Solo Show Stables’ Harold Chopping stuck to his game plan with Aiken-resident Paddy Ann Burns’ Calando Z. The rider/horse combination decided to take the a-option, and come back into the ring for the jump-off, and that four-minute respite provided the Zangersheide gelding the opportunity to catch his breath as Chopping and the 16.2 hand chestnut would go double clear and win the Progressive Show Jumping Aiken Spring Classic Masters week $5,000 Welcome Stake Friday afternoon at Highfields Event Center.

The tracks were designed by Olympic Silver medalist and internationally renowned course designer Michel Vaillancourt. The Aiken resident’s first round track featured 12, 1.35 meter obstacles and 15 elements. A field of 16 rider/horse combinations exhibited, and eight of those would have fault free rounds to return for the short course. The time allowed was adjusted after the first rider, being lowered from 83 seconds to 73 seconds.

However, it was Victor Segovia, riding The Romeo Group’s Romeo, and the horseman and Royal Dutch Warmblood gelding by Cantero, would establish the first round’s reference time as they stopped the timer at 66.526. The course proved technical enough as a number of entries had rails down as a result of the triple, 5abc, vertical, oxer, vertical, and the double 10ab, oxer to a vertical, with rider/horse combinations having faults on both the early and latter part of the track.

Aiken-based Gonzalo Garcia riding Renee Kvartek’s Harley’s Heaven, the rider/combination are no strangers to success at Highfields Event Center, would be the first to go double clear, as they completed the short course fault free in a time of 38.139.

Stephen Heinecke and Victoria Press’ Cayenne 140 would also go double clear, stopping the timer in 41.127, good enough for fourth.

Segovia and Romeo would return for the jump-off, a track that featured seven obstacles. and the rider combination would turn in a flawless effort, moving into second place after completing the course in 39.687.

However, Chopping and Calando Z decided to take the a-option, and left the ring after the first round, returning after the final rider/horse combination left the grand prix ring. The brief respite proved beneficial, and the rider/horse combination would go fault free, in a time of 37.754.

“For him (Calando Z), it was our plan (to take the a-option),” said Chopping. “The bay horse, the first one I rode (Kendra Bullington’s mare Patent Pending) was going to stay in the ring, and it would suit her to just do it once, and not to come out. She gets a little nervous. It’s harder for her to pick up her canter again. Our plan with Calando Z was to come out, so I could pull up, and canter and flat a little bit, jump a tall vertical and go right back in. It gave him a little break to catch his breath.”

Chopping walked the jump-off track prior to the competition, to determine what he would need to do as far as figuring out the fastest options, if he were to qualify one of his two rides for the jump-off. Chopping and Calando Z will return for Sunday’s $25,000 Aiken Spring Classic Grand Prix.

“He’s a really good horse,” said Chopping. “He has enough experience to be able to work Friday and Sunday. So, I didn’t mind going real fast and trying to be the winner. He jumped beautifully, so I was really pleased.”