DEVON, Pa.--The $50,000 Jet Run Devon Welcome Stake CSI4*, the first international show jumping competition at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair on Tuesday evening, provided spectators with an absolutely thrilling jump-off.
From a starting field of 32, 11 went clean to make the jump-off, and with the first four riders in the ring, the lead changed hands with every horse until Daniel Bluman, riding Bacara d'Archonfosse for Israel, set a time of 36.16 that held the top spot until the second to last rider in the ring.
But four horses later, local favorite Kevin Babington of Gwynedd Valley, Pa., had the crowd cheering as he just missed beating Bluman's time as he finished in 36.61 on Mark Q, good enough to place third.
Riding for Ireland, Babington and his own Mark Q are no strangers to the winner’s circle at Devon, having won the Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon twice.
Next in the ring was Ali Wolff on Casall, and she surprised herself with a very fast, winning time of 35.75.
“I WAS GOING to be happy with sixth place," said Wolff, 28 of New Albany, Ohio. "I saw Kevin go, and I saw a few others go, and I just decided I would be happy with my results as long as I was double-clean. I just kept seeing the nice distances, the forward ones. As the course went on, I let him go a little bit more and a little bit more. The whole way around, I actually didn’t think I was going super fast. I know that I had nice turns, but he takes a lot of time in the air. I thought at best I would look up at the clock and have a fifth place time so tonight was definitely a shocker.
“This is my first time winning a jumper class at Devon and it’s very special," said Wolff, who has represented the U.S. in a number of Nations Cup competitions. "Devon is such a special show. I think my first time here was three years ago, and I loved the atmosphere. The crowd is just cheering on every single competitor. It’s a show that is unlike any other. The stadium is packed. The crowd here really adds to the atmosphere and the whole winning experience.”
"My horse deserves this win more than anything," she said. "He has been second to countless people on countless occasions. So this is really his day, he really deserves this after six years of partnership. I got him when he was 7 years old and now he is 13. I bought him to be my first sales horse, but that obviously didn’t turn out.”
“I think if I had gone after Ali, I couldn’t have beaten her," said Bluman. "She was really fast. Today, my strategy was to just stick to my plan. I’m jumping the mare again in the grand prix on Thursday. Ali killed it. I felt like it was 10 years ago in the Low Junior Jumpers, where she was impossible to beat. Great job to Ali. She really won the class, regardless of who came after or before her.”
“I am very pleased with Mark Q." said Babington. "I thought his first round was one of the nicer rounds he has ever jumped in this ring. He was relaxed, felt soft, and I was very pleased with how he jumped."
"In the jump-off, I had a hard rub at the first jump, the double rode well, and I think I lost a little bit of time on the turn to the skinny fence." said Babington. "I watched Ali’s round, and every turn just came up so naturally for her. She rode a super round. Even if I had less errors in the jump-off, I think Ali still would have been the winner tonight.”