East Dorset, Vermont — For the second week in a row, Ireland’s Darragh Kenny stood in the winner’s circle after scoring back-to-back grand prix victories at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT. Having won the $30,000 Battenkill Grand Prix, Presented by Devoucoux, on Sunday, July 12, riding Palona, the 21-year-old rider hailing from County Offaly laid claimed to the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix, Presented by the Equinox Resort, on Sunday, July 19, with Obelix.
Added to his back-to-back victories in the $10,000 Betsey Johnson Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, on Friday, July 10, and the $10,000 Hickey Freeman & Bobby Jones Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, on Friday, July 17, Kenny has proven to be the rider to beat, and firmly put himself in contention for the $10,000 Sir Ruly Open Jumper High Score Award, which is given to the High Point Open Jumper rider at the conclusion of the six-week Vermont Summer Festival.
Putting the odds in his favor, Kenny entered four mounts in the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix and qualified all of them for the jump-off after successfully negotiating the first round course of 13 numbered elements and 16 jumping efforts.
Kirk Webby, 38, of New Zealand entered two horses in the feature event and, like Kenny, rode both to clear rounds. Between the two international riders, they had six of the nine horses that moved forward to the jump-off over the shortened track set by world renowned course designer and Olympic Gold Medalist Conrad Homfeld of Bridgehampton, NY. They were joined by Charles Jacobs of Weston, MA, and his Secret Love, Hillary Dobbs of Sussex, NJ, with Marengo, and Maria Schaub aboard Stedet’s Leroy.
First to return for the jump-off round was Schaub and Stedet’s Leroy, a 10-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by DK-USA Sporthorse, LLC. In their first Grand Prix outing, the pair incurred 12 faults in a time of 47.07 seconds to finish in ninth place.
Kenny galloped in to the ring on Gael Force and had a few problems on course. With two knock-downs and a time penalty for nine faults in total, they would finish eighth.
Dobbs and Marengo did not fare well either, as the bay gelding brought down two rails for a total of eight penalties in a time of 46.67 seconds, which landed them in seventh place overall.
Jacobs and Secret Love tried their luck but, again, two rails fell. Their competitive time of 44.01 seconds made them the fastest of the eight-faulters, putting them in sixth place.
Kenny and Palona, the winners of the $30,000 Battenkill Grand Prix one week earlier, entered the ring for their attempt and, right away, Kenny put on the speed. Unfortunately, speed was their downfall as the mare caught a rail for four faults in a time of 44.50.
With Kenny and New Zeland’s Kirk Webby still to come with two horses each, the jump-off became a battle of the international riders. Webby piloted Hennessy around the course to a clear round in a time of 48.23 seconds, which would place him fourth in the final standings. Webby also left all the rails in place with Cosmopolite S, but in a faster time of 46.81 seconds.
Bazooka de Muze would give Kenny a third place finish as the big bay was good over the fences but could only manage a time of 48.15 seconds.
Kenny was finally successful in catching Webby’s time in his fourth and final attempt. Riding Obelix, Kenny blazed around the course and crossed the timers more than three full seconds faster than Webby, in a time of 43.44 seconds.
“He is so brave and has such a big stride that you can push him”, said Kenny of the 13-year-old bay gelding. “What can I say? My horses make it easy.”
Obelix’s owners, Connie and Agatha D’Ambra of Trade Winds Farm, were on hand to congratulate Kenny and accept the crystal Otter Creek Cup, awarded to the winner of the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix.
“We are so proud of both of them,” said Connie D’Ambra of Rexford, NY. “I am so happy that we can give Darragh the ride on this horse. He was bought for my daughter, Agatha, but he doesn’t really suit her style of riding and Darragh rides him so well. I love the horse and he is going to help Darragh get his name out there. He is the future.”
That sentiment was echoed by Kenny’s fellow competitors who agree that he is a force to be reckoned with. One rider even went so far as to say that Kenny may be the best rider to ever come out of Ireland.
Each week at the Vermont Summer Festival, the caretaker of the winning horse is awarded a jacket and a director’s chair donated by Glenn Geary of Horse Watch in recognition of their part in the winning effort. This week, that honor was bestowed on Hector Rios.
“We are so happy that this show recognizes the contribution made by the grooms of these horses,” added Connie D’Ambra. “Hector has taken care of Obelix for six years and knows this horse better than anyone. For the show to recognize him as part of the winning team is so wonderful.”
The Vermont Summer Festival continues on July 22 with the fourth week of competition, the Valley Classic Horse Show, highlighted by the $30,000 Mount Equinox Grand Prix, Presented by Hand Motors, on Sunday, July 26.
Running through to August 9, 2009, 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 Otter Creek Grand Prix, presented by The Equinox Resort
|2||Kirk Webby||Cosmopolite S||New Zealand||0:0||46.812|
|3||Darragh Kenny||Bazooka de Muze||Ireland||0:0||48.156|
|4||Kirk Webby||Hennessey||New Zealand||0:0||48.232|
|6||Charles Jacobs||Secret Love||Weston, MA||0:8||4.012|
|7||Hillary Dobbs||Marengo||Sussex, NJ||0:8||46.67|
|8||Darragh Kenny||Gael Force||Ireland||0:9||52.388|
|9||Maria Schaub||Stedet’s Leroy||Rumson, NJ||0:12||47.072|
|10||Amanda Starbuck||Urika||Ridgefield, CT||1|