Owen Gajoch Tops $5,000 Kevin Babington Benefit Classic at Silver Oak Jumper Tournament

Owen Gajoch and Katmandu L. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Edited Press Release

Juniors, amateurs, and professionals alike all shared a common goal Saturday morning of supporting Kevin Babington and his recovery after his tragic fall that took place almost exactly three years ago. A diverse field of athletes, covering a wide variety of age groups, from the United States and Kevin’s home nation of Ireland took to the $5,000 1.25m Kevin Babington Benefit Classic, with a track set by Olaf Petersen, Jr. In the jump-off format class, eight pairs jumped clear rounds, but it was amateur rider Owen Gajoch aboard Katmandu L who beat out professionals to stand atop the podium as the class came to a close.

Jeff Papows, Chairman and CEO of the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament, watched the class unfold and stayed in close touch with Kevin as the action came to a head. “The interesting thing about this is that Kevin is still obsessively involved in the sport,” Papows remarked. “He was texting me through the whole class. It just warms my heart to do this in Kevin’s name and it’s so very important to him. I’m so grateful for all the riders. It’s fantastic for Kevin and for the sport.”

Owen Gajoch topped the podium in the $5,000 Kevin Babington Benefit Classic. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Gajoch has thrived in the hunter and jumper rings all summer and winning this class was the cherry on top of an incredible season for the young amateur rider. “It’s just a great cause, and a great inspiration, and honor to be able to ride in this class,” he shared. “I was able to go out and ride my favorite horse I’ve ever sat on. I got very lucky at the last jump in the first round. I hit the rail really hard but it all worked out. Keep on fighting as hard as you can, Kevin, and being an inspiration to everyone around you.”

Owen Gajoch and Katmandu L in their winning presentation, alongside Michelle Friend (left), Dr. Woodrow Friend (center), and Jeff Papows (right), Chairman and CEO of the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Coming just behind in second to Gajoch was Kelly Soleau-Millar aboard the Millar Equine Sales entry Favoriet U. “It’s a wonderful tribute and such a great cause to help Kevin,” Soleau-Millar commented. “I’ve known Kevin since I was very young and watched him through the ranks. I always aspired to be like him.I’ll do anything to support them. It was wonderful. I have to thank my horse; I did my best to go as fast as I could but knowing he helped me in the first round I had to be a little more cautious than normal. I’m so happy for [Owen].”

In third place, aboard a just six-year-old was Lisa Goldman-Smolen, who has shown an incredible performance in the jumper ring over the past two weeks in Traverse City. With Adeline Rohrbach’s Shamroc, Goldman-Smolen captured the third quickest double-clear effort.

“Kevin has been a hero of mine since I was a little kid,” Goldman-Smolen remarked. “My first grand prix horse I was ever double clear on came from him. He used to come to our farm every year to do a clinic with us. He still texts me all the time. Anything I can do to honor and support him I will always do. It was awesome to go in there and jump double clear and jump the wall. It was fun.”

Final Results: $5,000 1.25m Kevin Babington Benefit Classic

1. Katmandu L / Owen Gajoch / Owen Gajoch / 0/0/38.797
2. Favoriet U / Kelly Soleau-Millar / Millar Equine Sales LLC / 0/0/38.928
3. Shamroc / Lisa Goldman-Smolen / Adeline Rohrbach / 0/0/40.081
4. Bellissimo Z / Shane Sweetnam / Ashley Vogel / 0/0/42.409
5. My Lady Stakkata / Elizabeth Porath / Elizabeth Porath / 0/4/40.898
6. Rammstein / Jasmine Talley / Rocking Basilisk Farm LLC / 0/4/42.132
7. Pippa Blue / Samantha Gajoch / Michelle Gajoch / 0/10/54.679
8. Palano ABF / Taylor Flury / Aliboo Farm Inc. / 0/EL
9. Mufasa / Olivia Broder / Stellium Sport Horses LLC / 1/78.567
10. Cobolt / Olivia Sweetnam / Sweet Oak Farm / 4/73.473
11. Call Me Baloubet / Filippo Pignatti / Take The High Road LLC / 4/75.068
12. MWJ’s Dodicci / Dan Geaney / Sweet Oak Farm / 4/77.949