Edited Press Release
The energy was high in the brisk morning air at TerraNova Equestrian Center Saturday as the event’s best donned their white breeches in preparation for the day’s premier event, the $50,000 Grand Prix of Sarasota. The inaugural grand prix of the 2023 Sarasota Winter Classic kicked off at 11 a.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. Scott Keach (AUS) and Wild Thing (Caraca x Wild Oats) wowed the crowd and stood atop the podium.
Nineteen top horse-and-rider combinations from four 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 jumping efforts, 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.
To the crowd’s delight, the first combination to produce a solid first-round effort was the first into the arena. Fifteen-year-old Brooks Hull (USA), hailing from Ocala, FL 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 (Zirocco Blue x Karina) jumped clear in an efficient 81.193 seconds. Keach would produce the next fault-free effort aboard Kandor Farm, LLC’s Cencorinue PS (Centadel x Chacarina) and also rounded out the four-entry jump-off with the ultimate winner, Wild Thing. Piloting Kaira VD Middelstede (Chopin Van Het Moleneind x Finese vd Middlestede) for Jaime Stryker, Kirk Webby (NZL) was the only other combination able to make his way into the jump-off.
“Overall, I was very happy with the result,” Worthington said. “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 8-year-old gelding Zechariah 3:9 full-speed over the track 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 stopped the timers 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 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.”
Final Results: Sarasota Winter Classic $50,000 Grand Prix of Sarasota
- WILD THING, Scott Keach, Scott Keach: 0/0/40.284
- ZECHARIAH 3:9, Brooks Hull, Derek Petersen: 0/0/41.913
- CENCORINUE PS, Scott Keach, Kandor Farm LLC: 0/0/43.045
- KAIRA VD MIDDELSTEDE, Kirk Webby, Jamie Stryker: 0/4/45.2
- COLOURFUL S, Morgan Ward, Morlynn Farm: 3/86.120
- MASTER CLINTON DVE, Allen Nabors, Dutch Valley Sporthorses: 4/78.097
- CALLE 67, Stephanie Gallucci, Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC: 4/78.244
- ZAZA Z, Marylisa Leffler, Rolling Acres: 4/78.589
- JIRAN R, Morgan Ward, Wolver Hollow: 4/79.043
- HURBINE, Kyle Dewar, Kyle Dewar: 4/82.077
Click here for a full list of results from the $50,000 Grand Prix of Sarasota.
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