EAST DORSET, Vt.--Matthew Metell of Wellington, Fla., on Donchalant won the first jumper class of the 25th annual Vermont Summer Festival and followed that up by winning the the $30,000 Vermont Summer Special Grand Prix for the second year in a row.
Metell first won the $10,000 Welcome Stake on Thursday, July 5, during the first of six weeks of competition at the Festival, which runs through Aug. 12 at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, Vt.
The Festival is a special place for Metell, 28, and Donchalant after the mare carried him to the first grand prix victory of his career just one year ago during the first week of the 2017 season.
“I love it here and it feels good to be back!” said Metell.
Three of the 11 horses in the Welcome Stakes were double clear over the course designed by Paul Jewell of Ewing, N.J.
Metell finished in 32.29 seconds, more than five seconds ahead of second placed Jennifer Kocher of Chester, N.Y., who finished in 37.72 seconds on Carlos, owned by her husband, Andrew Kocher.
REPRESENTING a sizeable group of Canadian riders competing at the Vermont Summer Festival this year, Jennifer Mattell of Milton, Ontario, rounded out the top three in 39.10 seconds riding Quister.
“Over the past year I have learned that she’s got a lot of heart, and she’s straight forward,” said Metell of the 10-year-old grey Dutch Warmblood mare. “She’s my first horse at this level, but she’s the same every time I show her. She has let me make mistakes, learn a little bit, and come right back the next time ready to win.”
“The new footing has been good this week and I really appreciated the work they put into it,” said Metell. “My goal for the season is to be consistent in these 1.45m grand prix classes and keep moving up to bigger tracks to get some more experience.”
And on Saturday, he accomplished that goal by winning the $30,000 Vermont Summer Special Grand Prix, again riding Donchalant
From a starting field of 20 horses, only Metell and Lainie Wimberly of Ridgefield, Conn., were clean.
In the jump-off, Wemberly on RF Quarteman had a rail down in a time of 50.98 seconds so the pressure was on Metell when he had an early rail, but he made up for it by finishing in 47.65 seconds to win.
Hailey Rogge of Lafayette, La., finished third with two time faults on Flame van de Dassenloop, and Karyn Foley of Wilton, Conn., on Felix was fourth with the only four-fault round.
“There is something about Vermont!” said Metell. “We have good luck here, but I think I do better when I don’t expect a win. I figured that, statistically, there was no way I was going to win again. I can’t believe it happened!”
MORGAN WARD of Milford, N.J., won the $5,000 NEHJA Hunter Derby on Thursday, July 5.
Spanning two competition rings, the derby course, which featured both traditional hunter jumps and derby-style fences, was designed by Joe Carnicom of Toledo, Ohio.
In the opening round, Ward on Cypress led off with a high score of 85 from judge Scott Hofstetter of Ocala, Fla.
The top 12 then returned in reverse order of standing, with Ward the last to go, and Ward had the top score of 87 for a two-round total of 172 to win by 10 points.
Linda Orton of Stamford, Vt., rode Demi to scores of 82 and 80 for a total of 162 and second place, and Helen Goddard of Lincroft, N.J., scored an 84 and 77 riding My Way to finish third on a final score of 161.
Ward took over the ride on Cypress for owner Bruce Green and trainer Sandra Lobel at the conclusion of the winter season and scored her first major win on the horse in the Vermont Summer Festival hunter derby.
“This is only my fourth show on him,” said Ward, 20, who is a professional working out of her family’s Willow Brook Farm based in Whitehouse, N.J. “He’s very scopey and has a lot of potential. When it comes to the jumps, the bigger the better for him.
“I thought was a lot of fun today,” continue Ward of the innovative design utilizing two rings and a variety of jump types. “It did not look easy at first, but it was easy for him. I went first in the order and had a solid round right away. When he walked into the derby part of the course he was like ‘let’s go’. Then in the handy, I took advantage of his turning radius because he turns on a dime.”
A young professional, Ward has been on her own for three years, noting, “This is my second year back at Vermont as a professional and I love it. My jumpers love it and my hunters love it. It’s a great venue.”