Devon Horse Show and County Fair: Babington and Mark Q Take the Grand Prix of Devon

Source:  News Release





The twenty-horse field in tonight's $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon read like a Who's Who of the Show Jumping world.  Two time Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward, 2010 winner Peter Leone, Kate Levy, Todd Minikus and Kevin Babington just to name a few.   The jumps were high; 150-160 m, the crowd was huge, and the competition was fierce over Olympic Course Designer Olaf Petersen's challenging track.


In the end, it was Kevin Babington on Richard Burns' Mark Q and Callan Solem on VDL Torlando owned by the Torlando Group who posted the only double clear rounds for the night to finish first and second respectively.  Todd Minikus on his own Pavarotti posted the fasted 4-fault jump off round after going clean in round one to round out the top three.



Kevin Babington & Mark Q Best Win Picture




Kevin Babington & Mark Q Best 


Babington talks about his plan of attack for Petersen's course. "I took an inside turn to the triple bar, I knew I was slow and I was hoping to get a better shot to the third jump in the jump-off and I met that a little bit slow, and did the six which I planned. I got a little bit slower distance back on the double than I had hoped, so I was kind of half deciding when I went in do I do the inside turn, and then I thought if I have any chance of winning, I have to do the inside turn to the triple bar. When I came out, I knew there was definitely room to beat my time."


Mark Q and Babington have only been together a few short months. The horse was purchased by his Irish owner who gave Babington the ride during Florida where the duo had good results.  The owner has since given Babington the opportunity to put a group together to keep the horse that he feels has tremendous potential.


Although Babington hails from Ireland he calls Pennsylvania home, making the victory even sweeter. "This is fantastic. Every student I've probably ever given a lesson to from New Jersey to Pennsylvaniais here tonight.  All day I've been meeting people I haven't seen in 20 years. This is definitely one of my best wins here in the United States."






The lone woman in the group had the dubious distinction of going first in the jump-off on VDL Torlando, "I was going to go inside after the first jump and my stallion was a little spooky in front of the first jump and I lost my line to go inside, so I knew that was certainly leaving the door open but he jumped really well. I had sort of a light winter showing in Florida, so it was nice to have him back in a bigger class, and he felt like he jumped it easily."


Callan's business is operated out of Chester SpringsPennsylvania, so she too had the same walk down memory land that Babington had. "My mom was here, and the same thing Kevin said, I got to see a lot of students, and people who have been supportive of me over the years. This is probably my 15th year showing here, and it's really, really nice."


Callan Solem & VDL Torlando


Callan Solem Style Award Winner
Callan Solem & VDL Torlando - Richard E. McDevitt Style Award Winner






Six weeks ago Todd Minikus was just being released from the hospital after a hard fought battle with Legionnaire's Disease, which left him so weak he could barely walk.  There were no signs of weakness tonight on either Todd's or Pavarotti's part as the duo turned in the third best performance of the evening.  "I didn't get to show much this winter but it seems like we're all back in order and fighting fit, so it's good to be back showing again. We'll have to see what the rest of the summer brings for us."


Minikus started the Jump-Off round with blazing speed. "I thought the first part of it was pretty quick.  I just cut in a little bit too much to the in and out and when I kind of gassed Pavarotti off the turn, he slipped just a touch and got a little reachy and hot at A and ended up a little close to B where he had a light little tink. I thought that was the one place I could catch Kevin and I didn't want to do that inside turn to the triple bar, but Kevin forced us to do it!"


Todd Minikus & Pavarotti






Petersen was clearly pleased with the outcome of the class. "With this kind of result, of course I can sit here and smile. I have 20 riders and a huge crowd that wants entertainment. I feel a little bit like the man behind the curtain.  These (riders) are the actors, but I have to produce something so they really can act." 



Minikus chimes in, "I think what makes the Devon Horse Show one of the most special shows we have, is that the crowd that comes toDevon is an extremely educated crowd, and they know their Show Jumping and we do appreciate it. It always adds something special toDevon." 








Wheeler Sr Leading Handler


The name Wheeler is synonymous with the Dixon Oval.  In this, the 115th year of the Devon Horse Show, there have been 3 generations of Wheelers represented in the Winner's Circle in just as many divisions; Open Hunter, Hunter Breeding and American Saddlebred.


This is the 65th Devon Horse Show for 83-year-old Kenny Wheeler Sr. from Keswick, Virginia's venerable Cismont Manner Farm, and in typical Wheeler fashion, he took top honors in today's breeding division by winning Best Young Horse with his 3 year old other than thoroughbred filly Mae West (West Point ~ Desire) owned by Cindy Chandler.  Wheeler also received the Leading Handler Award for the second consecutive year.


Mae West


"I had four today (in the Hunter Breeding Division) a yearling, two 2 year olds and a 3 year old.  We won 3 firsts and a second, so we had a pretty good day.  The Best Young Horse, Mae West, she's a beautiful filly, she's very correct, a beautiful mover, and she really shows herself. She's easy to show.  She won here last year, so it worked out well."


Kevin Wheeler JogIn all his years of breeding horses Kenny Sr. has seen a lot of changes in the Hunter industry. "I still love a Thoroughbred, most Thoroughbreds now go to the racetrack.  Years ago they used to get Thoroughbreds and break them and train them, and then they started to go toEuropeand bought the 4, 5, and 6 year old jumpers so they were ready to go.  If you gave me a blank check and said find me a Thoroughbred that can come here and win atDevon I probably couldn't find one. Now they're breeding Warmbloods to Thoroughbred mares so they get a little more quality, more refined."


Wheeler said he didn't find the shift from the Thoroughbred to the Warmblood difficult. "I really didn't notice it, the change just kind of happened. I had Thoroughbreds and I had Warmbloods. One of the best horses we had was Isgilde, and she was all German and Working Champion here 5 times, but then I had a lot of great Thoroughbreds too, Ruxton, Just For Fun, Two For One, Gozzi...."



Kenny Wheeler Sr. on Gozzi 



It's horses like the Wheeler's that have inspired the USHJA International Hunter Derbies, so it could not be more fitting that this Sunday's Derby has been underwritten by the Wheeler sons in honor of their father, Kenny Sr. and their mother, Sally. 



The Wheeler Family
The Wheelers at The Family Farm in Keswick, Virginia 


Wheeler Photo


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