Credit: Andrew Ryback Photography
?Kirk Webby Returns to Top Form
New Zealand Olympian Kirk Webby claimed the $30,000 Vermont Summer Special Grand Prix, presented by Johnson Horse Transportation, on Saturday, July 6, during opening week of the Vermont Summer Festival, running for six weeks through August 11 at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, VT.
It has been several years since Webby, 48, has competed in the mountains of southern Vermont, but he spared no time in leaving his mark with a win riding Brando du Rouet. They topped a field of 24 horses over courses built by Paul Jewell of Ewing, NJ.
Four horses jumped clean to advance to the tie-breaking jump-off, two of which were piloted by Webby. Leading the way in both rounds, his mount Jumanji finished the short course with two rails on the ground in its first ever 1.45m test. Young Canadian Alexanne Thibault, 21, also pulled a rail with Chacco Prime, leaving the door open for David Jennings of Franklin, TN, to handily take over the lead with a fault-free effort in a prompt 35.33 seconds riding Caddie R.
Webby returned last and ended the speed duel in his favor. Brando du Rouet, owned by Tolleshunt Investment Group, stopped the timers with more than three seconds to spare in 32.14. In recognition of his victory, Webby was awarded a crystal trophy by Julie Karpan of Johnson Horse Transportation and a show scrim from Mona's Monograms.
“This is a special horse,” said Webby of Brando du Rouet, a 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Baloubet du Rouet x Caretano Z). “He’s so fast that I have to tell myself to slow down. In the welcome a few days ago, I was a little too cautious, but today I had luck on my side.
“It was a tough course and it walked pretty big,” continued Webby of Jewel’s track. “But, in the end, he got the right number in the jump-off.”
Brando du Rouet was spotted for Webby in Poland by friend Seth Valhonrat and joined Webby’s string in 2015. But their partnership didn’t come without hurdles.
“I got him as an 11-year-old and I had him for a year when he fractured a bone in his hind leg,” said Webby, who doubted the horse would ever return to competition. “We thought it was over, but it’s amazing what a little time in the field can do. He was off for a year, but came back and he’s been a winner ever since.”
The Vermont Summer Festival is a family affair for Webby, whose wife Robin and two children Zachary and Jade, accompanied him north from their home base in Ocala, FL. As Brando du Rouet’s groom, Jade was presented with the weekly Grand Prix Groom Award in honor of her hard work preparing the mount for grand prix competition. She was presented with a monogrammed jacket and coolerette from sponsor Glenn Geary of Horsewatch.
“It’s really hot in Ocala, so my wife and kids and I came for a little vacation before Jade goes off to orientation for her first year at Florida State [University] next week,” said Kirk. “We brought a few nice horses along with us, and we love it here. The management is so nice. Brett Waters and the staff in the office take great care of me. It’s a beautiful part of the world to be in this time of the year.”
Rounding out the top-five results, Jennings and Caddie R, owned by Full Circle Farms and Orpen Horses, settled for second, with Thibault and Chacco Prime in third. Webby’s lead-off horse, Jumanji, took fourth for owner Navy Stables while Kevin McCarthy (IRL) posted the fastest four-fault ride in the opening round to finish fifth on Catch A Star HSS, owned by Siboney Ranch.
$30,000 Vermont Summer Special Grand Prix
Presented by Johnson Horse Transportation - Saturday, July 6, 2019
Rider Hometown Horse Faults/Time
?1 Kirk Webby New Zealand Brando du Rouet 0/0/32.14
2 David Jennings Franklin, TN Caddie R 0/0/35.33
3 Alexanne Thibault Canada Chacco Prime 0/4/33.76
4 Kirk Webby New Zealand Jumanji 0/8/38.48
5 Kevin McCarthy Ireland Catch A Star HSS 4/74.45
6 Kevin Mealiff Ireland Viper Vrombautshoeve Z 4/76.80
7 Kevin Mealiff Ireland Nuca 2 4/78.84
8 Debbie McCarthy-Connor Reddick, FL Sashi W 4/79.30
9 Alexanne Thibault Canada Sanjay 4/80.35
10 Kevin McCarthy Ireland Easton 4/80.82
11 Colin Savaria Ocala, FL Felix 4/81.07
12 Cooper Dean Fayette, AL Labelle vd 8/78.48