The 2016 Hagyard Challenge series, sponsored by the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, kicked off its eleventh year at the Kentucky Horse Shows on Thursday evening with the $35,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic. Sixty-six horse and rider combinations went head-to-head in the CSI3* competition, but it was Pablo Barrios (VEN) who took the victory with ASD Farfala. The talented pair beat out a field of 14 during the jump-off, tripping the timers in a speedy 37.940 seconds.
Riders battled the elements during Thursday’s class, but the rain did not faze ASD Farfala, owned by Barrios, who has only been riding the 12-year-old Warmblood mare for one month. The Kentucky Spring Horse Shows series marks their first horse show together, but the two are already demonstrating a winning partnership.
“I’ve known the mare for a long time,” said Barrios. “It belongs to a very good friend of mine, Americo Simonetti. He is a legend in the sport in South America from Chile and he kindly let me ride this wonderful mare that I’ve known for a long time.
“The mare came to the Winter Equestrian Festival with a rider from Chile and when she was about to go back to Chile I called him and asked if they could leave her with me,” continued Barrios. “I love the mare and I think I can do a great job with her. It’s amazing, when you have a good horse, how easy it is to go clean and fast. This is my first horse show with her. I was concerned about whether to put her in a lower class, but she’s so smart and talented I thought, ‘Why hold her back?’ So I went straight to it. When I call [Americo] again he is going to be very happy!”
Aaron Vale (USA) and Quidam’s Good Luck, owned by Troy Glaus, were the early pathfinders as well as the fastest pair to navigate the technical first round track, designed by Bernardo Costa Cabral, finishing in a fault-free effort of 74.100 seconds. The two later returned to the jump-off finishing double clear in 38.210 seconds, just one second behind Barrios claiming second place honors.
“Quidam’s Good Luck is a fast horse,” said Vale. “It was a nice galloping track with smooth, sweeping turns, which really suits him. We just took a shot. He feels like he’s going well and he likes this ring, so we took a shot. We had a really quick round. I just couldn’t leave one out to the last on him. We put in a great round and Pablo just beat me by fractions, so can’t complain too much!”
Vale also finished double clear again placing third with his second mount of the evening, Finou 4, owned by Thinkslikeahorse, in 39.540 seconds.
“I saw Aaron and I knew he was very fast,” said Barrios. “I knew he had a horse behind me and I really tried. I saw him doing seven strides one to two. My plan was to do six or seven with her and I made it and I think any other horse would have had fence 15 down but she just left it up because she is amazing. I’m so excited with this mare and I’m thankful to get to ride her.
“The winners always say that the course is really good, but we were talking before the class with all of the riders and I mentioned that every single class has been very well designed so far,” continued Barrios. “I think this is one of the difficult classes to build. He had a great jump-off, a great class and I was very excited. Not because I won but because I like it, and it’s always very nice to beat Aaron because he is very fast!”
Barrios is no stranger to the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Horse Shows. He won the Hagyard Challenge series back to back in 2013 and 2014 and is already off to a strong start in the 2016 series.
“I have a good vibe here; I feel like this is home,” said Barrios.
“Every time you come they have done something new,” said Vale. “The rings are great, they always get top-notch course designers and they have a great set of jumps. It’s a top quality product and it’s great to be here. I showed here for the first time in 1988. Jumpers back then were on the grass where the Claiborne Ring is now!”
Barrios is also set to compete on the Venezuelan team at the Rio Olympic Games this summer with Antares, his 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding.
“I’m going with Antares,” said Barrios. “I’m showing him very lightly. He showed three times at WEF. I used him a lot last year because my mare got hurt. I’m starting to use him a little bit more and work on his fitness so he gets a little cardio. This is the time to do it before the Games. Then, I’ll keep him a little fresh for the Games — that’s the plan.
“I want to thank Devoucoux, Purina and MDC Stirrups — without those stirrups it’s very hard to ride in the rain so that’s very awesome that I was wearing them tonight. Also Animo, my new sponsor of boots, Parlanti, and Choice of Champions,” added Barrios.
The Hagyard Challenge series consists of seven grand prix classes to be held during the 2016 show series at the Kentucky Horse Park. Following the final event, a cash prize of $50,000 will be awarded to the rider accumulating the most points throughout the series as well as a $10,000 prize for the reserve champion.
“Anything that gives us a chance to make a little extra money you have to appreciate,” said Vale. “They have been great supporters for 11 years. It sure is a nice thing for us to have a chance to get a rider bonus at the end of the year. It’s good for the horse show, good for Hagyard and good for the riders.”
Throughout the summer, the top riders from across the nation will gather to compete over challenging courses and vie for the winning title and valuable points toward the $50,000 Leading Rider Bonus. The Kentucky Spring Classic, May 18–22, will host the second $35,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic CSI3* on Thursday, May 19. Four more Hagyard Lexington Classic grand prix events will be held during the Kentucky Summer Horse Show, the Kentucky Summer Classic, the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show and the KHJA Horse Show. The series concludes with the $65,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic during the Kentucky National Horse Show. Following that exciting competition, the winner of the $50,000 Leading Rider Bonus will be announced and presented with the cash prize by the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.
New this year to the Hagyard Challenge series is the $200 Best Turned Out award, sponsored by Bob Mickler’s. The award goes to a well-deserving groom following each grand prix. After Thursday’s competition, Andre Luis, groom to Mark Bluman and Uitteraard of Stransky’s Mission Farms, won the first Best Turned Out award of the series.
RESULTS: $35,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic CSI3*
1 567 A S D FARFALA PABLO BARRIOS VEN 78.82 37.94
2 511 QUIDAM’S GOOD LUCK AARON VALE USA 74.10 38.21
3 526 FINOU 4 AARON VALE USA 78.04 39.54
4 308 AUSTRIA 2 VICTORIA COLVIN USA 76.59 40.55
5 760 BASIMODO KARL COOK USA 76.58 41.15
6 967 BULL RUN’S TESTIFY KRISTEN VANDERVEEN USA 79.96 41.70
7 1026 HH DONNATELLA DANIELA STRANSKY VEN 75.48 44.18
8 313 BARLANDO CONOR O’REGAN IRL 78.38 45.28
9 265 LINCOURT GINO ALEJANDRO KAROLYI VEN 78.21 4 46.72
10 568 ANTARES PABLO BARRIOS VEN 78.38 8 37.67
11 32 AIMEE PETER WYLDE USA 75.73 8 40.63
12 771 HOPE VAN’T ZORGVLIET BRITTNI RAFLOWITZ USA 75.82 8 41.20
Source: Taylor Renner / Kentucky Horse Shows