It was deja vu for Gonzalo Garcia and Renee Kvartek’s Harley’s Heaven as the rider/horse combination won the Progressive Show Jumping Cupid Classic $5,000 Welcome Stake Friday afternoon at Highfields Event Center. The combination captured the PSJ Aiken Winter Classic Week. No. 2 Welcome Stake four weeks earlier.
Garcia and Harley’s Heaven were only one of two rider/horse combinations to go clear in the first round, stopping the timer in 86.858, but would have to wait to return for the jump-off.
A field of 10 rider/horse combinations would contest the 1.25 meter first round track designed by Keith Bollotte, and the long course featured 11 obstacles and 13 jumping efforts. The exhibitors had to be fast and careful to return for the jump-off course, which featured seven obstacles and eight jumping efforts. Michael Kocher and Watch Me would be the only other rider/horse combination to qualify for the short course, completing the first round course in, 85.297.
Kocher and Watch Me were the first to return for the short course, taking the b-option to stay in the ring, and the rider/horse combination was flawless, stopping the timer at 38.207.
Initially, Garcia and Harley’s Heaven wouldn’t have qualified for the jump-off track, but the first round time allowed was adjusted, and the rider/horse combination would return for the short course.
“The first track was a long track, it was tight on time, and I had to have him in a good place,” said Garcia. “A couple of the combinations, especially 7 ab (oxer/vertical) was tight, and coming out of both those long lines actually made it a little tighter.”
The rider/horse combination that’s been together for the past two years, found themselves having to wait until the first round was completed to go in the jump-off, but they made the most of the opportunity as Garcia and the 18-year-old gelding turned in a fault-free effort, shaving nearly six seconds off of Kocher’s time, completing the course in 32.414 seconds, for a 5.793 margin of victory as darkness fell over the show jumping ring.
“It did make it a little harder because at his age he doesn’t have much stamina,” said Garcia.