The kickoff class for the opening week, the $5,000 Welcome Stake, saw David Jennings capture two of the three podium positions. The Paul Jewell-designed 1.35m course saw a starting line up of 26 horse-and-rider combinations set to contest the track. That number was reduced to 14 after penalties were allotted for downed rails, added time, and refusals over the first set of fences. Jennings, of Franklin, TN, took the early lead right off the bat with a first-round time of 67.036 seconds on Musical Woods, LLC’s 12-year-old KWPN gelding (Calvino Z x Riviera) Dazzle White. He then also piloted his second mount, Dalton De La Fresniere to another clear round to give himself two shots at the jump-off victory.
Ultimately Jennings was consistent and held the lead throughout the entire class with Dazzle White and earned the winning title after crossing the final timers in 32.600 seconds. He then showcased his skill across the disciplines by returning the following day to secure ultimate success in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.
Dean Bataglia put together a fluid and challenging course including three high options which saw 24 original entries. Of those entries, the top 12 scoring combinations were invited to return to the shortened handy round track. The second course offered competitors a chance to show off their partner’s ride ability and consistency offering multiple rollbacks and a trot fence in addition to the high options.
David Jennings entered the ring early in the original lineup but produced a picturesque classic round, opting for all three high options. Judges Jay Mullen and Scott Hofstetter awarded Jennings and Allison Ventura’s Jordantinus a combined first-round score of 173.00 points which immediately sent the pair to the top of the scoreboard where they would remain for the rest of the phase. Prior to the International Derby, hunter professional Jennifer Alfano piloted Kathy Chiaf’s Jefferson to win the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby.
The fourth day of the 2021 AIR Show Jumping Winter Classic featured a morning of ultimate competition with 28 top horse-and-rider combinations taking to the Grand Prix ring for the first $25,000 Winter Classic Grand Prix. In a down-to-the-wire jump off, Chile’s Samuel Parot stole the the show as the final competitor to return for the jump-off.
After a competitive first round, ten of the original 28 entries were left to return for the shortened jump-off course. In the final few moments of competition, the lead changed hands numerous times with each rider that followed into the ring. Sharn Wordley held the lead on Verdini D’Houtveld Z before besting his own time with Gatsby. Tracey Fenney of Flower Mound, TX took to the quick track and seated herself in the top position with MTM Dolce Vita on 37.728 seconds. As the second to last rider to return, Columbia’s Gonzalo Guevara placed himself in an almost unbeatable position aboard Valentine Car after flying through the timers in 36.852 seconds. He appeared to be the sure victor when Samuel Parot entered as the final contestant. With a strong partnership and incredibly precise riding, Parot and long-time mount Atlantis clocked in an amazing 35.950 seconds to climb to the top of the podium.
The final day of the opening week topped off with the $7,500 High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic in which Haley Gassel laid down a one-two victory with Hambesi and Iliano Van D’Abelendreef respectively.
Week two made it’s debut once again with the $5,000 Welcome Stake, this time won by amateur competitor Erin Haas. Twenty-one horse-and-rider combinations competed over Chris Barnard’s track. Twelve entries returned for the shortened jump-off track including Haas, Hayley Waters, Camille Maddrix, and Summer Hill among several others. Three of the returning competitors had an unlucky rail or two in the final phase but still placed in the top 12. On their return, Haas and North Face Farm’s eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Stolzenberg x Grafin Top) Hagelin put a distance of just under a second between themselves and the runner-up combination after flying through the final timers in 34.880 seconds.
The $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby was the hunter highlight of the second week which saw amateur rider Isabel Harbour pilot Fitz to the highest score. Nineteen top amateur, junior, and professional hunter riders took to the main hunter ring at the Florida Horse Park to challenge Paul Jewell’s classic round course. The top 12 of those original entries were invited to return for handy phase.
Jewell created a flowing, elegant classic round to test the combinations on their ability to produce an overall smooth round then incorporated several rollback options and a trot fence in the handy for riders to display their quick and efficient skills. Both rounds also featured four high options which could be jumped in order to receive extra points. Harbour and the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Numero Uno x Kootje) combined their scores from judges Robin Rost Brown and Otis Brown for a final score of 170.00 which put them in the lead by a single point.
The second grand prix event saw the previous weeks’ third place victor, Tracey Fenney soar up to the top position with MTM Dolce Vita. Professionals, amateurs, and even a junior rider comprised the started line up for the Chris Barnard designed track. Ten of the original entries had only a single rail in the first phase, many of which saw their fault occur at the small skinny vertical. As riders returned for the jump-off, Genevieve Munson, the only junior rider amongst the crowd, set what looked to be an unbeatable pace and took the early lead in 34.995 seconds. Naples, FL resident Kris Killiam followed directly after with another clean round but falling just short of the top time in 37.243 seconds. The win seemed almost secured to go to Munson when USEF Equestrian of the Year Tracey Fenney passed through the starting timers on MTM Dolce Vita. Fenney then proceeded to guide her young mount with extreme accuracy to slide just under Munson’s time in 34.929 seconds.
The finale day of the 2021 Winter Classic concluded with several top feature classes including the $7,500 High Junior/Amateur-Owner Classic, the $5,000 1.25m Open Stake, the $1,500 High Child/Adult Classic, and the much anticipated $3,500 USEA Arena Eventing Preliminary class. After intense competition, it was ultimately Erin Haas who piloted the victory aboard North Face Farm’s Elektrisk in the $7,500 Classic.
Prior to the Classic, Hayley Waters guided new mount Chelsie Zweite D to the win in the $5,000 1.25m Open Stake, presented by Showcase Properties. Waters and Meg Gehron’s eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (VDL Maserati x Chelsie D) rose to the top against 17 other horse-and-rider combinations. The day concluded with the exciting $3,500 USEA Arena Eventing Preliminary class with 16 entries in which Laura Welsh and Toute Va Bien landed on top. Sherri Jamison and May’s News won the $1,500 High Child/Adult Jumper Classic and Isabel Harbour was victorious in the $5,000 Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic aboard Ramiro Cruise.
AIR Show Jumping and all involved with the 2021 Winter Classic would like to extend their biggest thanks to all the exhibitors, sponsors, and vendors for contributing to a top event. The dates for next years’ events will tentatively be planned for January 5-9 and January 12-16. For continued updates, please subscribe to the AIR Show Jumping mailing list.