Event Horse divisions today, Sept. 12. The Ocala, Fla. trainer guided Jean Kopperud’s Hanno to the top of the 5-year-old division and rode his own gelding Dibelius to a win in the 4-year-olds at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Ill.

Hanno’s victory was a reprise from last year’s first-place finish in the 4-year-old final, and was an especially rewarding accomplishment for Chiacchia and breeder Timothy Holekamp. The latter owns the Trakehner’s sire, Chiacchia’s long-time advanced mount Windfall II. Hanno is the first American-born son of the stallion, and is out of the mare Hulta. Kopperud purchased the horse last year and events him at novice level, while Chiacchia has taken him up to preliminary and will also be competing him in this weekend’s championship at that level.

“This is the ultimate validation here,” said Holekamp of Chiacchia’s horses winning in both divisions. Both men sit on the U.S. Eventing Association’s Young Horse Task Force and are striving to establish a rubric for YEH competitions. “[The program’s progress] is incremental and it’s evolving, but this year it’s a different group of judges and some different guidelines, and the same horse still won.”

Chiacchia purchased Dibelius (E.H. Michelangelo–Donnata) as a 2 ½-year-old stallion in Germany and had him gelded before shipping him home. The Trakehner is one of a handful that have caught Chiacchia’s fancy at auctions in recent years.

“I see the most when the horse is shown at liberty,” he explained of his selection process. “It’s difficult to quantify athleticism – that’s an intangible thing. When I go on those trips I see hundreds of horses, and it really hones your eye. I often say to myself, ‘That’s a nice horse, but is it really special?’ ”

British rider Leslie Law was close on Chiacchia’s heels in the 5-year-old division with two of his own young geldings. Law claimed the reserve championship with his Dutch Warmblood All The Buzz and placed third with the Hanoverian Java, by Laptop. The former horse is a British import whose breeding is listed as unknown, while the latter is a German acquisition.

In the 4-year-old division, Wisconsin rider Tera MacDonald took the reserve championship with La Tee Dah (Judge Sefas–Miss Mikimoto), a Hanoverian/Thoroughbred gelding bred and owned by Cheryl Quick.

While there were many impressive performances in today’s precursor to the AECs, it was, after all, a competition for young horses, and riders handled their bobbles with admirable aplomb. During the afternoon’s jumping phase, a fellow competitor emerging from the treeline spooked Crystal Woodard-Kendrick’s horse Consider The Source after the pair galloped through the finish; the rider was popped from the tack but landed, catlike, on her feet, and was back in the saddle almost instantly. Meanwhile, Australian rider Boyd Martin suffered two falls during the course of the afternoon, but gamely remounted and gave each of his five total mounts a positive go, including Ginger Snap, who slid down on a slick turn but was deemed fit to compete afterward and was therefore allowed to jump the course again.

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That particular turn caused slips and falls for several riders as young horses learned a lesson on negotiating footing, and a brushy oxer and a red hutch jump set before the water succeeding in spooking several youngsters. But a sufficiently sympathetic flock of spectators gave the contest a positive and relaxed air, as the crowd collectively willed each horse through the test with plenty of clucking, cooing and clapping, and laughed along with the riders during their horses’ bouts of exuberant bucking and nervous flatulence.

“If you go and stifle them, you should be severely marked down for that,” said Chiacchia. “It’s not about the baby who puts his head down and gives a little playful buck – they should never be penalized for that. It’s about potential for the future.”

This is the first year the national championships for young horses have been held in conjunction with the AECs. Tomorrow the championships will kick off with dressage for beginner novice through training level, while upper-level horses begin their competition on Friday.

5-Year-Old Championship

1.  Hanno                                Darren Chiacchia        81.73
2.  All The Buzz                      Leslie Law                    80.50
3.  Java                                     Leslie Law                     79.11
4.  Gin Fizz                              Hawley Bennett           78.76
5.  Tiamo                                 Allison Springer           78.28
6.  Ginger Snap                      Boyd Martin                   76.91
7.  Amberjack                         Jacqueline Naugler     76.37
8.  Vidalia                               Boyd Martin                   75.87
9.  Silver Fox                           Amanda Bray                75.15
10. Fab                                     Leslie Law                      74.09
11. Pegasus Future Gold      Anne Kaufman              72.74
12. Antebellum Potrakka    Jennifer O’Neill            68.54
13. Something Special         Pam Kimmel                  67.17
14. Consider The Source     Crystal Woodard-Kendrick    66.47
15. Shaugraun’s Wishful Thinking    Emily Oakes            64.37
16. Vavoom                              Heather Morris             WD

4-Year-Old Championship

1. Dibelius                  Darren Chiacchia        83.01
2. La Tee Dah            Tera MacDonald         78.61
3. El Cid                       Lynne Partridge           77.90
4. Lidcombe                Boyd Martin                  77.06
5. Take The Mick       Lauren Kieffer              75.08
6. Pepper                      Boyd Martin                  74.79
7. Tailored Fortune   Marjory Berkache        73.50
8. Pancho Villa          Mike Huber                   72.89
9. Picante                     Boyd Martin                  72.76
10. M-S Reddy Fox    Nicolette Merle-Smith    WD

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