Wayne, IL – July 31, 2013 – The top horses and riders from across the country returned to the Lamplight Equestrian Center for Equifest II. The first day of competition commenced with the Open Jumper divisions in the Grand Prix Ring. Local resident Laura Linback led the way to the $5,000 1.40m Open Jumper class, as well as the $500 1.25m Open Jumpers with double-clear efforts across the board. The $500 1.30m Open Jumper victory went to Stephanie Novas and Amyra R for their speedy jump-off, climbing to the top of the ranks for the opening day.
Gulherme Jorge of Brazil set the track for today’s jumper events. In the $5,000 1.40m Open Jumpers he challenged riders with 11 obstacles spread out across the expansive arena. Jorge utilized bending lines, single verticals, a vertical-oxer double combination, and an oxer-vertical double combination. Only two competitors managed to master the course and advance to the jump-off where they entered a race against the clock.
Taylor Flury was first to tackle the opening track with Role Model, owned by Aliboo Farm. They entered the ring on a mission, clearing each fence with ease as the rails went untouched. Although she finished with a clear round in 42.018 seconds, she wore a target on her back as each consecutive rider attempted to best her round. It seemed as though no one would surpass her double-clear effort – that is until Laura Linback of Mundelein, IL, took her turn.
Linback was the last to enter the class, and set the bar with her veteran mount Whittaker MVNZ, owned by Woodrun. Pushing her horse to open his stride and slice a turn to the fourth obstacle, a skinny vertical, they tore through the timers in 38.184 seconds. Their clear round was nearly four seconds faster than the runner up, granting them the top prize. Flury eventually earned the second place award for her efforts earlier in the class, and Holly Shepherd aboard Skymiles, owned by Loretta Patterson, claimed the third place finish.
Laura Linback rode to the top of the Open Jumper leader board for the opening day of Equifest II, taking the 1.40m Open Jumper victory with Whittaker MVNZ.
“He is my star,” Linback laughed. “We have had him for four years, and he has become a seasoned Grand Prix horse. He is like a ninja to ride. He is terrific-a real trier. Usually I just save him for the Grand Prix, he is a little pokey and doesn’t have a lot of blood, but I wanted to inspire him by galloping a little bit.”
Linback continued, “He can slice any turn to any vertical, and jump it from anywhere. That was where I knew I would win the class. There was a perfect opportunity, so I took it. The course was very inviting, but it still kept a tight time allowed which added to the challenge. I like the jump-off, it really left room to gallop, and I like when there are places to slice. It was a very fluid course, the movement never had to stop.”
Linback has a resume stretching back to her pony competition days, riding the traditional pipeline to the top of the standings in Grand Prix across the nation. Although she has given her mounts a couple of weeks off since showing at HITS Culpeper, she is back at the Lamplight Equestrian Center to make a splash.
“The bending to the combination is always a little bit of a test, and the time allowed was snug, which added to the level of difficulty,” Linback said. “I tried to just stay on a smooth gallop; he has an enormous stride, and we just stay on the inside track. The courses were very nice, and the footing is great. You would never know how much it rained this morning; the ring was in perfect condition.”
Prior to the 1.40m Open Jumpers, Stephanie Novas rode Amyra R to the first place finish in the $500 1.30m Open Jumpers. The jump-off came down to three horse and rider combinations, but Novas picked up the blue ribbon today for her double-clear effort in 36.349 seconds, making her untouchable. Lisa Goldman and Roc Hudson took home the second place ribbon, while Linback rode Attention Please to the third place.
“It was the first day of showing, and I thought that my horse was going to be a little hotter than she was, but she was very composed in the ring today,” Novas explained. “I wanted to go in and win, but I wasn’t going to die trying today. We went fast, but we didn’t go full speed out there. She was great, and she is definitely prepared for the rest of the week.”
Novas continued, “The courses were a lot of fun, they gave me plenty of options with my horse. Although Amyra is a fast turner, she also has a lot of speed across the ground, so it was an ideal course for us.”
Earlier in the day Linback guided Clooney, owned by Woodrun, to the top of the leader board in the 1.25m Open Jumpers. Linback was once again the last rider to tackle the track, but she navigated it with finesse as Clooney jumped two clear rounds. She completed the shortened course in a mere 38.219 seconds to finish with another first place.
“Clooney is new to us. We have only had him since April, but he is becoming a little star,” Linback smiled. “He wins a lot. We did just a little class today because we have had a couple of weeks off, and we don’t do a lot of jumping at home. He felt great out there. He is very brave, he just needs a good rhythm out there. He has a good easy stride.”
Linback continued, “Like any relationship, you have the sweetheart phase and then you get to the point where you have to start to work. We are entering that phase now, and we are creating a real relationship. This is where we are putting it all together and creating a long-term partnership with one another.”
Although Jennifer Jones and Cliff II posted a speedy jump-off time sans faults, their time of 40.255 seconds proved only good enough for the second place. Brittini Raflowitz piloted Zacca Zoeloe and Elios to two clear rounds; however, she elected to save her mounts for another day and walk away with the third and fourth place ribbons.
Now Linback will aim her mounts toward tomorrow afternoon’s $5,000 1.40m Welcome Stake, as well as Saturday’s $35,000 Grand Prix de Lamplight. “I am from the Chicago area, and I have been coming here for 20-odd years. This Equifest Horse Show in particular is one of my favorites. The management is amazing. They really do a bang up job, and will bend over backward. I am really looking forward to the highlight classes this week.”
The jumper action will continue in the Grand Prix Ring tomorrow when the $5,000 1.40m Welcome Stake will take the center stage. Riders will also have the opportunity to showcase their mounts during Saturday’s $35,000 Grand Prix de Lamplight.
To find out more about Lamplight Equestrian Center, go to: http://lamplightequestriancenter.com/.
Photo Credit: All Photos By: Kendall Bierer/PMG. Photo may only be used in relation to this PMG press release.