Prepping for Pan American Games Salvador Onate Races to Win $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic

Lexington, Ky. – July 25, 2019 – As the sun set on the Rolex Stadium, spectators were treated to an entertaining evening of competition with 29 entries battling it out in the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic. The 1.50m course designed by Brazil’s Marina Azevedo proved to be tricky for many horse-and-rider combinations, consisting of a total of 15 obstacles in the first round. A myriad of jumps came down around the course and with a time-allowed of 84 seconds, only nine pairs moved onto the jump-off.

Salvador Onate and Big Red

Mexico’s Patricio Pasquel on Babel, was the first to return to the ring in the jump-off but with a rail down, he left the door open for other competitors to seize the win. However, it took five jump-off attempts before an athlete secured a double-clear finish — Shane Sweetnam, Irishman and local fan favorite, left all rails in their cups to finish on a time of 44.372 seconds aboard Gerko. Owned by Seabrook LLC and his student, Lacey Gilbertson, the 8-year-old KWPN gelding has only recently moved up to compete in grand prix competitions and Sweetnam has high hopes for his development.

Shane Sweetnam and Gerko
Shane Sweetnam and Gerko

While Sweetnam was hoping to earn the win in his first competition since his performance at the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup in CHIO Aachen, his hopes were dashed when Mexico’s Salvador Onate confidently took to the ring. Shaving two seconds off Sweetnam’s time, Onate raced Big Red, his 14-year-old Westphalian gelding, to a clean performance in 42.145 seconds.

Salvador Onate and Big Red
Salvador Onate and Big Red

The enthusiastic chestnut gelding has competed under a collection of world-class riders, including Richard Spooner (USA), Steve Guerdat (SUI), and Nikolaj Hein Ruus (DEN), prior to Onate picking up the ride two years ago. They have accumulated an impressive resume together including a team gold medal at the 2018 Central American & Caribbean Games and in January, the pair took top honors in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Guadalajara CSI4*-W in Mexico, marking their first international grand prix win.

Ornate was thrilled with Big Red’s consistency and power during the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic, which was their final round in preparation for the 2019 Pan American Games, which takes place in Lima, Peru with show jumping competition on Aug. 6-9.

Big Red
Big Red

In addition to having one of her horses ride away with a second-place finish in the class with Sweetnam, Gilbertson finished the evening in third place on Bijzonder. Her 13-year-old KWPN gelding gave a speedy performance in the jump-off with the quickest time of 40.611 seconds, but unfortunately pulled the last rail to finish on four faults.

Lacey Gilbertson and Bijzonder
Lacey Gilbertson and Bijzonder

The athletes in Thursday’s class were especially competitive as the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic was the third class in the Hagyard Challenge Series, which promises the top riders a sizeable bonus at the end of the summer. The series consists of seven grand prix classes and, following the final event, a cash prize of $60,000 will be awarded to the rider who accumulates the most points throughout the series. With series leading riders spread out across the country, the race for the bonus is still up for grabs.

Show jumping competition will resume in the Rolex Stadium at 8 a.m. with the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper and the $50,000 Rood & Riddle Grand Prix will take place Saturday, July 27, during Hats Off Day.

For more information on the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, please visit


$25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. Big Red / Salvador Onate / MEX / 0 / 80.087 / 0 / 42.145
2. Gerko / Shane Sweetnam / IRL / 0 / 80.574 / 0 / 44.372
3. Bijzonder / Lacey Gilbertson / USA / 0 / 75.156 / 4 / 40.611
4. Shiver / Liza Finsness / USA / 0 / 78.190 / 4 / 41.814
5. Orso Del Terriccio / Diego Perez Bilbao / ESP / 0 / 82.041 / 4 / 43.134
6. Javas Miss Jordan / Nicky Galligan / IRL / 0 / 77.777 / 4 / 43.408
7. Kayack / Juan Manuel Gallego Martini / COL / 0 / 80.929 / 4 / 46.584
8. Babel / Patricio Pasquel / MEX / 0 / 80.758 / 4 / 46.725
9. Helios / Diego Perez Bilbao / ESP / 0 / 79.386 / 4 / EL
10. Essince W / David Beisel / USA / 4 / 75.917
11. La Belle SCF / David O’Brien / USA / 4 / 76.786
12. MTM Flutterby / Brian Moggre / USA / 4 / 77.702


Salvador Onate – $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic winner

On Big Red:
“I’m very happy. This is a big win for me as it is the last round before we go to the Pan American Games. I got [Big Red] about three years ago — Steve Guerdat was riding him. I’ve had many grand prix wins with him and we won a gold medal at the Central American Games. He puts all his effort into every jump, it doesn’t matter if it’s a meter or 1.50m. He puts in so much effort and tries so hard. He’s very special.”

Salvador Onate and Big Red
Salvador Onate and Big Red

On preparing for the Pan American Games:
“You can’t really rest leading up to the Pan Am Games. After Lima, we have to be prepared for the [Spruce Meadows] Masters, the [Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final] CSIO Barcelona – it is a very busy schedule. Florida can be really humid but it is lovely here in Kentucky.”

On the course:
“The course was good. It was very tricky. It’s great to prepare for the Pan Am Games here in Kentucky. I love Kentucky.”

Shane Sweetnam – Second place in the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic

On Gerko:
“It’s actually Lacey [Gilberston]’s horse. He’s quite green and he’s only stepped up doing grand prixs at the last show two weeks ago at the show in Michigan [at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival] and he was fourth in the $50,000 grand prix there. This is his first night class and double-clear under the lights — he handled it well. I expected him to. He’s a really talented horse and he’s got a good brain. He’s really nice to ride. He still has little things with his balance to fix properly but for his age he’s quite comfortable. It doesn’t feel difficult in there. He adjusts very well.”

Shane Sweetnam and Gerko
Shane Sweetnam and Gerko

On showing at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show:
“It’s great to be back. I love to be in Kentucky. It’s our home base in the summer and we’ve always had good luck at these shows. I’ve been coming here for over 12 years now. We’ve always loved these shows and always try to pencil it in every year if we can.”

On what’s next for Gerko:
“I’ll do him again on Saturday in the grand prix and then Lacey will show him next week. We’ve been rotating him because he’s still learning and he’s a big boy — just to make sure he goes the right direction.”

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