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Spooner, Cristallo win Alltech Nat’l $250,000 GP

From the Newstrader - November 17th, 2011 - Newstrader

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Open Jumper action at the Alltech National Horse Show, 128th Edition, wrapped up tonight with a fast-paced jump-off during the Alltech National Horse Show $250,000 Grand Prix CSI-W. Richard Spooner and Cristallo set the pace with tidy inside turns and a clear effort, beating Great Britain’s Nick Skelton aboard Carlo 273 by just .3 seconds. Jessica Springsteen and Cincinatti Le Silla rounded out the three as the fastest four fault combination during the short course.

Richard Jeffery set a large, technical track for tonight’s first round to challenge the horse and rider combinations. It included a triple bar, an oxer-oxer double combination, and a challenging vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination going towards the gate. Only five riders managed to complete the course with all fences in place and return for the short course. They began over an oxer vertical double combination before making a very sharp inside turn to a second oxer. Riders then had a long gallop to a single vertical before making another sharp turn to the wall. Finally, they made a right turn to a vertical-oxer double combination before galloping home over the last wide oxer.

Spooner and Cristallo, owned by Show Jumping Syndicates of Agua Dulce, were the first to master the technical course and qualify for the speed phase. The “Master of Faster” did not disappoint when he returned to the ring with his veteran mount. He made a very nice inside turn to the first wide oxer, and followed it with another very tight turn to the wall before galloping home over the double combination and final oxer. Although it almost seemed that the turn to the wall would be too much, Cristallo leapt over it without a rub and the pair broke the beam at 37.970 seconds with all the rails intact. The pair set a pace that no other horse and rider combinations would be able to catch, and eventually led the night’s victory gallop.

“I knew it was a tough field of riders behind me,” Spooner said. “When I go into jump-offs, I don’t like regrets. I wasn’t going to try to leave a lot on the table. I went out and went as fast as I felt I could, and focused on leaving the jumps up. I took a big risk to the wall; I got a bit lucky there. I was concerned a bit that my wheels would fall off going to the last combination there. I am sure Nick was quite optimistic that would happen as well, too. Cristallo held it together though, and really came through for me.”

Skelton was the last to challenge the short course with Carlo 273, and the speedy duo produced the only other fault-free round. They also managed to catch all the inside turns, and although they had a fast gallop through the end of the course, a slow start proved costly when they tripped the timers at 38.33 to place second.

“I didn’t really get the distance I wanted to the first fence, so I ended up having six strides to the vertical,” said Skelton. “Then, when I turned, Carlo just sort of stopped dead. I stood still for a split second, so I knew I was well down then. I knew from the rustic to the end of the course I was pretty quick. I thought if I got five to the second I probably wouldn’t have beat him anyway, and I probably wouldn’t have gone as hard then as I did. I was very pleased with Carlo anyway; he jumped very nicely this week.”

Margie Engle and Indigo, owned by Griese, Garber, Hidden Creek, and Gladewinds of Wellington, Fla., stepped into the Alltech Arena following Spooner. Their attempt at the first inside turn proved less successful as they lowered the height of the wide oxer. Engle then chose a more conservative pace and track for her mount, earning them a four-fault score in 46.71 seconds for the fifth place honors. The Netherland’s Harris Smolders and Exquis Oliver Q, owned by Axel Verlooy, were faster than Engle, but still conservative and also had a hard time after the first turn. The pair produced a four-fault effort in a time of 44.05 seconds for fourth. Young rider Jessica Springsteen of Colts Neck, NJ, had the fastest four-fault round after committing to the sharper turns with Cincinatti Le Silla. They had an error at the same oxer, but stopped the clock at 40.660 to garner the third place award. Springsteen was also the winner of the Leading Lady Rider Award presented by Martha Jolicoeur, while Skelton earned the Audi Leading Rider Award and a one-year lease of an Audi Q-7 for his efforts during the week.

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