Edited Press Release
The Rolling Acres pairing of Marylisa Leffler and Zaza Z would prove impossible to beat in Thursday’s Sarasota Winter Classic $10,000 Welcome Stake. In its first year of operations at the world-class TerraNova Equestrian Center, the newly-renamed Sarasota Winter Classic kicked off competition, and the show’s top jumper riders readied their mounts for the inaugural Welcome Stake Thursday afternoon. Defending champion Marylisa Leffler aboard Zaza Z (Zandor Z x Cocaine Z) left no room for error and ultimately claimed victory.
Eleven entries contested the first-round track, set by designer Bill Worthington, seven of which moved on to the jump-off course. Stephanie Gallucci produced the first double-clear ride of the competition, but it was top young competitor Hailey Royce who set the early lead aboard her veteran partner Sonic Boom (Seacoast Wonderful x Toulouse Van De Distelhoeve) after clocking in a little over a second faster than Gallucci 34.388 seconds.
Later in the order, the combination of 15-year-old Brooks Hull and Derek Petersen’s Zechariah 3:9 (Zirocco Blue x Karina) blazed ahead of the crowd, slipping in with a seemingly unbeatable jump-off time of 33.897 seconds. Leffler and Zaza Z were still left to navigate the shortened course and the opportunity was there. Having won both Welcome Stakes during last year’s event, she and the 12-year-old Warmblood mare were determined to produce another victory.
“I came here in March for the two Spring grand prixs, and I have begged everyone in our barn to come since,” Leffler commented. “This is her first class back after six weeks off, but she only has one speed which is forward.”
Leffler crossed the timers less than one-one hundredths of a second faster than Hull’s time. “I tried to be as fast as I could from fences one to two, knowing I would do the eight strides instead of the seven to make a better turn,” she commented. “Then I just went direct on the way home hoping I could beat the gray horse.”
Final Results: Sarasota Winter Classic $10,000 Welcome Stake
- ZAZA Z, Marylisa Leffler, Rolling Acres: 0/0/33.752
- ZECHARIAH 3:9, Brooks Hull, Derek Petersen: 0/0/33.897
- SONIC BOOM, Hailey Royce, Double Clear LLC.: 0/0/43.388
- BROKEN HEART, Stephanie Gallucci, Equine Partners International LLC.: 0/0/35.551
- CALLE 67, Stephanie Gallucci, Artemis Equestrian Farm, LLC.: 0/0/35.612
- MASTER CLINTON DVE, Allen Nabors, Dutch Valley Sporthorses: 0/0/37.080
- EASTPOINT JB, Hannah Egan, Hannah Egan: 0/0/37.151
- COLOURFUL S, Morgan Ward, Morlynn Farm: 0/4/32.254
- IRVINGTON VDL, Amanda Flint, Amanda Flint: 0/75.935
- HUDSON, Amanda Flint, Amanda Flint: 4/75.737
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