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Press Release


Darby Toben and D'artagnan

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Darby Toben and D’artagnan Win the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers at the Tournament of Champions

Written by: Kendall Bierer
Client: Morrissey Management Group (MMG)
Release Date: 2013-04-05

Tampa, FL – April 5, 2013 – With the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational only one day away, the jumpers were filled with an energetic buzz. This morning, riders were welcomed to the Covered Arena at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center to compete in the High and Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers as they hid from the torrential downpour looming over the Florida State Fairgrounds. It was the fourth day of the Tournament of Champions, and it was Darby Toben and D’artagnan who shined in the $1,500 High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers to capture the victory.

Riders were faced with Jose Gamarra’s challenging course early this morning. The imposing labyrinth of obstacles tested riders with a triple bar, oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination and a vertical-oxer double combination. The course was set in almost a serpentine, with riders having to pilot their mounts through tight turns, sharp rollbacks and varying distances. Only four were able to master the first course and continue into the grueling speed track.

Darby Toben was the first rider of the morning, and her accuracy and efficiency in the power and speed class posted a target on her back as others tried to catch her unmatchable effort. Toben rode D’artagnan, owned by Doreen Toben, to a solid and flowing power round, finishing just within the time allowed of 48 seconds, leaving all rails in place as she cleared the obstacles in 47.709 seconds.

“I have had him for about a year and a half, and he is super, sweet and really scopey. He is extremely brave, honest—that good stuff. He was really good, and I did him in the Mediums last year, but I just started the Highs last week here, and he was really good. Hopefully I can do the Highs and then when I more comfortable we can do the bigger classes,” Toben shared.

Since Toben went clear during the power phase, she immediately moved forward into the speed portion of the High Junior/Amateur-Owner class. She was faced with the opening vertical-oxer double combination, and then with a left hand turn, she moved over an oxer set on the outside of the ring. With only 36 seconds in the speed phase, Toben had to keep the pace quick and tidy as she took the skinny down the diagonal and moved forward through a bending line to a large oxer. The final foot race fell in the last right turn of the short course with a delicate vertical. Toben sailed through the course, finishing with the only double-clear effort of the class in 34.125 seconds.

“I am always a little bit slow,” Toben explained. “I needed to think about the timing during the power phase, so I just worked on being forward and neat. In the jump-off I focused on the tight turns and being clean. He jumped super. I was really happy with how he went.”

Mallory Vale was the next rider to navigate the first round without finding fault. She piloted H & M Cisco, owned by Thinks Like a Horse of Morriston, FL, into the speed round. Although her time of 35.125 was a tick slower than Toben’s, the four-fault finish sealed her second place position. Alex Parrish and Valentina 156, owned by Lexander Farm, LLC of Midway, KY, rode to the third place finish. Rae Kennedy and Wall E rounded out the speed phase with the fourth place finish.

“I thought the courses were a little more difficult this week, the fences came up faster,” Toben described. “I was a little worried about the triple bar bending to the plank line and then into the triple combination. It really made you think. You had to be smart.”

The $1,000 Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers were the next on the schedule. Morgan Ward and Rustic Gold were the first to turn in a clear opening round. They laid down a quick jump-off in 33.470 seconds, but four faults would eventually earn the pair the sixth place ribbon. Erin Haas and Udo DV, owned by 2VR Show Jumpers of Morriston, FL, set the pace for the class as the fifth to take on the course.

Haas came off of an excellent win last night in the $10,000 American Invitational Stake with As Di Chupito, and mimicked her success today with Udo DV. She took on the course with confidence, posting two clear efforts and tripping the timers in 33.361 seconds. Her time held solid until fellow barn mate KC Van Aarem picked up the reins aboard High Five.

The bay 13-year-old gelding remembered his racetrack days as he picked up speed across the ground of the short course. Van Aarem left out a stride to the final fence, and with her efficiency, pushed Haas out of the lead as she cleared the jump-off course in 32.940 seconds.

“He is really quick across the ground, and is just a super horse. I have had him since I was 12, and I know him really well,” Van Aarem explained. “He just needs a forward ride, as long as I keep kicking and don’t chip, he can handle it. I love that Erin Haas and I are both Aaron Vale’s students. I learn a lot by watching and understanding her riding, so it definitely helped me when I went out there to chase her time today.”

“I remember Erin was really fast from one to two in the jump-off, so I knew I could make up some time there by leaving out a stride,” Van Aarem continued. “He is pretty ‘Thoroughbredy’ and can be a bit wild. He’s fantastic, and I am hoping to get points to qualify for Harrisburg and Washington again with him. I would like to one day move up to the Highs with him.”

Haas was awarded the second place finish for her earlier efforts in the class, and although Lizzie Van der Walde tried to surpass Van Aarem, her more conservative short course would take the third place with Zadermus, owned by Dasilva Investments of Ann Arbor, MI.

“I absolutely love Tampa,” Van Aarem concluded. “I thought the rain really helped to perk up High Five. I was thrilled to have a little bit of a fresh horse. They make this show really great, and they always have the horse at the front of their mind.”

The five-day Tournament of Champions, the second leg of the Tampa Equestrian Series, concludes tomorrow with the crowning of the Junior Hunter champions. In the evening, 30 of the world’s top jumpers will congregate at Raymond James Stadium for the “Super Bowl of Showjumping” – the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational.

For more information about the Tampa Equestrian Festival please visit


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