Tuesday, May. 21, 2024

Night Train Carries Kerins To Victory At New Albany Classic


It’s a bittersweet day for the Irishman.

Darragh Kerins had a promise to keep.
   
He’d spent the days before the $80,000 New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix at his friend Niall Grimes’ bedside. “When I left to come here, I told him I was going to win it,” Kerins said.
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It’s a bittersweet day for the Irishman.

Darragh Kerins had a promise to keep.
   
He’d spent the days before the $80,000 New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix at his friend Niall Grimes’ bedside. “When I left to come here, I told him I was going to win it,” Kerins said.

And that he did. Kerins rode Night Train to an emotional victory in the class on Sept. 30 in New Albany, Ohio.

Kerins and Grimes traveled from Ireland to America together 13 years ago and both embarked on successful riding and training careers, becoming popular faces on the circuit. Sadly, Grimes, 31, suffered a heart attack on Sept. 28 while at the Kentucky National Horse Show, and passed away on Oct. 3.

Grimes was very much on Kerins’ mind as he guided Night Train to a clear first round at New Albany. They would join eight more horses in the jump-off, including the seemingly unstoppable Up Chiqui and Kent Farrington.

Farrington and Up Chiqui had won the $50,000 Hagyard Equine Medical Institute Grand Prix CSI-W in Lexington, Ky., just two days before. That class had been Night Train’s first big grand prix outing, and he and Kerins had placed in the money in 11th with a four-fault go.

Kerins thought the New Albany class would be a good challenge for Night Train. “My horse is only 8 years old, and he hasn’t done that many classes,” Kerins said of the chestnut gelding owned by Double H Farm. “This is one of the best classes in the country. I thought the course was big enough and that there would probably be five or so qualifiers for the jump-off. Although, I didn’t get to see many riders go [in the jump-off] because I was warming up.”

Laura Chapot led the jump-off efforts, but Little Big Man declined to jump the first two fences. They were eliminated. Three more riders went, and they all picked up jumping faults. It was Cara Raether who blazed the way to a clean round on Ublesco, stopping the timers in 44.38 seconds.

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Then, Up Chiqui and Farrington upped the ante, jumping clean in a quick 41.66 seconds. Kerins knew he had to hurry Night Train, but they had no room for error.

As the pair rounded fence 12, the Tween Brands vertical which was also the second-to-last jump, it looked as if a rail would fall, but as luck would have it, the Irishman was safe. The jump remained intact.

With their clean and fast ride, the duo set the new time to beat. Mac Cone took a determined shot with a clean jump-off on Ole, but his time of 42.08 seconds fell just short, putting him third.

Originally hailing from Ireland, Kerins, now of Well-ington, Fla., stood modestly before the crowd, following his victory lap in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz ML350 SUV, for which he won a two-year lease along with his portion of the winning purse.

Abigail Wexner, host of the Classic as well as founder and board chair of the Classic’s beneficiary—the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence—maintains a personal dedication to hosting a top-notch competition while furthering the mission of the Coalition. Through her efforts, the Classic has raised $15 million for the Coalition Against Family Violence since the show’s debut in 1998, while increasing attendance by thousands upon thousands.

“I can say that every single dollar raised has gone directly to the work of the Coalition,” said Wexner. “The Coalition’s mission is to create a culture that doesn’t tolerate family violence.”

This year the New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix show ring was named the John G. McCoy field, in honor of the philanthropist and business leader. The 94-year-old McCoy was on hand to witness the event.
Jacquie Mazziotta

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