Myakka City, Florida, USA – Jan. 12, 2023 – The second week of the Sarasota Winter Classic saw a busy morning in the Grand Prix Ring as the fences grew in height ahead of the $10,000 Welcome Stake. A total of 11 combinations were on the docket to contest Mauricio Garcia’s (PUR) track to kick off the weekend of exciting international competition at the immaculate TerraNova Equestrian Center. Proving that their victory the previous week wasn’t just luck, Rolling Acres Farm’s Marylisa Leffler once again dominated aboard her long-time, successful partner, ZaZa Z.
David Jennings’ (USA) new mount, Madeira SCF entered under the archway first and became the trailblazer for a fault-free effort over the first track. Jennings piloted the 3h Sport Horses LLC’s mount (Diktator Van De Boslandhoeve x Lilli Marlen) over each obstacle with success and clocked in just under the time allowed of 80 seconds to advance to the immediate jump-off round. The pair then picked up the pace and produced a follow-up flawless performance in 39.639 seconds to land the early lead.
Jennings seemed to have it in the bag as one-by-one each rider following toed a rail – most commonly the vertical element of the final vertical-to-oxer element – and slid into placings below his double-clear round. However, as Leffler later explained, ZaZa Z certainly felt up to her name for the event and the Rolling Acres Farm-owned mare (Zandor Z x Cocaine Z) gave every effort in the first phase her utmost enthusiasm.
“She was a little bit fresh today, so I was just trying to keep her together in the first round,” Leffler explained. “For the jump-off, I did eight strides up the first line where everyone else did seven strides, but I know she’s so quick everywhere else. Then I just took a bit of a stab at it to the last jump.”
The finish is one of a plethora that the duo have accumulated together over the years, and while the mare is known for being ‘quirky’, Leffler says “we just get along. I don’t try to interfere with her… I know when she goes in the ring she’s going to be game face.”
As rider and trainer for the incredibly-busy Rolling Acres Farm, run alongside her sister Patty Foster and niece Ashley Foster-Worthington, Leffler is constantly on the move from the hunter ring to the jumper ring and the equitation ring.
“ I like it because it doesn’t give me enough time to think too much,” she added, “but I also have my niece Ashley helping me and she actually took over one of the rides I had today so I didn’t hold up the horseshow.”
Craig Starr (USA) and his own Christian Dior rounded out the top three with only one downed obstacle in the class’s short course.
Final Results – $10,000 Welcome Stake
1) MaryLisa Leffler (USA) & ZaZa Z – 0 / 0 – 39.075
2) David Jennings (USA) & Madeira SCF – 0 / 0 – 39.639
3) Craig Starr (USA) & Christian Dior – 0 / 4 – 39.978
Source: Press Release by Summer Grace / Flaxen Mane Media for Sarasota Winter Classic
Photos: © West Horse Shows / Eye Was Here Photography