East Dorset, Vermont — Hillary Dobbs of Sussex, NJ, and her mount, Marengo, won the $30,000 Manchester & The Mountains Grand Prix, Presented by The Inn At Willow Pond, on Sunday, August 2, to conclude week five of the six-week Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT.
A total of 24 horses vied for the prize money, competing over a course of 16 jumping efforts set by course designer Jamie Alder of Collierville, TN. The double combination of 10ab, a square oxer to an airy wall vertical, was the major question on the course, eliminating the first rider on course with a refusal and a fall before coming down an additional five times. In the end, eight horse and rider combinations made it through to the jump-off with Dobbs and Marengo leading the way.
Before the jump-off began, Grand Prix veteran Jimmy Torano predicted that, “If Hillary goes clean on this horse, nobody is going to catch her.”
Dobbs went into the ring and, after leaving all the jumps in place in a time of 32.93 seconds, set the time to beat.
Mary Lisa Leffler of Brookeville, MD, was the next to try her luck with Rolling Acres’ Gerona 92. The big grey mare jumped all the fences with room to spare, but could not cover the ground with enough speed to catch Dobbs. They turned in a clean round in a time of 36.74 seconds to eventually take third place.
“She was a little dull yesterday so we changed our routine a bit,” said Leffler. “She was my horse again. If we go clean I know that I just have to keep the jumps up. I know that there are certain courses that I can go fast and keep up with the pack, but if I have to do rollbacks, it’s just too hard for her to do it. She has been so good this year. This was great. There’s nothing wrong with being third to Hillary and Jimmy.”
Winner of the $30,000 Battenkill Grand Prix, Presented by Devoucoux, on Sunday, July 12, riding Palona as well as the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix, Presented by the Equinox Resort, one week later with Obelix, Ireland’s Darragh Kenny was looking to make it three for three. The 21-year-old, who hails from County Offaly, geared up for another win but after Obelix dropped two rails and crossed the timers in 35.11 seconds, seventh place was the best he could muster. Despite not winning, Kenny continues to comfortably lead the $10,000 Sir Ruly Inc. Open Jumper High Score standings which sees bonus money paid to the top riders at the end of the six-week circuit.
Janice Syphers of Gwynedd Valley, PA, is usually seen competing in the Amateur-Owner divisions where she is very successful. The 18-year-old decided to try her luck in the Open division with Cover Girl and, despite a little misdirection in the first round, managed to make it to the jump-off. Over the shortened course, Syphers played it safe and stayed with her plan to earn a sixth place ribbon after she and Cover Girl had one rail down in a conservative time of 37.26 seconds.
Hugh Mutch, riding out of Paradysz Farm in Mill Neck, NY, qualified PF Twister II for the jump-off with mixed results. Two rails down for a score of eight faults in a time of 36.97 seconds placed him eighth.
“He is really green,” said Mutch. “I was showing him in the schooling jumpers in Florida, so he has come a long way. He is a great jumper but we have a few things to work out. Today I just turned him a little tight and did not get the response I was looking for. With more time he is going to be good.”
Dobbs also qualified Corlett for the jump-off but could not better her first performance. The turn to the second fence was a bit off and set the tone for the next fence where they had a rail down. The pair finished the course in a time of 34.47 seconds with four faults, placing them fourth.
Irish Olympian Kevin Babington galloped into the ring for the jump-off on Coronett 2 with every intention of pushing for the win. The big grey jumped like a champion, but an unlucky rail down and a slow time of 35.31 seconds left them in fifth place.
The final challenger in the jump-off was Torano of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, riding Heechhiem’s Tampa. Torano is always a threat, but the gangly Heechhiem’s Tampa could not come close to the time of 32.93 seconds posted by Dobbs. Leaving all the fences intact, Torano crossed through the timers almost three seconds slower, in 35.86 seconds, to take second place.
“Marengo is so good,” Dobbs said as she stood clutching her taped up hand, which she injured on Saturday in the schooling area. “I always know that if I give him a good ride, I’m all set. Now I think I am going to get myself taken care of – this hand is starting to throb a bit. My dad always tells me that I need to take care of myself, but the horses come first. Now that they are all set, I will do what he tells me.”
Before the start of the Grand Prix, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas was on had to present the ribbons to the lead-line competitors.
The Vermont Summer Festival continues with the final week of competition, the Vermont Summer Celebration, culminating in the $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix on Sunday, August 9, 2009, the final day of competition.
The six-week Vermont Summer Festival is the largest “AA” rated hunter/jumper horse show in New England, as well as the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont, offering more than $750,000 in prize money. Visit our website for more information on the 2009 Vermont Summer Festival, e-mail or call (802) 362-9023.
$30,000 Manchester & The Mountains Grand Prix, Presented by the Inn at Willow Pond
|1||Hillary Dobbs||Sussex, NJ||Marengo||0:0||32.933|
|2||Jimmy Torano||Ft. Lauderdale, FL||Heechiem’s Tampa||0:0||35.866|
|3||Mary Lisa Leffler||Brookeville, MD||Gerona 92||0:0||36.748|
|4||Hillary Dobbs||Sussex, NJ||Corlett||0:4||34.479|
|5||Kevin Babington||Ireland||Coronett 2||0:4||35.311|
|6||Janice Syphers||Gwynedd Valley, PA||Cover Girl||0:4||37.268|
|8||Hugh Mutch||Mill Neck, NY||PF Twister II||0:8||36.973|
|9||Sloane Coles||The Plains, VA||Louisiana||4|
|10||Kevin Babington||Ireland||Capone 21||4|
|11||Hillary Dobbs||Sussex, NJ||Marlo||4|
|12||Kristy McCormack||Cape May Courthouse, NJ||Perle JRF||4|