Alison Robitaille Rides to the Win in $50,000 Kentucky Summer Classic Grand Prix

By Rebecca Walton for Phelps Media Group

Lexington, KY – August 1, 2015 – Alison Robitaille has traveled to the Olympics as a first alternate, competed at the World Equestrian Games and won team silver at the Pan American Games, but in recent years, as she busily brings along young horses and two young children of her own, she has been continually knocking on the door of a grand prix win. On Saturday night at the Kentucky Horse Park she knocked the door all the way down and rode away with an impressive victory in the $50,000 Kentucky Summer Classic Grand Prix, sponsored by GGT Footing.

“I’m really so excited. It’s been a long time since I’ve won a grand prix,” Robitaille said. “I’m so proud of my horse. I got her at the end of her 7-year-old year and sort of stepped her up into the grand prix. I’m just really proud of her.”

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Alison Robitaille and Cassinja. Photo by Emily Riden/PhelpsSports.com

The mare that Robitaille speaks of his Cassinja, a 10-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Robitaille’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone. The pair of Robitaille and Cassinja was the ninth in the field of 41 to try their hand at the Florencio Hernandez-designed course set in Rolex Stadium, and they were the first to execute it without fault.

At the conclusion of the first round, six more combinations would join them on the clear list, advancing seven total on to the jump-off. As the first clear, Robitaille was also the first to return, and she laid it down again, finishing faultless with a time of 55.339 seconds.

“I was thinking going in, ‘it’s a long jump-off.’ So I wanted to put some pressure, but I wanted to really make sure that I was clean,” Robitaille said.

While Robitaille’s time seemed like it could be beatable, her strategy greatly paid off in the end.

Lucas Porter and Sleepy P Ranch’s Doma Sue returned next, finishing on five faults in a time of 58.633 seconds, which would end up being good enough for fourth as the next two to return did not fair quite as well.

Both Scott Lenkart, on Fleur De Lis Farms’ Ziezo, and Blythe Marano, on Riverview Farm’s Quabelle, fell victims to refusals on course. Ziezo’s refusal would result in a finish effort of 10 faults in a time of 63.834 seconds for he and Lenkart; Marano and Quabelle would be eliminated from the jump-off after Quabelle stopped twice at the fourth fence of the short course.

Sharn Wordley and Barnetta, owned by the Sky Group, came next, finishing clear but on two time faults after electing to take a slightly longer route to the last fence, finishing on a time of 59.259 seconds.

Wilton Porter and Paloubet, owned by Sleepy P Ranch, followed Wordley, but the refusal bug would strike for a third time in the jump-off phase, resulting in Wilton electing to retire and finish tied for sixth with Marano.

From there the final chance to topple Robitaille’s time was in Juan Ortiz’s hands with Dulien Van De Smeets, owned by Synchronicity Group. It looked like Ortiz had it all the way to the end, but as he tripped the timers the scoreboard flashed 53.38 seconds – just tenths off of Robitaille’s winning time.

“By nature, she’s not the fastest horse,” Ortiz said of Dulien Van De Smeets. “She’s a very scopey, powerful horse. Her advantage is to jump big classes with clean rounds, which is where other horses struggle. Going against a horse like Alison’s, which is a little smaller and lighter on his feet, I had to make too many efforts, and there were not really a lot of places for me to eat strides.”

Ortiz just acquired the ride on Dulien Van De Smeets this summer after getting a call from McLain Ward.

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Juan Ortiz and Dulien Van De Smeets. Photo by Emily Riden/PhelpsSports.com

“There was a chance to go to Pan Am Games. So, my friend McLain, one of my best friends in the world, calls me on the phone and says, ‘Juan, I have the horse for you to go to Pan Ams,'” Ortiz explained. “I called the person in charge of the group, and said, ‘McLain just called and said he has the horse for us to go to Pan Ams.’ They said, ‘well, Pan Ams are in two months, and you haven’t ridden the thing.’ I said, ‘well, I trust him.’ My partner believed in me, and McLain thought that it was the right horse for me, so I jogged the mare, jumped the first class, and in the first grand prix I jumped double clear. Since then, we’ve only jumped one grand prix that I haven’t jumped double clear. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”

While Dulien Van De Smeets is a new mount for Ortiz, the winning partnership of Robitaille and Cassinja is one that has been three years in the making, and Robitaille was thrilled with the mare’s quick jump-off performance on Saturday night.

“She’s always been very brave and basically rideable. It’s just been a little bit of a process learning how to go fast on her,” Robitaille explained. “In the beginning, when I went to go fast, she thought that she was in trouble. She would be more looking back at me and worried. Now, in the last year, she’s really picked up on it and is so much more with me. I feel like she gets it more in the jump-off now. It’s really fun. It’s a fun part of bringing young horses along – to feel it come together.”

Robitaille continued, “I have to say a huge thank you to my parents. They’ve been supporting me for such a long time. And I’m so lucky to have my whole team and Efrain Vega who takes care of Cassinja. The whole team is really fantastic.”

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Alison Robitaille and Cassinja. Photo by Emily Riden/PhelpsSports.com

Robitaille’s team will head next to HITS Saugerties, after enjoying their past two weeks at the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows.

“I love coming to Kentucky. We’ve been coming probably for 20 years,” Robitaille said. “It’s wonderful to be here and to get to ride out in the fields. We love the footing here. The horses seem to get better after being here for a couple of weeks, rather than feeling like they’re sore and want to go home.”

