Lexington, Ky. - Nov. 2
Katie Dinan's trainer McLain Ward turned around from where he stood at the in-gate and gave her a big thumbs up. He'd just watched the last two riders in the jump-off for the $250,000 Alltech Grand Prix and neither had beaten her.
Dinan, who turned 20 this year, had bested a top field—relegating Ward to fourth, Belgian rider Nicola Philppaerts to second, and Russian rider Ljubov Kochetova to third. "Since there were only four in the jump-off, I knew that this was really a moment for me to take a shot, and that I had nothing to lose. I was obviously a little nervous standing at the in-gate, and it all happened very quickly, but to be sitting here as the winner is a really great feeling," Dinan said. "I thought I was very fast, but I didn’t leave the ring thinking I had won the class."
Ward had gone first and set the pace of the night on Rothchild. He was a full 2 seconds faster than anyone else, but on his way to setting that unbeatable pace, Rothchild felled a rail at the last vertical. Dinan went next, and was right on the pace with her bouncy little rubber ball of a horse Nougat du Vallet.
Philippaerts made every effort to best Dinan, but came up less than 2/10s of a second slow with Cortez. "I think McLain was fast, and she went also super fast," he said. "I tried to ride as fast as I could. I think I did one stride too many to the wall and then I did seven strides in place of six strides [from the wall to an oxer]; I think that was where I lost the most time. When they go fast, you have to go fast, and it’s moments when you have to decide what you do."
Dinan accomplishes the remarkable feat of balancing her grand prix exploits with completing her sophomore year at Harvard University (Mass.). She flew into Lexington on the evening of Oct. 30, showed for two days, then won the grand prix. "This month has been a little bit hectic. The great thing is when you have nights like this, it makes it all seem worth it," she said.
"When you don’t, it kind of makes you wonder what you’re doing. I’ve been trying to do as many indoors as I can because I have a good string of horses. I feel like my horses are going well, I want to try to maximize that, but at the same time I am a little bit busy going back and forth with school," she said.
Nougat, who goes by the name "Nugget" in the barn, has been a consistent and brilliant horse for Dinan. "He’s unbelievable. I sometimes feel like he deserves to be winning all these classes, and I’m the only thing in his way. It’s nice when I don’t screw him up. He tries his heart out," she said.
Nugget got a break for a bit this fall and came into the indoor shows raring to go. In the victory gallop of the $250,000 Alltech Grand Prix, he got a bit too excited and took off with Dinan. "I was really happy because he feels quite fresh now. It’s nice that he’s feeling so good, because for sure he’s jumped a lot of big rounds, and been my main horse for the last two years," she said. "I’ve been moving up and he’s been doing a lot. This is his last show of the year, and to finish on a moment like this is unbelievable. He’s allowed me to sort of accomplish a lot of my goals, while at the same time being competitive, and super forgiving of my mistakes. So, yeah, I love him."
Click here for full results of the Alltech National Horse Show.