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Sports · June 14, 2021

Thrilling Grand Prix caps Upperville show comeback

Photo/Tiffany Dillon Keen
Jordan Coyle and Dubai on their way to victory in Sunday's Jumper Classic, concluding the 168th Upperville Colt & Horse Show.
In hindsight, I could have done one less stride to the last jump. But I’m very grateful. It’s a little more special to be here in my home town area. My daughter was here to watch me, and that makes it even more special.
— Alison Firestone Robitaille, who finished second
By Leonard Shapiro
For Fauquier Now

Upperville Colt & Horse Show President Joe Fargis had predicted re-cently that the 168th edition would be “the best ever.” Save for a couple of days of drenching rain, including a Sunday downpour on the final af-ternoon of competition, he wasn’t far from right.

More than 1,500 riders, a show record, were entered and large crowds thronged to the oldest horse show in America, particularly on the last weekend. And Sunday spectators were rewarded with a thrilling finish to the premier event of the week — the $213,000 Upperville Jumper Classic featuring some of the sport’s elite riders.

In fact it was almost The Perfect Ending, with a local woman — veteran Grand Prix rider Alison Firestone Robitaille on Lima 47 — finishing less than two seconds from winning the event in a three-horse jump-off. Ms. Robitaille, who grew up only a few miles from the show grounds and now lives in Middleburg, finished second to champion Jordan Coyle of Ireland.

A total of 32 riders began the Classic, but only three — Mr. Coyle, Ms. Robitaille and Chilean Samuel Parot — went clear with no faults on the first round on a difficult 13-jump course designed by Marina Azevedo.

In the jump-off, Mr. Parot, a veteran rider himself, went first on Dubai and went clear again on a shorter course, finishing in 42.78 seconds.

Mr. Coyle, riding Ariso, went next and raced around flawlessly, and bet-ter yet, faster than Mr. Parot by three seconds, in 39.78.

“The horse did what I asked him to do,” he said. “That’s all you can ask.”

Now it was Ms. Robitaille’s turn. She’s competed in this event for many years, and in 2012, when it was a grass course, she finished second to eventual winner Aaron Vale, her best finish at Upperville.

Nine years later, Ms. Robitaille said she had a plan after seeing Mr. Coyle’s time, and she very nearly executed it, but finished in 41.17. Her only regret, she said, with 10-year-old daughter Zoe sitting on her lap in a post-event press conference, was that she didn’t cut one last stride from her last jump.

Still, she was thrilled to perform so well in front of so many friends and some family, though her parents, Bert and Diana Firestone, were not in attendance. They now live full-time in Florida.

“One of these years I’ll get lucky,” Ms. Robataille said when it was over. “In hindsight, I could have done one less stride to the last jump. But I’m very grateful. It’s a little more special to be here in my home town area. My daughter was here to watch me, and that makes it even more special.”

The writer, who lives near Marshall, retired in 2011 after decades as a sports reporter, columnist and editor at The Washington Post. He publish-es Country Zest & Style magazine.


2021 Upperville Grand Prix ... by Fauquier Now





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