DEVON, Pa.--The Wednesday evening $35,000 International speed Stake at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair showed how far jumpers have come in increasing the prize money in that division.
It wasn't all that long ago that a $35,000 class would have drawn every top jumper in the country to do their very best to win all that money.
But a number of the 28 riders in the $35,000 class, including such top stars as Beezie Madden and McLain Ward, chose to use the Speed class to school for $250,000 Grand Prix.
But not Andrew Kocher, who, despite having to go early, ninth, in the class, turned in the fastest round on Zantos II, finishing in 58.20, just hundreds of a second in front of Devin Ryan on Cooper, who finished in 58.28.
Georgina Bloomberg on Paola 33 was third in 58.88, and Sima Morgello on Orientales, the first to go, was fourth in 59.84.
Growing up in Pennsylvania not far from Devon, Kocher used to attend the show every year with his family but he never competed as a young rider.
IT WASN'T until 2016 that he competed at Devon for the first time in the open jumpers, and in 2017 he earned his very first win at Devon in the $50,000 Devon Welcome Stake CSI4* with Navalo De Poheton.
Kocher also won the 7-Year-Old Young Jumper class with Erica Hatfield’s La Luciole just prior to the evening’s featured class.
Previously ridden by British international show jumpers Robert and Louise Whitaker as well as their father and Olympian, John Whitaker, Kocher began competing Zantos II in the summer of 2016 and they have many notable wins, including CSI2* and CSI3* grand prix victories at the Tryon International Equestrian Center and the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival as well as claiming multiple speed classes, over the course of their two years together.
However, after sustaining a tendon injury in Ocala in February 2017, Zantos II was forced to take a year off to recover.
Kocher slowly began bringing Zantos II back into competition at the end of the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, and, after Wednesday’s victory at Devon, the gelding is undoubtedly back to his winning ways in full force
“I bought him with my friends Bob and Robin Mulkey, and we bought him cheap," said Kocher. "He only has one gear. If it goes well, he wins the class. Every time he jumps clear, he has won a class. He can get out of hand a lot too, that’s the problem. I thought he was ready to go, so I was going to use him hard tonight. I thought I might get beat by Laura [Chapot] or Devin [Ryan]. I was thinking, ‘Slow down!’ Zantos is an amazing horse. If you meet all the jumps right, he’s going to win the class. He’s really careful. He knows what he’s doing. He’s done so much for me. I wouldn’t sell him, and I sell a lot of horses.”
“I’ve never won a class at Devon until last year," said Kocher. "I’m 35 now, so it takes a long time. The 7-year-old is a new owner for me. I don’t have many owners, most of the owners are me. It’s a new horse for me. That was the first time I’d ever ridden and showed it so I was happy with that. I didn’t know how she was going to go.”
“This is a really special show in America," said Kocher. "Nothing is like Devon. Devon is extremely special. There are big crowds, and it’s exciting. It’s my favorite show. I could’ve gone to Spruce Meadows, I’ve never been there and I really wanted to go, or leave the horses home and show at Devon. That’s how much I like Devon. I’m from Pennsylvania. I always came here as a kid. I never showed, but we would come all of the time and my dad used to show.”