Devon, Pa. - June 3, 2016 -
Friday night at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair was all about speed, and only one athlete had all the answers during the $25,000 Open Jumper Devon Speed Challenge sponsored by the World Equestrian Center. Haley Gassel and Quite Dark 2 were the only duo able to master the speed track and leave all the fences intact to capture the winning prize.
"This is unbelievable," the young rider said, smiling. "People dream of just coming to Devon, and people dream of just getting a Devon blue. For me, to win a grand prix at Devon, it boggles my mind. That wasn't even in my wildest dreams!"
|Haley Gassel and Quite Dark 2
Kelvin Bywater designed a very technical course for the 1.40m faults converted speed class. Featuring multiple inside options and areas to make up time, competitors had to carefully navigate the course to have the fastest time, while also leaving the obstacles intact.
Three athletes secured Gassel's time, but it came at the expense of rails coming down. The first was Laura Chapot with ISHD Dual Star, who would claim fourth place with a time of 67.607 seconds after the added fault conversion. She was only 2/1000ths of a second slower than Great Britain's Amanda Derbyshire aboard Goldbreaker, who clocked a time of 67.605 seconds for third place. The only other rider with a better time was newly minted Longines FEI World Ranked Number One Rider, McLain Ward. It looked like he had the ride of the night on HH Best Buy, and while they were faster than Gassel across the ring, the faults added to their time would mean they broke the beam at 67.279 seconds for second place.
Gassel had both the speed and the accuracy with Quite Dark 2 that it took to win the Friday night highlight event. The pair left all the fences intact as they dashed across the finish line in 65.500 seconds for the Devon blue ribbon, as well as bragging rights over Ward.
|McLain Ward and HH Best Buy
"That is unbelievable," expressed Gassel about her victory over the world's best. "That will never happen again, that is a bucket list right there! He was really nice about it, though. He put in a really good round and it just wasn't in his favor tonight."
This is only Gassel's second year competing at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, and it's her first year competing in the Open Jumpers with Quite Dark 2, who she has been riding for three years.
"It was a really fun course," said Gassel. "That course fit my horse to a T. He is really great at the spin back turns. He's massive, he's 17.3 hands, so for him to be able to do those spin back turns is unreal. When I first got him, everyone said he's too big, he'll never be able to go fast, spin fast, he'll never be able to win like that and he's proved all of them wrong."
|Haley Gassel and Quite Dark 2
Gassel continued, "Our relationship has developed so much. He trusts me, I trust him. He's just gotten better, faster, stronger. I do my best to try to keep him the best shape possible so he can jump tonight and jump tomorrow. He's been a great horse."
Earlier in the afternoon, the Amateur Owner Jumpers took center stage in the Dixon Oval where it was Jacob Pope that rode away with the top prize aboard Zilvana. Reid Patton set the pace to beat as the first to show over the short course with Twisther, clearing all the fences in a time of 33.592, which would be good enough for second place. Pope and Zilvana were the next pair to be faultless over the jump-off, and by leaving strides out and taking the inside turns they narrowly edged out Patton with a time of 32.291 seconds. Caitlin Hope rounded out the top three aboard Total Touch, producing a double clear effort in 34.106 seconds.
|Jacob Pope and Zilvana
"Zilvana is a really fast horse, she's small, and she's careful, so I am not worried about having to steady her," explained Pope "She's really fast and I knew that we would be quick and smooth. I went inside everywhere else. She was clear and great."
Earlier in the day, Pope placed second in the first Amateur Owner Jumper event, which kicked off the day's competition. The victory in the speed competition belonged to Christina Firestone on Arwen, while Anna Cardelfe and Dollar Van'T Eigenlo DH rounded out the top three.
|Christina Firestone and Arwen
"Our goal for this year was Devon, so I am really happy with how it's gone so far," smiled Pope, a senior at Rollins College. "Zilvana is a really sensitive mare, which I grew up riding. I just let her do her thing!"
The Amateur Owner Jumpers will compete on Saturday afternoon in the $20,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur Owner Jumper Classic as they try and earn the division's championship title and the Leading Amateur Owner Jumper Award. The final show jumping event will be the $50,000 Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake, sponsored by Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar.
The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is the longest running and largest outdoor multi-breed competition in the United States. With the grandeur of Philadelphia's prestigious Main Line setting the stage, the event features a world-class field that annually ranks among the most prominent internationally. The event also includes the Country Fair that offers world-class shopping, rides and games for kids, multiple dining options and special entertainment events.
For more information about the Devon Horse Show please visit www.DevonHorseShow.net
.RESULTS: $25,000 Devon Speed Challenge
1 52 Quite Dark 2 Haley Gassel 0 0 0 65.500
2 93 HH BEST BUY MCLAIN WARD 0 0 0 67.278
3 99 GOLDBREAKER AMANDA DERBYSHIRE 0 0 0 67.605
4 9 ISHD DUAL STAR LAURA CHAPOT 0 0 67.607
5 47 ARTEMIS ALI WOLFF 0 0 0 72.196
6 80 GUNNER MELISSA RUDERSHAUSEN 0 0 73.344
7 72 CARIATIDE KEVIN BABINGTON 0 0 0 74.324
8 89 CASH JIMMY TORANO 0 0 0 75.134Class 211 $3,750 Amateur Owner Jumpers
1 1065 ZILVANA JACOB POPE 0 0 0 62.884 0 0 0 32.291
2 879 TWISTHER REID PATTON 0 0 0 65.130 0 0 0 33.592
3 873 TOTAL TOUCH CAITLIN HOPE 0 0 0 63.549 0 0 0 34.106
4 297 MALOU LAUREN WARD 0 0 0 64.514 0 0 0 35.083
5 473 LASPARI ADRIENNE MARCIANO 0 0 0 63.767 0 0 0 37.665
6 613 FAEMES VAN T POELZELHOF CALLIE SEAMAN 0 0 0 64.021 4 0 4 32.702
7 171 PERFECT DE COQUERIE AILISH CUNNIFFE 0 0 0 62.486 4 0 4 35.429
8 944 BARITCHOU DBT CLOE HYMOWITZ 0 0 0 62.898 4 0 4 36.06