Tuesday, May. 28, 2024

Let’s Fly Finds His Wings In Charlotte

This young partnership outlasts the competition over three rounds.

While Double H Farm’s Let’s Fly didn’t win Saturday night’s puissance class, his easy clearance of the six-foot wall should have provided a hint to his rider, Rodrigo Pessoa, that he was ready for the $450,000 Grand Prix of Charlotte.

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This young partnership outlasts the competition over three rounds.

While Double H Farm’s Let’s Fly didn’t win Saturday night’s puissance class, his easy clearance of the six-foot wall should have provided a hint to his rider, Rodrigo Pessoa, that he was ready for the $450,000 Grand Prix of Charlotte.

So after Let’s Fly successfully flew over all but one fence in the three-round competition, the highlight of the Charlotte Jumper Classic, April 10-12, in Charlotte, N.C., Pessoa clinched the $112,500 paycheck. “This was a nice test for him,” said Pessoa, of his 10-year-old Hanoverian.

Pessoa described the Steve Stephens-designed courses as nice building blocks. “[Steve] was really progressive in his building today. The first course was nice and a little bit soft, if anything,” said Pessoa. “He got up to the second course and made it a little bit harder.”

The first round, which attracted 23 starters, included three one-stride double combinations. Stephens noted that one test on the course was the line from fence 7, a triple bar, three strides to a substantial oxer. The line required riders to commit to three strides due to the size and width of both fences, and combined, the fences fell six times.

In the second round, Stephens upped the ante for the 15 qualified riders. He added a triple combination that led to a precariously set plank vertical three strides later. The triple bar also remained from the first round, and riders were now asked to navigate a tall vertical afterward.

Just three riders mastered both tests to move on to the jump-off: Pessoa, McLain Ward on Rothchild, and Karen Cudmore on Southern Pride.

“I would have liked to have put in a clear [in the jump-off] to put on some pressure,” said Pessoa, who went first. “But I thought my horse jumped well through the jump-off. The time was really short, but I was pleased with the performance of the horse, regardless if he was going to win or not.”

Pessoa has been riding Let’s Fly for less than a year and is happy with the way he’s been coming along. In addition to winning in Charlotte, they also won the $100,000 Green Cove Springs CSI-W (Fla.) in January.

“He’s going to have a couple weeks off then he’ll go back to Europe. His next show is in Valencia, Spain,” noted Pessoa.

Cudmore, Omaha, Neb., tackled the jump-off after Pessoa, but her efforts for a conservative clear failed to materialize.

“I had a very slow jump-off,” said Cudmore, who’s well known for her speedy efforts aboard her veteran partner Southern Pride, an 11-year-old Holsteiner stallion. “My plan was to go triple clean at that point. Once I got too slow there was no catching up. I ended up having a lot of time faults with the tight time, but I was pleased with my horse. In the second round he was flawless; I’m very happy with him.”

Ward, Brewster, N.Y., and Rothchild were the last to go in the jump-off. With an impressive winning streak already established this winter, Ward was certainly a betting favorite. But after a rail fell on course his slower time relegated him to second. Nevertheless, he was thrilled with the 8-year-old’s performance.

“I was a little concerned about [having such a young horse] at this level of jumping,” said Ward. “And I hoped I wasn’t overdoing it, but I wanted to see how he’d handle it. It was a tough call for the jump-off because even though I only had to have a clear round it was tough to make the time allowed. My horse tried to get really careful and really jumped way too high. And then I tried to make up the time, but Rodrigo is obviously a great rider on an experienced horse and there just wasn’t room to make it up.”

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Ward began riding the young gelding in the summer of 2008 and entered his first grand prix at the end of the year. Rothchild spent the winter in Florida and gathered good ribbons in the smaller grand prix classes.

“I’m thrilled,” said Ward. “I couldn’t be happier, and it’s very exciting for me and the owners [Sagamore Farms]. The horse has a great future.”

Ward also praised the organizers for choosing to showcase a three-round competition.

“In America we don’t have many of these,” he said. “In Europe they have quite a few. I think it’s not a bad test from time to time. It’s not something to do every week, but this being the biggest money class in the United States I think it’s perfectly appropriate. I think it made for a better class today.”

A Weeks Repeat

It was Alexa Weeks’ turn in Charlotte this year. She and her mount, Madison, won the $35,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Classic over her sister, Whitney Weeks on Subliem, who won the class in 2008.

