Saturday of the Kentucky Spring Classic closed with the week’s highlight event, the $131,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix CSI***. Forty-one horse-and-rider combinations were tested over Guilherme Jorge’s 16-effort course which saw 11 athletes finish clear to move into the jump-off round, but once again Ireland’s Darragh Kenny was unstoppable to claim the Saturday night victory under the lights on the second week of the Kentucky Spring Horse Show series, this time with brand new mount, Balou du Reventon.
“The course was really nice,” said Kenny. “Guilherme [Jorge] did a super job; he always does a brilliant job. It made for a very good jump-off having 11 clear [rounds]. I was very happy with the way my horse jumped. I just kind of did my plan, and it worked out very well. In the jump-off, Margie [Engle] went quick, and I just took a chance with him, and I ran, and it worked out today. I think to the vertical I was very quick because I could take a big risk. I thought there wasn’t much of a chance of him knocking it down because he’s so careful, so I thought take a big risk, and hopefully it pays off.”
Kenny and Ann Thompson’s Balou Du Reventon just started showing together two weeks ago, but they are on an impressive streak after finishing second in Thursday’s $35,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic CSI*** and jumping to a number of clear rounds during their new partnership in Kentucky.
“I’ve known the horse for a long time,” said Kenny. “I always thought he was an amazing, incredible horse. I never thought I’d be lucky enough to get the chance to ride him, and I was very lucky that my owner, Ann Thompson, decided to buy the horse for me and it’s one of the most incredible horses I’ve ever sat on in my life. He doesn’t want to knock jumps down. I think he jumped eight rounds over the last two weeks, and he didn’t knock a jump down once. This is only my second week showing the horse, so it’s really incredible. He’s really one of the most talented horses I’ve ever sat on in my entire life, and it’s unbelievable; he just doesn’t want to hit jumps. It’s crazy.”
Saturday night amplified their success as they flew to a clear round in 41.54 seconds to capture the featured grand prix victory. The 12-year-old Oldenburg stallion is already showing promise as an option for Kenny in this year’s World Equestrian Games.
“Babalou, another one of my horses, is already in Europe, and she does St. Tropez and Cannes [for the Global Champions Tour in France], so it was cool that he stepped up and did so well,” said Kenny. “The plan is that he is supposed to be another option for me for the World Equestrian Games, and it looks like he’s going to be that, so we’ll just keep building him, and hopefully I get there.”
Early pathfinder, Margie Engle was the first to produce a clear round with long-time partner Royce and first to return for the jump-off round. She and Gladewinds Partners, LLC’s 14-year-old Oldenburg stallion put on the pressure with a clear round in a time of 42.08 seconds, but their time was just overtaken by Kenny and the pair finished in second place.
“I was first in the jump-off today, so I wanted to go medium-fast to put a little pressure on the ten people to follow me,” said Engle. “With 10 people behind me I knew it would get quite fast. Just showing [Royce] here I know that the footing is always fantastic here, and it takes little out of the horses to jump. Royce hasn’t shown for about seven weeks, so I’m just trying to do a class. He felt great today. He was clear the other day, and I elected not to jump-off because I was trying to save him for tonight. I didn’t go crazy fast tonight. His turns were really nice, and I was just practicing staying smooth with him. I didn’t want to take any chances because right now I’m just trying to keep him in bubble wrap until the summer because he still has observation events [for the World Equestrian Games].”
Rowan Willis and his own Blue Movie, an 11-year-old Anglo European Warmblood mare, followed with a clear jump-off round in a time of 42.55 seconds, speeding to a third-place finish. The pair recently traveled to the United States in February to capture a notable victory in the $265,000 Longines Grand Prix CSI***** at HITS Ocala [Florida].
The Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix is held every year in honor of the late Mary Rena Murphy, an important part of American horse show history. Murphy was known for helping many top hunter and jumper professionals begin their careers, in addition to being a successful horse show organizer. She began her career in her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. She is most known for promoting the Kentucky Horse Park and helping shape the park into what it so well-known for today, world class hunter and jumper shows that not only cater to world class competition, but also to all levels of the equestrian sport.