It’s probably pretty unprofessional as a journalist to admit, but Karl Slezak and the 10-year-old Hot Bobo had flown completely under my radar prior to this weekend. Heck, even prior to cross country day. But to give myself a little credit – and anyone else who didn’t see this somewhat surprise victory in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S coming — the mare had only just stepped up to the Advanced level this February. After today she now has four total Advanced runs under her girth; this was just her second CCI4*, finishing on their dressage score of 29.3.
While Karl and Hot Bobo have had some big success at previous levels — including wins in the CCI2*-L at Hagyard Midsouth in 2020 and in the CCI3*-L at the Tryon International 3-Day Event last fall — Hot Bobo likely wasn’t anyone’s pick to win this division this weekend given her inexperience at the level. It seems, however, as though her modus operandi may be to prove us all wrong. The first person she proved wrong was Karl himself who, after impulsively buying the mare at 2017 Monart Sale in Ireland, admits he initially had some second thoughts.
“We were sitting in the auction and I wasn’t really paying attention, and my wife gives me a nudge,” Karl recalled. “She was like, ‘You liked that one, she’s going cheap!’ and I just threw my hand up and we got her on the first [bid]. That never happens. Then I was like, ‘Crap, what did I buy? Is that the one that kept spinning every time a horse came at her?’ and sure enough, it was.”
An Irish Sport Horse bred by Dublin’s Emma Phelan, Hot Bobo (VDL Arkansas — Taneys Leader, by Supreme Leader xx) is a half sister to Will Coleman’s Off The Record. Hot Bobo, however, is 70% blood out of a full Thoroughbred dam. Between the sale and the start of the next eventing season, Karl hadn’t sat on the mare for several weeks and was getting a little worried. But the anxiety disappeared once he sat on her.
“I was fretting about what I bought, and then from day one she was spot on,” he said. “The first day I sat on her, she was on it, she was just beautiful. She was always spooky on cross country, but to ride on the flat and to jump was awesome and [the worries were] all gone, I was like, ‘thank God.’ I was terrified though, for eight weeks, I was like, ‘that’s a lot of money.'”
To her character, Karl says: “She just wants to work all the time. She just loves to please and comes out the same pretty much every day. You know, for a mare, you never know what you’re gonna get. But when mares work for you they’re amazing. And she definitely wants to please and works for me really well.”
Purchased initially with the intent of being a sale horse, that spookiness on cross country turned out to be why the mare stayed with the Slezaks, who still own her in full, as potential buyers passed her over for that reason. No longer an issue, it didn’t keep her from delivering a clear and inside the time run across country yesterday even though Karl was unsure of how the mare would handle the Kentucky crowds.
Despite the pressure of entering the arena last, Karl took a pragmatic to show jumping day.
“I definitely was nervous,” Karl admits. “But I tried to put as little pressure on myself as possible. It’s just what will be will be and usually works out better that way. And she just felt great, so I was definitely more confident going in the ring.”
And just an extra fun fact for all you sports fans out there, since it’s been a great weekend for our friends to the north: Just a day after the Toronto Maple Leafs advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs for the first time in 19 years, Karl becomes the first Canadian rider to win a division during a Kentucky weekend since Stewart Young-Black won the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in 1992.
Big Plans for Podium Finishers
Karl plans to tackle the CCI4*-L at Tryon in just a few weeks time, while our second and third place finishers Tamie Smith with Solaguayre California and Sydney Elliot with QC Diamantaire have some plans overseas this spring.
“We’re just here to test what we have and see where we’re at, so we can go back home and practice more,” Tamie said of her 12-year-old Silla Argentina mare (Casparo — Solaguayre Calandira, by Casall) who finished just seven-tenths of a point behind. “I really wanted to make sure that she handled all of this well. And we have basically the month of May to kind of decompress and kind of get our wits about us and then go to Luhmühlen. So I’m excited about that.”
As for Sydney and “Q,” who also jumped double clear this morning to finish on a score of 34.9, they may very well be on the same plane to Germany: they’re headed over to Luhmühlen as well for a crack at the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding’s (Diarado — Lantana, by Sandro Hit) third CCI5*.
“We are like an old married couple at this point. He has just been such a wonderful horse since we got him. Everyone would want a horse like this,” said Sydney. “I thought it was a great last run for him before we head to Europe.”
Breaking it Down
Out of 35 competitors this morning, just over half the field (51.4%) left all the poles in the cups. In addition to our top three, nine other pairs (Colleen Loach and FE Golden Eye, Bec Braitling and Caravaggio II, Hanna Bundy and Lovely Assistant, Arielle Aharoni and Dutch Times, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Nutcracker, and James Alliston and Karma) jumped double clear over Steve Stephens show jumping course.
We have SO MUCH MORE still to come at you from the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by MARS Equestrian including an 5* repot we’ve been waiting years to write. What a weekend. Go Eventing.
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