"What a mare, huh?" said Penny Brennon of her winning mount in the $5,000 Speed Derby. The mare in question is Cowgirl, an eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood owner Debi Connor imported from Holland several years ago. With Penny in the irons, Cowgirl won the $5,000 Speed Derby during the Rocky Mountain Classic (July 14-18, 2010) at the Colorado Horse Park. It was the second week in a row the pair topped the Speed Derby.
"This is an amazing horse," Penny said. "I didn't think we could have a better round than we did when we won the Speed Derby last week. I was wrong."
According to Penny, Cowgirl has all the makings of an Olympic prospect. She is able to assess the course and is, as Penny said, "the bravest mare I've ever ridden." Going early in the class appeared to be no problem for the pair. Penny eased Cowgirl into an aggressive gallop and went right to the jumps knowing that seasoned professionals and horses were hot on her heels and going for the win.
"The courses both weeks were absolutely perfect -- forward, fast, fun, and fair for every horse," said Penny. "They were set the way a Speed Derby should be, with enough technical stuff to allow the best horses to rise to the top. I am sure the spectators liked what they saw."
Armando Hassey knows all about going fast and jumping high. He rode his La Roche to the win in the $40,000 Rocky Mountain Grand Prix and unseated last week's winner, John Pearce, from taking home the $25,000 rider bonus. Only fractions of a second separated the two riders, and once again the $100,000 bonus for the rider who can will all three classes will go unclaimed.
A crowd was on hand to see if Pearce could deliver and who might vie for the top prize. "I love how these shows are scheduled so that every ring is done and everyone can watch the grand prix. It really makes the prix a very special class," Armando said.
Armando had nothing but praise for La Roche, a horse he's ridden for a number of years. In fact, Armando and the now 16-year-old La Roche won a grand prix during the Colorado Summer Circuit in 2007. "La Roche is a great horse and a great jumper. We knew he had potential when we got him at the age of two. He won the bronze in the American Young Horse Championships at the age of six and took me to the silver medal in the Young Riders competition when I was riding for Mexico," Armando noted.
La Roche has been going very consistently for Armando of late. In fact, the pair has gone clean for 13 grands prix in a row. However, they haven't taken the top slot until this week. "I knew we had to go fast. I saw Kristen (Vanderveen) go clean with a very fast time. John (Pearce) was next. I had to be the best. I think less than half a second separated first from second place."
John McConnell on Chinook (Guy McElvain, owner) won the $7,500 Open Jumper Classic. John noted that he doesn't always compete on the 12-year-old mare but he enjoys getting to do so when Guy can't make it out to the show. "Chinook is one of Guy's grand prix horses," John said. "We had originally bought her for Sharon, but Guy just got along with her so well."
Guy's daughter Chenoa (John McConnell, trainer), also had a good show. Along with her Boritas, she was the winner of the $7,500 Junior/Amateur Owner Jumper Classic and reserve champion in the Amateur Owner Jumper section. "Boritas is a stallion that we just got at the beginning of the year," John said. "We are hoping he will take Chenoa to the grand prix ring."
Over in the hunter rings, Morocco (Nancy Moore, owner) beat 52 horse and rider combinations to earn the tri-color in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Classic. Paul Rohrbach assumed the riding duties for the two-phase competition. Last week's winner, Summer Fling (Meridian Farms, owner), was second with James Lala up.
Junior rider Andra Sakson was all over the pony rings with mounts in the hunters, jumpers and equitation. Her biggest success during the week was with Helicon Just Notice (Molly Rinedollar, owner and trainer). Andra and Just Notice not only won the USEF Pony Medal but also were champions in the Medium Pony Hunters -- quite an accomplishment considering the youngster only has been paired with the pony since May of this year.
"Andra is a very dedicated, hard-working kid," said Molly. "She'll show all day here at the Horse Park and then go home to ride three or four more ponies. The next day, she starts all over. She's a great kid!"
The home-bred Helicon Just Notice is just one of three ponies Andra rode for Molly. Royal Woodhaven was in the Small/Medium Green Ponies and another home-bred pony, Helicon Corvette, was in the Pony Jumpers. Andra also did some catch-riding for a few other pony owners. "Andra just turned 13 and is experiencing quite a bit of success in the pony ring," Molly noted. "It's nice to see that happen to a kid so deserving."
Horse showing continues for one more week at the Colorado Horse Park with the Colorado Summer Classic. Significant prize money is on the line in every arena. Highlighted classes include the $50,000 Grand Prix of Denver, the $10,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby, the $10,000 Junior/Amateur Owner Jumper Classic, $5,000 Gambler's Choice and $2,500 Hunter Classics for Junior, Amateur Owner and Pony riders.
California jumping fans can look forward to Gold Cost 5 July 23-25 at LAEC.
Photos: Penny Brennon and Cowgirl in the $5,000 Speed Derby Photo: Flying Horse Photography
Armando Hassey and La Roche jump fast and high in the $40,000 Rocky Mountain Grand Prix Photo: Flying Horse Photography
Paul Rohrbach and Morocco sail smoothly through the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Classic Photo: Flying Horse Photography