Wayne, IL- The $25,000 Welcome Grand Prix was the highlight of in the SmartPak Grand Prix Ring at Equifest I at Lamplight Equestrian Center. Thirty-one entries took a swing at the Manuel Esparza designed course. Esparza, of Mexico City, Mexico, was an Assistant Designer for the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
Tracy Fenney and Andrew Kocher took the top five spots in the class. Thirteen horses cleared the track to move into the jump off with jump number seven, an oxer after a left hand turn with wavy planks, coming down frequently along with a skinny vertical after the triple bar in a short five strides, also taking its toll on the riders. Eparza set a wide oxer at the end of the track riding away from the gate, which cost more riders their chance at the jump off.
Kocher, Lake St. Louis, MO, had seven chances for the top check with five of those chances moving into the jump off phase. Tracy Fenney of Flower Mound, TX had three horses in the class with all three making the jump off. Kocher rode Filip first to test out the jump off track but left the ring with 8 faults. Fenney went back first on MTM Grand Slam and also added 8 faults to their score, having rails at the in and out.
Kocher then had his chance on Ora Del Te Di La San Giorgio, owned by Ora Del Te LLC, and was the first clean of six, setting the pace at 38.011. The Fenney-Kocher chase continued as Fenney rode MTM Dumbledorf to a clear round, but not quite fast enough to catch Kocher with 41.578. Kocher took another turn, this time with Bologna, owned by Shalanno Farms, Inc., putting in another fault free trip with a blazing time of 37.380 to take over the lead. Holly Shepherd tried to break up the battle with Loretta Patterson’s Triomph, but wasn’t quite fast enough with her 42.719.
But Kocher and Fenney weren’t done yet. Kocher and his own Le Conte, clocked in at 39.864 with Fenney yet to go on MTM Reve Du Paradis. The Texan pulled out the big guns for a neat and tidy round, landing her 36.155 to steal the lead. For an exciting round on Casino Royal, Kocher’s last ride, he galloped across the ring to catch the fastest time of the class, 35.782, but caught a rail in the in and out, leaving Fenney the MTM Reve Du Paradis, the winners. Kocher took the second place spot with Bologna, third with Ora Del Te La San Giorgio and fourth with Le Conte. Fenney and MTM Dubledorf finished fifth and Holly Shepherd and Triompf were sixth.
“I really love this horse’s willingness and he’s super brave and gives a good effort every time,” said Fenney of the big 10-year-old gray. “I never really got to see Andy (Kocher) go but I watched Dory (customer Dorothy Douglas) go and she was slow from one to two and I saw her go around the oxer and do four in the last line and she did 38 (seconds) so I knew I could go around and still be fast.”
Fenney and Michael McCormick returned to Chicago after showing in the windy city last year. “We love Chicago!” added Fenney. “The weather is fantastic here! It’s 106 (degrees) back home!” “And this facility is just beautiful,” added McCormick. “It’s just like your own backyard.” Kocher’s adrenaline was still flowing as he wasn’t the least bit tired from the heat and all his rides. “I tried some things on my first horse that didn’t work out so I changed my plan a bit and just kept working on shaving the turns,” said Kocher. “Its nice to have these horses,” he admitted. “They are all for sale except Le Conte, he’s my pet!”
The jumper action continues with a $75,000 Grand Prix on Saturday.