East Dorset, Vermont — Annabel Benito of Westfield, NJ, scored victory on Thursday, July 2, by winning the 1.20m jumper competition at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT.
Benito successfully cleared the first round track set by FEI course designer Michel Vaillancourt of Canada, who won the Individual Silver Medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. Advancing to the shortened jump-off course, Benito was the final challenger and knew exactly what she had to do to claim victory. Leaving all the rails in place and stopping the clock in a time of 40.06 seconds, Benito’s plan worked perfectly to claim the win riding VDL Las Vegas.
“It was wet out there, and I tried to gallop in between the jumps,” said Benito, 26, assessing the jump-off course. “There were not a lot of inside turns, so I tried to make up time in between the fences.”
Benito has been riding VDL Las Vegas, an eight-year-old grey mare, for the past two months, and described her by saying, “She’s the biggest sugar pie. She’s a pet; she would crawl into your lap if she could. She likes carrots, but she does not like apples and she spits out mints.”
This year marks Benito’s fifth year competing at the Vermont Summer Festival.
“The horse show is great, it has good footing, and a lot of different divisions offered,” she said. “I love the scenery, and the town is great. There are a lot of different restaurants, good shopping, and the area offers a lot of stuff to do besides the horse show. The Bromley Sun Mountain Adventure Park is great for clients that come with their kids.”
With Benito taking top spot, Emily Pope of Goldens Bridge, NY, settled for second with Seize the Moment, her 13-year-old chestnut thoroughbred mare. Jordan Santi of Alpharetta, GA, placed third after incurring four faults in the jump-off with Insigna II while Kirsten Coe and her grey gelding, RSVP, were eliminated in the jump-off following two refusals.
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.
The first five Sundays at the Vermont Summer Festival feature a $30,000 Grand Prix, culminating with the $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix on Sunday, August 9. The $10,000 Open Welcome Stake, presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, held each Friday is also a popular spectator event. The Vermont Summer Festival operates daily from Wednesday through Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m. and running until approximately 4 p.m. every day.