Aiken-based Gonzalo Garcia has been riding Renee Kvartek’s Harley’s Heaven for the past two years, and the connection between rider and horse propelled the combination to blue ribbon honors Friday afternoon as they won the Progressive Show Jumping Aiken Winter Classic Week No. 2 $5,000 Welcome Stake at Highfields Event Center.

A field of 19 exhibitors and their horses contested the 1.25 meter course designed by J.P. Godard, with the first round track featuring 12 obstacles and 15 jumping efforts. The course rode technical as riders had rails on both halves of the course as they found themselves having to contest with challenging combinations.

However, the first track would feature seven fault free efforts with Josh Dolan and Meagan Willits’ Angelique establishing the first round’s fastest time as they went clear in 77.887. Garcia and Harley’s Heaven turned in a clean effort stopping the timer in 80.565, one of four rider/horse combinations who would eventually go double clear.

Harley’s Heaven is an 18-year-old gelding, who can go any distance, said Garcia.

“He’s very scopey,” said Garcia. “He has a huge heart. The first round track had a nice flow. There were a couple of tricks, the triple combination to that oxer was a little delicate, and the other combination was a little forward and short. You had to make adjustments. It was interesting.”

The short course track incuded six obstacles and seven jumping efforts. Dolan took the option to stay in the ring with Angelique, and was just as flawless on the short course, stopping the timer in 43.481, and in doing so became the first rider to go double clear. Leann Kelly and Leander would have the second fastest time over the first round track completing the course in 79.634,, and would go into second by the slimmest of margins with a fault free effort in the jump-off, stoping the timer in 43.570, .089 seconds behind Dolan and Angelique.

But, it would be a familiar name establishing an even faster time, Booth Parker and Colline Z, went clear in the first round with a time of 86.099. Aiken-based DFG Stables’ Daniel Geitner won the PSJ Aiken Winter Classic Week No. 1 mini prix on the Warmblood last Sunday, and Parker’s ride Friday afternoon over the short course was no less impressive as she stopped the timer in 43.206. Garcia and Harley’s Heaven opted to come back into the ring after the first round was completed, and the strategy paid off, as the combination recorded the class’ fastest time completing the course in 42.336.

“The short course was very nice and appropriate for him,” said Garcia. “He was very fast on the rollbacks on the back side. There were several of them, and that really helped.”