As Kaitlin Campbell rode Rocky W into the arena, the time she'd chase came over the loudspeaker.
Moments before, McLain Ward, riding Rothchild, ripped through the course in 40.236 seconds. The public-address announcer bellowed, "That's the time you want to shoot for," right as Ward finished. And Campbell proceeded to do one better.
"Going after Rothchild, you pretty much just have to go for broke and hope you get lucky," said Campbell, a 24-year-old from Brookeville, Md. "That's really all you can do."
Campbell's 39.007-second final run earned her the win and $15,000 prize in the Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair on Saturday night. Ward, who was named lead rider for this year's show after the race, finished in second. Callan Solem, riding B Amelusina, rounded out the top three with a time of 55.273 in the jump-off.
Rocky W, owned by Campbell, is 17 years old, and Campbell credited their success to chemistry built over nine years.
"We know each other so well now, when people ask me how he's riding I say, 'I don't know, it's just Rocky,' " Campbell said. "That's just how it is."
In the Grand Prix on Thursday, Campbell was one of seven riders to advance to the final around. But she ran Rocky W through a jump to fall out of contention and was given another tough test after Ward sped through the jump-off course Saturday.
Four of 25 riders made the final in the Open Jumper, and did so by finishing the first-round course in less than 75 seconds while cleanly clearing every jump.
"I knew Kaitlin was going to be really fast," Ward, a three-time Olympian, said. ". . . I took a little time back on the skinny jump. If there's one place you have to be careful with Rothchild it's on the sharp rollback."
That left the window open for Campbell, who cleaned every jump without a sound and came out the winner.
"Rocky's really fast across the jumps," Campbell said. "He's a little bit of a skimmer, but he knows where his legs are, so I think that's where I really saved time."