Sunday marks the conclusion of the Kentucky Summer Classic, and the jumper competition continues in the Rolex Stadium with the NAL/WIHS Child and Adult Jumper Classics beginning at 8 a.m.

Class : 651    KENTUCKY SUMMER GRAND PRIX II sec 2a Results
Pl  Nbr  Horse           Rider                     Faults    Time      Faults    Time
1   296 CASSINJA        ALISON ROBITAILLE                  86.478              53.339
2   1947DULIEN VAN DE SMJUAN ORTIZ                         86.468              53.582
3   1889BARNETTA        SHARN WORDLEY                      86.011       2      59.259
4   50  DOMA SUE        LUCAS PORTER                       88.874       5      58.633
5   1080ZIEZO           SCOTT LENKART                      86.928      10      63.834
6   266 QUABELLE        BLYTHE MARANO                      87.271                  EL
6   49  PALOUBET        WILTON PORTER                      81.798                  RT
8   696 REBECA LS       BRIANNE GOUTAL               4     84.870

Blue for David Beisel and Lavish in $5,000 USHJA Hallway Feeds National Hunter Derby

Every now and then, Lavish wanders out of semi-retirement to play around in hunter derbies with rider David Beisel. On Saturday morning, Beisel taught a few lessons, loaded up the old pro and headed to the Kentucky Horse Park to compete in the $5,000 USHJA Hallway Feeds National Hunter Derby at the Kentucky Summer Classic on Saturday afternoon.

Despite their casual arrival, Beisel and Lavish came prepared to win, turning in an impressive first round over the Bobby Murphy-designed course to earn a score of 85, including the four extra points for taking all of the high options. With their spot high in the top 12 secured, Beisel watched the handy round from the sidelines, developing his strategy all the while.

“The name of the class is handy,” Beisel said.  “I kept watching the other riders, and even as they turned inside from the Hallway Feeds jump back to the oxer, it seemed to take forever. I started seeing different ways to cut it down and make it a little handier. I checked with the owners, and I said, ‘I’ve got something different in mind. I think it’s super, super handy, and if I can pull it off, I can get some extra points.'”

And pull it off he did. Beisel executed a tight rollback to the aforementioned oxer – only one of two riders to attempt to cut down the turn and take the oxer at a sharp angle.

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David Beisel and Lavish manuever a slick turn in the handy round to take the win. Photo by Lauren Baker/Phelps Media Group.

“For me, it was pretty risky,” Beisel said of his turn. “The oxer in the middle was really hard to jump; you had to catch it on a big angle, which made it quite a wide jump with the brush in front. It didn’t leave much room for air afterward.”

Beisel’s decision paid off, and the judges rewarded the duo with the highest handy round score of 92 for a combined total of 177 points, which would hold out to earn Beisel and Lavish the blue ribbon.

“He did it beautifully,” Beisel said of Lavish. “He loves his job.”

Hot on Beisel’s heels were last week’s derby winners, Molly Sewell and EL Raymond. In the classic round, the duo outscored the field by earning an 88, including the four extra points for taking the high options.

“EL Raymond went absolutely beautifully in the first round,” Sewell said. “The course was nice and flowing; he jumped beautifully, no rubs; he was perfect.”

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David Beisel and Lavish. Photo by Lauren Baker/Phelps Media Group.

The pair was last to go in the handy and missed seeing Beisel’s slick rollback while schooling in the warm-up ring.

“That move did not even cross my mind,” Sewell laughed. “Everyone was like, ‘oh my God,’ and I’m about to walk into the ring like, ‘what did [David] do?’ Bill [Schaub] said, ‘don’t change your plan. Do not change your plan.'”

A minor rub at the first fence would prove to be the round’s only blemish for a score of 86, including the four high-option points. A total score of 174 would secure second place for EL Raymond and Sewell.

Owner Leslie Campbell looked on proudly from the sidelines, saying, “EL Raymond is everything that’s great about this sport. He’s taught so many juniors, and now he has the best ride of his life, Molly, his forever rider now.”

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Molly Sewell and EL Raymond. Photo by Lauren Baker/Phelps Media Group.

Rounding out the top five were third-pace finishers Virginia Ingram and Comanche, whose scores of 84 and 87 combined to a total of 171. In fourth place were Renee Lenkart and Cayman with a 169.5, while last week’s second-place finishers, Lilly French and Candor, took home fifth with a score of 165.75.

The hunter divisions at the Kentucky Summer Classic will wrap up Sunday with the presentation of the Visse Wedell-sponsored grand championship, which will be awarded to the amateur or junior rider who scored the most points.

For more information about the Kentucky Summer Horse Show series, please visitwww.kentuckyhorseshows.com.

$5,000 USHJA Hallway Feeds National Hunter Derby Results 

1    2035    LAVISH     DAVID BEISEL     85.010    92.000    177.010

2    369    EL RAYMOND     MOLLY SEWELL     88.000    86.000    174.000
3    271    COMANCHE     VIRGINIA INGRAM     84.000    87.000    171.000
4    1732    CAYMAN     RENEE LENKART     85.000    84.500    169.500
5    1487    CANDOR     LILLY FRENCH     83.250    82.500    165.750
6    274    JET BLACK     VIRGINIA INGRAM     83.000    81.000    164.000
7    1453    FRIEND REQUEST     HELEN VOSS     80.000    83.000    163.000
8    504    ONE HUNDRED AND ONE     MORGAN MANN     81.000    80.000    161.000