Summer Grace / Flaxen Mane Media
for the Sarasota Winter Classic
Jan. 12, 2024 – Myakka City, FL – The final week of the 2024 Sarasota Winter Classic saw weekend competition begin with a bang as some of showjumping’s best pairs prepared for the Friday afternoon $35,000 Grand Prix of Sarasota. Commemorating its fifth anniversary, the series delivers an unparalleled experience for both spectator and exhibitor. It boasts a wide variety of top-tier hunter, jumper, and equitation divisions without sacrificing the luxuries of a boutique event. Now paired with TerraNova Equestrian Center, the event has once again raised the bar in horse show experience with immaculate and elegant accommodations for both horse and rider. With the addition of the exhibitor welcome party taking place in the VIP pavilion, the venue was packed as the countdown began for the pinnacle event. As the final to qualify in the first phase and the final to take on the challenge of the short course, Samuel Parot (CHI) piloted Tiffany de Olid to a blazing fast victory.
Fourteen entries elected to contest Mauricio Garcia’s (PUR) first-round track with several world-class athletes, including Parot and David Jennings (USA), producing multiple mounts to vie for the prize. Garcia’s track was an accurate challenge for its riders and advanced only four members of the starting field on to the jump-off. Week one winners Marylisa Leffler (USA) and Za Za Z were the first to produce a clear round halfway through the class’s completion, but Kylie Clarkson (USA) and ESH Diamantino quickly followed up with another faultless effort. Two more clean jumping efforts would come from the likes of Canada’s Stephanie Gallucci and, of course, Parot. Leffler appeared to have the class’s short course in the bag after another flawless effort where Clarkson and Gallucci had errors. However, after ending his week in second behind Leffler during week one, Parot put his best foot forward with his newly-acquired 12-year-old Selle Francais mare (Huppydam Des Horts), and it was enough.
“This mare is very fast,” Parot detailed of his almost-three second lead. “I saw the first horse go and she was very fast but between fences one and two she did eight strides and I did seven strides. I think I turned a little closer to the combination, and then for the last line I did six strides where she did seven. That’s really where I think I had it.”
Parot has had previous luck at this very venue and hopes to continue his winning ways into the end of the month.
“My idea was to come jump here with this horse this week, and then take a week off and come back for the two-star grand prix at the end of the month,” he stated, referring to the upcoming Split Rock Sarasota event. “We won it last year so I figured we might as well try again. The horses jump very well here and the horses are happy. Most importantly, the atmosphere is good which is very important for the horses.”
As the only other duo to leave the ring without penalty, Leffler and the Rolling Acres LLC’s 14-year-old Zangersheide mare (Zandor Z) earned the red ribbon for their efforts. Gallucci and Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC’s 15-year-old Westphalian gelding (Carell), Calle 67, held the final position in the afternoon’s victory gallop as the third-best finish.
Déjà Vu for Alfano in the $5,000 Estates at TerraNova USHJA National Hunter Derby
The $5,000 Estates at TerraNova USHJA National Hunter Derby saw just over a dozen pairings don their shiniest boots and shadbellies in hopes of taking the top call in Friday morning’s competition at TerraNova Equestrian Center. As was the case in last week’s derby event, Next Chapter LLC’s Jennifer Alfano wasted no time overtaking the prime position. As the second to show, Alfano shot right to the top with a round one score of 91.00 points aboard her previous winning mount, Pendleton. It was a moment of déjà vu for Alfano as she proceeded to the handy round in the pinnacle position with Kathy Chiaf’s nine-year-old Warmblood gelding (Thunder vd Zuuthoeve) well-ahead of any opposing competition. The pair saved the best for last yet again as Pendleton displayed perfect form over the Paul Jewell-designed track to incur another 91.00 point score and skyrocket well out of reach for the blue ribbon.
“This series is our first show of the season because the horses get December off,” Alfano explained. “So he’s pretty fresh starting off the new year, but really he’s just a good horse and he’s one you can always count on.”
Whether competing in the amateurs with his owner or in top derby form with Alfano, the gelding is well-known as the barn’s go-to guy.
“He’s just a horse that everybody likes; he jumps in great style, and looks through the bridle really nicely, and people just love him,” she affirmed. “After watching a few others go today, I decided to not do one or two of the inside turns that I thought I was going to have to do. Instead I just decided to keep it smooth and have a nice round. He is naturally pretty handy so we don’t work on that much, but we do practice the trot jumps and he was very good about that today.”
Doing her best under pressure, Alfano piloted her second mount, Chiaf’s eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Cabardino N) Southside of Heaven, up from the tied third-place position once again into the reserve title by producing the second-highest handy score of 82.00 points for a total of 166.00 points. Isaac Leffkowitz earned the second-highest score of 85.00 points in round one and paired it with a score of 78.00 in the handy phase to round out the top three aboard Emily Mitzel’s eight-year-old Warmblood mare (Cavalo Z), Basil Hayden, after earning an overall score of 163.00 points.
Included in the derby was a $2,500 Junior-Amatuer Bonus Prize as part of the series’ increased emphasis on non-professional athletes in the sport. Sarasota’s own Laurie Birnbach took the top call of the junior-amateur section aboard her own Va Bien Z with an overall score of 157.00 points.
Over in Hunter 2, Leila Hinshaw and Boca’s Pop Star took the tricolor ribbon in the $500 USHJA Outreach 2’6” Hunter Derby with a two-round total of 162.00 points Hinshaw and the Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC’s 13-year-old Welsh mare (Popeye K) earned a classic round score of 80.00 and a handy round score of 82.00 to take the top call.
Hunter, jumper, and equitation competition at the final week of the 2024 Sarasota Winter Classic will resume on Saturday, January 13 with highlights including the $15,000 Leibold NAL Med/High Junior-Amateur Classic and a catered VIP luncheon. For a full list of results, please visit www.showmanagementsystem.com.