ndrew Kocher & Navolo De Poheton. Ph. via TIEC
Andrew Kocher of the USA piloted Navalo De Poheton to an impressive FEI win on Saturday, July 8, 2017, topping the $130,000 Ariat® Grand Prix CSI 3* at Tryon International Equestrian Center in Tryon, North Carolina. The duo sped to a jump-off time of 38.89 seconds to finish ahead of New Zealand’s Sharn Wordley and Casper who collected second place with a jump-off time of 39.194 seconds. Richie Moloney of Ireland and Button Sitte rounded out the top three placings after stopping the timers in 40.379 seconds.
Kocher and Navalo De Poheton bested a large class of 53 entries, as each horse and rider combination tried to capitalize on the difficult track set by Oscar Soberon of Mexico. Only seven pairs advanced to the jump-off round, with three of the qualified riders incurring four jumping faults. The time was tight to beat in the first round, nearly adding five more combinations to the jump-off, but a single time fault kept them from taking their turn around the short course.
“I think course building is hard. It’s hard to get it right, but I thought that Oscar [Soberon] did a great job tonight,” said Kocher. “He used a lot of old fashioned elements around the track. There was that hedge and some filling in the jumps that I think made some horses look or even get a bit more careful.”
“The smaller ‘S’ curve in the middle of the track caught people off guard and A to B of the triple combination started to back people off a bit, but he got seven in the jump-off, which was the number you were really looking for,” he added.
Knowing that a strong contingent of fast riders was slated to enter the George H. Morris Arena behind him in the jump-off, Kocher was prepared to produce a fast round, but wanted to try and avoid making risky errors, which he admitted are typically is downfall.
“The mistakes that I usually make are going way too fast and having rails down.”
“The mistakes that I usually make are going way too fast and having rails down. I knew I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go fast, but be comfortable and try to leave two out in the last line. I got lucky with Kristen [Vanderveen]. I think she could have left three out and would have beat me by a mile,” he laughed.
Navalo De Poheton, a 2001 Selle Francais gelding (Cumano x Double Espoir) owned by MKO Equestrian LLC, spent most of his upper level international career with U.S. rider Schuyler Riley before changing hands to Kocher and team earlier this season. Originally purchased as a potential sale horse for an amateur rider, Kocher quickly realized the gelding had not yet had enough of the grand prix atmosphere.
“He was Schuyler Riley’s top horse for many years. He injured himself shipping back from Spruce Meadows and had been laid up and rehabbing for some time. I anticipated selling him as a Low Child/Adult jumper, but he can get a bit strong and has an attitude, so I decided to try and jump him myself and the rest has been history,” he explained. “He’s probably my top horse at the moment. When we first started together, he won two grand prix classes in Tulsa, OK, and then we went to Devon and won there too.”
Kocher has been extremely pleased with how the pair’s partnership has started since his purchase, as they took top honors in the Welcome Stake CSI 4* at Devon Horse Show earlier this spring and also placed well during the Upperville Horse Show CSI 4*. The gelding has seen some of the biggest tracks in the world, adding an additional and versatile threat to Kocher’s ever-growing string.
“He is older so I’m trying to be conservative with him too. He hasn’t jumped a single fence since Upperville, which was at the beginning of June. He did well in the Welcome Stake here on Thursday too,” elaborated Kocher. “His next class won’t be until the FEI World Cup Qualifier in Bromont, Quebec, later this summer.”
With Kocher’s father, Kelly Kocher, based locally in the Tryon area, it’s always a pleasure and highlight for Kocher’s team to return to the venue and hopes to, at some point, use the area as a summer base for his operation. He explained, “I bought some property here and love to see this venue keep growing. In the future I’d like to base here for the summer and use that property to be able to be here more often.”
Attesting to and recognizing the crowd size and enthusiasm of the night, Kocher commented on the engaging and electrifying atmosphere surrounding the George H. Morris Arena, which always gets him excited to compete under the lights.
“This is one of the best rings in North America. I’ve been everywhere and go to a lot of smaller shows that most professionals wouldn’t go to, just in some of the more obscure areas,” he said. “This is one of the best venues that I’ve ever been to. Of course, it’s a beautiful facility, but they do an amazing job getting a great crowd here week in and week out. We love it here.”
Kristen Vanderveen captured the FEI Leading Lady Jumper Rider Award presented by Meg Atkinson of Town & Country Realtors once again this circuit, based on her winning performance in the $35,000 Suncast® Commercial Welcome Stake CSI 3* on Thursday aboard Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili and her fifth place finish in this evening’s grand prix. Andrew Kocher’s groom, Chance Williams, was presented with the Absorbine® FEI Groom’s Award, which honors the groom of the winning grand prix combination, shining well-deserved light on their hard work and commitment to the care and well-being of the winning mount.
Click here to view final results for the $130,000 Ariat® Grand Prix CSI 3*.