San Juan Capistrano, CA - Today's $25,000 Markel Insurance Welcome Grand Prix tested forty-five entries over a challenging course with a tight time allowed. Of the ten who advanced to the jump-off, Ashlee Bond rode two horses to double clean finishes, emerging with the first place prize aboard Ace of Hearts. Bond finished third on Cornancer, and Vani Khosla, the only other double clean, claimed second with Billy Mexico by just 0.30.
Moving up to go first in the jump-off and give herself more time to prepare her second ride, Bond set the bar high in 38.41 seconds. Nayel Nassar aboard Chirico W, Lane Clarke aboard Romeo Du Paradis, and Russell Morgan aboard Dusty all beat Bond's impressive time, but each picked up faults over the fences.
Ace of Hearts, who was bred by Richard Spooner and picked up by Bond as a five-year-old, is naturally fast, according to Bond. She and the now ten-year-old gelding have developed a partnership that enables them to execute winning rounds.
Referring to his unique style, which is fast but sometimes unpredictable in straightness and stride, Bond said, "I let him cruise for the first four fences and then picked up the pace once he felt good. I think now he's just starting to get into a good head space, and he's getting better every time I go out there."
Bond also noted that she enjoyed the "great field and really good competition" here at the Blenheim Spring Classic IV. Ashlee McGee of Heritage Bloom presented the grand prix winner with a lovely bouquet of fresh flowers.
$25,000 Markel Insurance Welcome Grand Prix
1. 117 - Ace of Hearts - Ashlee Bond - Little Valley Farms - 0/0/38.414
2. 400 - Billy Mexico - Vani Khosla - Vani Khosla - 0/0/38.718
3. 865 - Cornancer - Ashlee Bond - Little Valley Farms - 0/0/39.748
4. 470 - Romeo du Paradis - Lane Clarke - Brooklane Farms - 0/4/38.147
5. 271 - Dusty - Russell Morgan - Russell Morgan - 0/4/38.724
6. 868 - Chirico W - Nayel Nassar - Linda Fotsch - 0/8/37.923
7. 388 - Parette - Lisa Carlsen - Lisa Carlsen - 0/8/39.748
8. 883 - Gladiator - Tiffany Sullivan - Haley Farms, LLC - 0/8/40.113
9. 428 - Tornado - Jennifer Crooks - Samia Staehle - 0/8/46.502
10. 410 - Woodpecker De Vilars - Zazou Hoffman - Woodacres Stables - 0/EL
11. 486 - Un Diamant des Forets - Jim Ifko - Eventyre Farms - 1/85.441
12. 201 - NKJ No Regret - Nicole Haunert - NJK Show Jumpers, Inc. - 1/85.578