“I caught Whitney’s last three jumps, and she looked really fast,” said Alexa, Southport, Conn., who rode after Whitney in the jump-off. “I would have been just as happy if she had won. I probably would have been happier. She really did the best she could have done, and she rode wonderfully. It was a huge advantage to have her go in front of me. She’s a good sport and always really helpful. It was fun.”

Eight riders moved on to the jump-off after the first round, which included a tricky line from fence 3, an oxer, bending three strides to a tall liverpool.

“I thought the first round was smooth and appropriate for the class that he had,” said Alexa. “The jump-off course was nice— it was really geared toward my horse. She has a big stride for a small horse.”

While Whitney put in a quick time of 31.37 seconds, Alexa utilized her mare’s indoor experience to seal the win.

“I almost turned too short to the original fence 3 [a skinny black oxer],” she said. “I had planned on three strides to the liverpool and ended up doing four because I came back so tight. I was fast there, then a touch slower, but I guess that’s what made the difference.”

While Alexa normally works with Jimmy Torano, she looked to her fiancé, Rodrigo Pessoa, in her trainer’s absence.

“We actually changed the hind boots for the jump-off because I thought she was a little bit dull in the first round,” she said. “[Pessoa] picked the boots and set an exercise for me that was a little different than what we normally do. I think it really helped because in the jump-off she jumped really fresh and a lot better than in the first round. He’s really the best help I could have. I had all the odds in my favor, and I had my sister’s lucky choker on!”

Madison (J. Liberato—Kayrona) is a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare who has been a part of the family’s barn for seven years. Madison and professional Kent Farrington were a force in the grand prix division for several years and earned the 2006 AGA Horse of the Year title before Alexa took over the reins. Alexa showed her in the Sunday grand prix classes during the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) for the first time this year.

“I like to give her lots of time off between the shows because she’s a little bit older, and I only have one horse,” said Alexa. “I really try and make a good plan for her. This worked out well. I’m lucky to have a really nice horse like her. I definitely brought a gun to a knife fight.”

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No Limits

The inaugural $25,000 Puissance in Charlotte proved to be a crowd-pleaser, and Michael Morrissey’s Scaraberas cleared 7′ to take home the $7,500 prize.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to try the record this time,” said Morrissey in regard to his attempt at last year’s Washington International Horse Show to break the indoor high-jump record, which was set in 1983 by Anthony D’Ambrosio and Sweet N’ Low at 7’71⁄2″.

“My horse is a really good puissance horse,” continued Morrissey. “He’s got what it takes to jump a big wall. He’s very brave. He does that double pump in the air and really gives it an extra try. That’s what makes him special.”

While the puissance seems to be Scaraberas’ (Silvio I—Werona) specialty, Morrissey also competes the 12-year-old in the grand prix classes. “I’ve been riding him since he was 6, so I know him pretty well, better than any other horse I have,” he said.

Six competitors started the class, and four made the attempt at 7′. Georgina Bloomberg and Street Of Diamonds looked solid in the opening rounds, but the horse slammed on the brakes at the sight of the looming wall so they settled for fourth.

Charlie Jayne on Thomas Edison and Pablo Barrios on Sinatra both made the seven-foot leap, but they just knocked over the green roll on the top of the wall, leaving them tied for second.

“I think a lot of times people get in trouble because they try to go too fast,” said Morrissey. “I’ve found that [going faster] doesn’t work. I just tried to keep a nice easy pace and have him real balled up and let him explode in the last stride.”

While Morrissey’s strategy proved effective, his rounds didn’t go as smoothly as he would have liked.

“In Washington the wall was set directly toward the in-gate, and here it was set coming home, but the gate was to our left,” he said. “Every time I came down to the wall he kept shifting left on me to get to the in-gate. The last round he shifted in front of it, and I just dug my left spur in and off we went. I was worried he was going to run out, but he’s so brave he won’t.”

Morrissey started riding in puissance classes in his early teens when horse shows offered junior jumper puissances. But due to limitations on the height that juniors could jump, the classes were no longer offered.

“It’s a hard class,” Morrissey acknowledged. “It’s hard to find too many puissance horses, and it’s not practiced very often. I’m a thrill seeker; I like things like [the puissance]. I get a big kick out of it.”

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