LAKE PLACID — Irish Olympic veteran Kevin Babington put an exclamation point on the Lake Placid Horse Shows’ 50-year celebration on Sunday.
Babington swept the top-three places in the $100,000 Grand Prix, the closing event of the 2019 program.
Babington turned in three of the seven clean rides over the 16-effort, first-round course designed by Bernardo Costa Cabral of Portugal and then had the only three clean rides over the eight-jump tiebreaker course.
He rode first in the jump-off on Shorapur, a 14-year-old Hanoverian mare, and set what proved to be the winning mark, coming home clean in 33.212 seconds.
Three rides later, Babington rode clean on Super Chilled, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, but in a slightly slower time of 35.436 seconds for second place before ending the jump-off with his sixth clean ride of the day, coming home in third place with a time of 38.430 seconds on Mark Q, his 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding.
“I’ve been pinching myself ever since my last round. I never would have foreseen something like this happening,” Babington said. “My horses have been in really good form, and I was hoping for a couple of good rounds, but if someone had wanted to bet me that I’d be one-two-three, I never would have taken the bet.
“I think I had the luck of the Irish with me. Shorapur had a really hard rub at the third-to-last fence of the first round and easily could have had it down. She’s the fastest of my three horses and normally I’d prefer to have her go last, but since she was first, I decided to go for broke, and it all just played out beautifully after that.”
Babington’s performance, coupled with his second-place finish in the first week’s $100,000 Grand Prix, earned him the Richard and Diana Feldman Perpetual Challenge Trophy for Excellence and $2,000 as the rider winning the most prize money in Lake Placid’s two Grand Prix events.
Earlier in the day, Jimmy Torano rode Argentus to the win in the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.
In winning the derby for the fourth consecutive year, Torano rode Argentus to a first-round score of 172, which placed him second to the 181 turned in by David Wilbur on Charismo.
Torano scored a dazzling 198 in the Handy for a two-round total of 370 to claim the win with Wilbur, placing second with 365.5 after scoring 184.5 in round two.
“Coming into the Handy in second place, I knew I had to pull out all the stops,” Torano said. “There was an inside turn that was really quite difficult. I did it and then I just let him gallop to an oxer at the end of the ring. There was another inside turn and then I let him fly to the last two-stride. He was just phenomenal (Sunday).”
Sam Walker completed an incredible weekend, winning two major classes on the final day after winning the $7,500 Junior Jumper Classic one day earlier.
Walker, the 2018 ASPCA Maclay national champion, won the Kathy Scholl Equitation Classic for the second consecutive year.
Walker topped a field of 17 finalists who qualified to compete in the classic with top performances in equitation over the two weeks of the Lake Placid Horse Shows.
Placing second to Walker was James Faloni, with third going to Ava Stearns.
Walker topped a field of 34 horses with two fault-free rides and the fastest jump-off time of 34.663 seconds on Gidora S in the $10,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, a member event of the Hall of Fame Jumper Classic Series.
Placing second was Yasmin Rizvi, who had a clean jump-off ride in 35.268 seconds on Dasino, with third going to Samantha Kasowitz, who was clean in 35.295 seconds on Charlie.
“This mare is owned by Danielle Torano, and she is amazing,” Walker said. “This was my first time ever riding her. In the jump-off, I rode her really fast to the two oxers — the one in the middle and the one on the outside — and I think that’s where I saved the time that gave us the win.
“In the Kathy Scholl, I just tried to turn in as smooth a ride as I could in the first round and then hold it together in the second round and hope the judges liked it.”
The final day’s action also saw a win by Brianne Link in the $7,500 Low Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic.
Link topped a field of 35 horses by riding Wednesday Mornin’ to two clean rides and a jump-off time of 23.860 seconds.
Flora Manship placed second on Endgame with a jump-off time of 25.082 seconds.
Kendra Gierkink placed third on Crack Uno.