Ken Berkley of Flemington, NJ, captured victory in the $10,000 Vermont Bird Place & Sky Watch Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, on Thursday, July 19, at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT. The six-week equestrian competition is running at Harold Beebe Farm from July 4 through August 12, 2012.
This is the third major victory in a row for Berkley, who also won the $10,000 Five Seasons Open Welcome Stake on July 12 and the $30,000 Battenkill Grand Prix on July 14. All of his wins have come aboard Waminka, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Rivers Edge, which Berkley runs with partner Scott Stewart.
“She’s fast and she’s careful,” said Berkley of Waminka. “She can be a little spooky and a little tense, but at the end of the day you need all of that. The horse has to be a fighter to win, and she certainly is. This is the third class in a row she’s gone double clear. I don’t think she’s touched a rail in three weeks.”
Nine out of 16 horses jumped clear in the first round and immediately contested the shortened jump-off track. Berkley advanced to the jump-off with three horses, having successfully cleared the first round track set by 2008 Beijing Olympic course designer, Steve Stephens. In his first attempt in the jump-off riding Dione de la Vie, a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare also owned by Rivers Edge, Berkley had a rail at the second-to-last fence in a time of 35.56 seconds to finish sixth overall.
James North posted what would be the first of four double-clear performances aboard The Man to See, a 12-year-old Holsteiner stallion owned by Fair Play Farm of Bedford Corners, NY. Their time of 36.31 seconds secured a fourth place finish.
Four more riders would come and go before Berkley returned for his second round of the day, this time riding Ax-Cent, with whom he finished second in the $30,000 Battenkill Grand Prix. Berkley and the nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding put in a clear jump-off performance, stopping the clock in 33.19 seconds to eventually finish third.
“I’m surprised that he seems to always finish behind Waminka,” explained Berkley. “He’s actually way faster than she is, but he spends more time in the air, so I’m a little more cautious with him. Like her, he’s very naturally careful and wants to win.”
Devin Ryan of Long Valley, NJ, put in the next double clear performance aboard Calissandro, an eight-year-old Holsteiner gelding he owns in partnership with Barbara Drake. Their quick time of 33.05 seconds meant Berkley would have to go fast and clean with Waminka to take over the lead.
“With Devin having just gone clear and quickly ahead of me, I knew I had to go fast if I wanted to win,” said Berkley of his strategy with Waminka. “I didn’t pull on the reins one bit and hoped everything stayed up. I just went for it!”
In addition to taking home a $3,000 check for his win, Berkley also received a $1,000 gift certificate courtesy of the Vermont Bird Place & Sky Watch.
Berkley shares riding duties on Waminka with his student, Victoria Colvin of Loxahatchee, FL, who recently had her own big win with the mare. Colvin and Waminka took top honors in the $15,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior Jumper Classic at the Devon Horse Show in May, and Colvin also finished second aboard her own horse, Monsieur du Reverday, a 10-year-old selle francais gelding. That pair finished fifth in the $10,000 Vermont Bird Place & Sky Watch Open Welcome Stake with the fastest of the four-fault jump-off rounds, crossing the timers in 31.96 seconds.
Offering more than $750,000 in prize money, the Vermont Summer Festival is the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont. The first five Saturdays of the Vermont Summer Festival feature a $30,000 Grand Prix. The $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix will be held during the sixth and final week on Saturday, August 11. The weekly $10,000 Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, are now held each Thursday.
Competition begins at 8 a.m. daily, Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children. All of the gate receipts benefit the a number of Manchester area non-profit organizations, including the Mark Skinner Library, Friends Foundation for MEMS, Community Food Cupboard, and Second Chance Animal Center.
Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets
1 Kenneth Berkley, Waminka
2 Devin Ryan, Calissandro
3 Kenneth Berkley, Ax-Cent
4 James North, The Man to See
5 Victoria Colvin, Monsieur du Reverdy
6 Kenneth Berkley, Dione de la Vie
7 Miranda Scott, Quick Lantus
8 Amanda Strain, Candy 521
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