Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

Midnight Revelation Takes The Biltmore

Lisa Williams completes her first 100-mile ride in first with a reformed character.

Midnight Revelation has a bit of a reputation in trainer Rita Swift’s barn. “When we got him his nickname was ‘Junior’,” said Swift. “But I call him ‘Poor Junior’ because he’s always in trouble.
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Lisa Williams completes her first 100-mile ride in first with a reformed character.

Midnight Revelation has a bit of a reputation in trainer Rita Swift’s barn. “When we got him his nickname was ‘Junior’,” said Swift. “But I call him ‘Poor Junior’ because he’s always in trouble.

“He’s been on a mission to hurt somebody ever since we got him, and every time he does something horrible we say, ‘Poor Junior, he’s going to be in trouble again.’ He’s beautiful, but he’s bad. He bucked me off three times in one mile once.”

But on May 3, Midnight Revelation stuck to the straight and narrow, and Lisa Williams rode him to win the AERC 100-mile ride at the Biltmore Challenge in Asheville, N.C. Because of an injured elbow, Swift wasn’t able to ride Junior, so she chose Williams to take over the reins.

“Lisa was meant to ride Junior,” Swift said.

Swift had bought Junior as a 6-year-old from Salem-Teikyo University (W.V.). When Williams—a Salem-Teikyo graduate— came to Swift’s Reynoldsville, W.V., farm to work, she instantly recognized Junior.

For whatever reason, Junior, an 8-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding, decided to be the model of good behavior for Williams. “He was an absolute star,” said Swift. “All day long, no bad behavior. He acted so perfectly!”

Swift had brought company for Williams and Junior, who were both embarking on their first 100-mile ride. The game plan for Junior was that he would be paced by his two stablemates, who would hopefully keep him in line. But they were both eliminated at early vet checks, leaving Williams to keep Junior concentrating.

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At 6 a.m., 36 horse-rider teams started the 100-mile ride. Over the next 24 hours, only 50 percent would eventually complete the rugged course. Junior’s strongest challenge came from Ruth Ann Everett of Hickory, N.C., and Royel T Razzmatazz. Running in the top three all day, Everett, in her characteristic calm demeanor, praised her horse for his performance. “He pulsed down immediately all day,” she said. “The cool weather was great. He’s a big dark horse and the breeze really helped.” Everett and Razz finished 4 minutes, l6 seconds behind Williams and Junior.

Behavioral problems weren’t the only obstacles Junior overcame to emerge the eventual winner of the prestigious race.

In 2007, Swift entered the 100-mile ride on Junior, and on the first leg of the race had a shoe hook on a root and wrench sideways.

She couldn’t get what was left of the shoe off and had to lead an extremely excited horse through miles of mud before pulling at the first check.

This year they avoided that possibility by entering Junior in the ride completely barefoot, in an unusual strategy. “I knew he might go lame because of being barefoot, but in the past we’ve had horses go lame because of shoes,” Swift reasoned. Other than a bit of pour-in pad that fell out early in the ride, Junior covered miles of gravel roads and mountainous terrain barefoot and finished sound with a ride time of 10:02:22.

The husband-and-wife combination of Jeremy and Heather Reynolds tied for third just 16 minutes behind the leaders, with a strong “come from behind” push riding Sir Smith and Cal Flaming Emit. After arriving at the first vet check in 30th place, the Reynoldses paced conservatively, making their move around the
80-mile mark and working their way up to third place.

Like Swift, they experimented with non-steel shoeing options, riding their horses with Renegade glue-on boots in front and steel shoes in back. Both riders are aiming for the World Endurance Championships on Nov. 6-9 in Malaysia.

The Reynoldses recently relocated from California to head the endurance program at Cre Run Farms, an Arabian breeding farm in Doswell, Va. Heather was the 2001 Pan American Games individual gold medalist, and the pair is the only husband-wife team to ever win back to back Tevis Cups.

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“We enjoy living on the East Coast,” Heather said. “It has been a big change for us. We decided to move so that we could learn about flat-track racing and also how to train endurance horses for humid conditions. So far we are learning about both in a hurry.”

The Biltmore 50/100-mile endurance ride has a tradition of bad weather, ranging from thunderstorms and mud to oppressive heat and humidity. But this year, riders enjoyed unprecedented dry trails and cool temperatures.

The course for the ride traverses 100 miles of trail up and down mountainous ridges and along the banks of the French Broad River as it flows through the Biltmore estate. Wide carriage trails interspersed with rugged single track trail wind through towering old growth timber and open up onto expansive hillside meadows with panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

As daylight faded, 100-milers rode by the lights of the Biltmore Winery reflecting in the French Broad River below. At about the 90-mile point, the route passed by the Biltmore Restaurant, and the music from
a high school prom drifted through the night, giving it a magical quality only present at the Biltmore 100. “It’s like a cross between Yosemite and Disneyland,” said Heather.

The Best Condition award in the 100-mile ride went to Tom Gower of Wisconsin riding JG Saqr, an 8-year-old Arabian-Standardbred cross. They tied for seventh place with a ride time of 10:51, 49 minutes behind the winners. “This ride was absolutely perfect, the kind you always try to duplicate,” he said, beaming as he gave the 16.1-hand gray gelding a hug.

The successful completion gave Saqr an impressive five-for-five record in 100-mile competitions. “He’s got a good base,” Gower said. “I did two years of competitive trail and one year of slow 50s with him. We do dressage two times a week.”

Angie McGhee

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