LAKE PLACID - Kevin Babington made it an Irish sweep of this year's grand prix events at the horse shows in Lake Placid, winning the $100,000 Woodlea Farms Grand Prix competition aboard Mark Q on July 6.
After fellow Irish rider Paul O'Shea won the first grand prix in Lake Placid this summer on June 30, Babington topped Saturday's field of 12 entries who reached the jump-off to win the biggest grand prix ever held in Lake Placid in terms of prize money.
Five horse-and-rider combinations made it cleanly through the jump-off round, and Babington and Mark Q were the fastest, finishing in 36.871 seconds. They were the second pair to go and as it turned out, unbeatable after putting down the first clear ride over the seven-jump course.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Kevin Babington rides Mark Q over a jump during their winning performance Saturday, July 6 in the $100,000 Woodlea Farms Grand Prix at the I Love New York Horse Show in Lake Placid.
"He's just getting better and better," Babington said of Mark Q, a horse he has been riding on for three years. "My horse was very good in the first round but he slipped early in the jump-off and I knew I had to speed up if we were going to have a chance.
"It's a great horse show here and I like that it offers two grand prixs," added Babington, who represented Ireland at the 2004 Olympics, where he finished fourth in the individual competition. "We've had a great two weeks and I kind of had a feeling we were going to win one. Given that this was the first time the horse show offered $100,000 in prize money, I guess we picked a good one to win."
For the second time in less than a week, United States Olympic veteran Margie Engle and her horse Royce finished runner-up. Engle has been riding Royce for less than a year and was one of two horses she entered in Saturday's grand prix. She rode her other horse Indigo clean in the opening round but finished less than a half second slower than the time allowed and failed to reach the jump-off.
"Indigo is more of a veteran and is faster. I was a bit nonchalant with Indigo in the first round," Engle said. "Royce is a horse for the future. He isn't as fast, but when the jumps get big, he's got a whole other gear. When he jumps so high, he loses time so I have to ride him faster. He needs to learn not to jump so high, but that's an issue I don't mind having at all. He's only nine."
For her pair of second-place finishes, Engle, of Wellington, Fla., was awarded the Richard and Diana Feldman Perpetual Challenge Trophy for Excellence, which goes to the rider winning the most prize money Lake Placid's two grand prix events.
A Canadian rider, Quebec's Angela Covert, finished third in 38.149 aboard Utan. Veteran Jimmy Torano placed fourth on Blue Sky Van De Olmenhoeve, and Catherine Tyree and her horse Wetter rounded out the top five.
The opening round included 32 entries, and the day started with Charlie Jacobs, whose family owns the Boston Bruins, kicking off the action aboard Flaming Star. The pair rode cleaning through the 16-jump course cleaning until they dropped the very last rail.
"That one hurt. It was a big disappointment," said Jacobs, who won a grand prix in Lake Placid in 2009. "When that last one went down, I felt it right in my stomach."
The $100,000 Woodlea Farms Grand Prix was the highlight of the 36th annual I Love New York Horse Show, which wrapped up on July 7 at the North Elba Show Grounds.