Michael Hughes, of Allendale, N.J., urged Luxina to the fastest jump-off time to win the $25,000 Brown, Harris, Stevens Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Derby at the 38th Annual Hampton Classic. As a result, Hughes and Luxina claimed the show’s High Amateur-Owner Jumper Championship.
Hughes, 17, said he had a significant advantage as the second of just two riders to qualify for the jump-off, from a starting field of 30 horses. He watched Erin Haas, of Chelsea, Mich., finish the shortened course faultlessly in 36.77 seconds.
“So I knew what I had to do when I went in the ring,” he said. Hughes made a tighter and noticeably quicker turn from fence 2 to fence 3 and finished in 35.28 seconds, winning by a comfortable 1.5 seconds.
Hughes said that Guilherme Jorge’s first-round test was a serious challenge. “The course was very long, and the time was really tight, so you really had to keep moving all the way around, and a lot of horses got tired by the end. That’s why so many had rails down on the last couple of fences,” he said.
But Luxina, a 9-year-old mare owned by Christina Fried of New York City, fought all the way to the finish line. “She tries hard all the time, and she loves to win. She can have a bit of an attitude in the barn, but in the ring she’s all business,” said Hughes.
Jeffrey Welles rode Bilion to victory in the $30,000 Callen Solem Show Stables 7/8-Year-old East Coast Jumper Championships, the day’s first class in the Hampton Classic’s Grand Prix Ring. It was the third young horse jumper championship victory in a row for Bilion, having won the championships at the Hampton Classic as a 5-year-old and as a 6-year-old.
“He’s a winner, he really is,” said Welles, 51, of Pound Ridge, N.Y. “He’s got all the ingredients: He’s very careful but he’s brave, he’s scopey, and he’s quick.”
And that quickness was the key to his jump-off time of 34.26 seconds, which defeated second-placed Scout De La Cense (Mario Deslauriers) by 1.5 seconds. The difference was how adeptly Bilion negotiated the last three fences, a left bending line to a double combination, followed immediately by a 180-dgree right turn to the final vertical.
“I think he wants to be a grand prix horse, maybe even a championship horse,” said Welles with cautious optimism. “You’re never sure until you really ask them to do it, and you need a lot of luck, but he wants to do the job, and he loves the big grass fields like this.”
Welles and co-owners Gareth Gair and Sharon Gunthel found Bilion, (by Emilion-Iberlina, Amethist) in Holland as a 4-year-old. “He jumped spectacularly, and I really had to have him,” recalled Welles. “It was fairly obvious he was a great jumper.”