Myakka City, Florida, USA – Jan. 7, 2023 – The energy was high in the brisk morning air at the TerraNova Equestrian Center on Saturday as the event’s best donned their white breeches in preparation for the day’s premiere event. The featured class of the first week at the 2023 Sarasota Winter Classic, the $50,000 Grand Prix of Sarasota was highly anticipated.
Formerly known as the AIR Show Jumping Winter Classic, the two-week boutique series has found its new home at the state-of-the-art TerraNova Equestrian Center located in Myakka City, Florida, USA. The show is one of many set to be held at the brand new facility throughout the winter show season. Boasting both immaculate, exhibitor-friendly stabling and arenas, as well as endless open land and comfort luxuries for equines, the property encompasses the best of what equestrian sport has to offer. The inaugural grand prix kicked off at 11a.m. with spectators invited to view from a variety of lounge seating, purchase gourmet beverages at an open bar, or enjoy a full VIP experience complete with a deluxe catered brunch.
A total of 19 top horse-and-rider combinations from four different nations elected to contest the Bill Worthington and Dean Batiglia-designed track. Obstacles were set at the American standard and the track optimized the space in TerraNova’s Grand Prix Ring.
“It’s always a tough course to set in the first week of January because it is the first week of circuit and everyone is just getting warmed up,” explained Worthington. “Factoring in that it is early in the season, we try to make it a nice track for everyone, and make it inviting for those that come down here but also a little bit of a challenge.”
While there would be several clear rounds, a tidy time-allowed of 84 seconds kept a handful of contenders from advancing on to the short track. Ultimately, only four entries made up the returning jump-off lineup, and two of those clear rounds were provided by none other than Australian Olympian Scott Keach (AUS). To the crowd’s delight, the first combination to produce a solid first-round effort was also the first into the arena.
Fifteen-year-old Brooks Hull (USA), hailing from Ocala, Florida, USA, under the tutelage of Derek Petersen, was first on course and laid down the challenge for the remaining 18 entries as he and Petersen’s Zechariah 3:9 soared over all obstacles within an efficient 81.193 seconds.
Keach would produce the next fault-free effort aboard Kandor Farm, LLC’s Cencorinue PS and would also round out the four-entry jump-off with his ultimate winner, Wild Thing. Piloting Kaira VD Middelstede for Jaime Stryker, Kirk Webby (NZL) was the only other athlete able to make his way into the jump-off.
“Overall I was very happy with the result,” added Worthington. “Four clear out of the 19 starters gave us a nice 25% clean-round rate. I was pleased with how the horses jumped and the footing here is absolutely amazing. It’s a hot track with fast footing so they could really gallop across the floor and turn quickly.”
The four short-course entries did just that. Hull once again set the bar seemingly impossibly high, piloting the eight-year-old gelding (Zirocco Blue x Karina) full-speed over the track and leaving all rails in the cups for a final time of 41.913 seconds.
Keach was next to return with his first qualifying mount but would settle for the third-place position as they clocked in at 43.045 seconds.
“Honestly, when he went I thought for sure he’d win the class,” Keach admitted, referring to Hull’s second round. However, Keach hasn’t become a medal-winning Olympian by accident, and he knew he had one final chance to change the outcome.
“[My horse] felt good in the warm up, so I just kept rolling,” he stated. “The young fellow did nine strides to the last fence and he knew he should’ve done eight strides. When I saw that he had to wait for the nine, I knew I could do eight to the final fence; that was probably the determining difference between the two of us and one of the advantages of going last.”
The first week of competition for the 2023 Sarasota Winter Classic will wrap-up on Sunday, January 8, 2023. The day will feature a range of jumper classics and hunter championships. Top-level show jumping classes will pick up during the second week of the Sarasota Winter Classic.
Final Results – $50,000 Grand Prix of Sarasota
1) Scott Keach (AUS) & Wild Thing – 0 / 0 – 40.284
2) Brooks Hull (USA) & Zechariah 3:9 – 0 / 0 – 41.913
3) Scott Keach (AUS) & – Cencorinue PS – 0 / 0 – 43.045
Source: Press Release by Summer Grace / Flaxen Mane Media for Sarasota Winter Classic
Photos: © West Horse Shows /Eye Was Here Photography
Categories: USEF Rated