Mettawa, IL -Messenger Hill Farm's Freddie Vazquez and Esprit De Vie won the $30,000 Showplace Fall Classic Championship Grand Prix, at Lamplight Equestrian Center in their first outing since the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Vazquez, encouraged by the Puerto Rico Equestrian Federation, went on a down-to-the-wire journey to find a new Pan Am mount when his beautiful bay Zangersheide stallion Zippo Z, sustained a minor bone bruise, an injury from which he will make a complete recovery but put him out of the mix for the international event. Desiree Johnson, Vazquez's source for horses in Europe, helped him find Esprit de Vie after a three-day, three-country search.
Vazquez and the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare laid down double clear rounds around Brazilian course designer Guilherme Jorge's technical track during the $30,000 Showplace Fall Classic Grand Prix to capture the victory in their first career win together. The pair edged out Lisa Goldman and Rocs to Riches earning Vazquez and his new mare the lead in the victory gallop. Vazquez was also in the ribbons with his own Bachelor 4, taking sixth place.
"I had no qualms putting her at a big angle, letting her know where we were going," Vazquez said of Esprit. "I gave her a little introduction when we entered the ring and I showed her the turn from fence two to fence three and then three to four. My plan was to go pretty hard to those fences to make up some time. She jumped a little to the right and ended up in eight steps. I knew that I couldn't throw away the class in an attempt to make the seven happen. I was going to have to make it up somewhere, and I did. She was just fast. I landed from the skinny and I saw the distance to the final jump. Lisa is hard to beat, but I know that this mare is going to be a contender"
Vazquez is bonding with this new member of his string. He appreciates how she performed for him at the Pan Ams. Though they were not on the podium in Toronto, it was an incredible feat to accomplish after riding the mare only seven times.
"She is a fabulous horse," he said. "After what she did for me at the Games, putting her in that scenario, it was so difficult and so big, it made me fall in love with her. I knew that if we could put everything together, things would really mesh. I am excited for the future. I felt great about the win, she is a wonderful horse."
"I thought I won," Vazquez continued. "I felt fast. I watched Lisa, and I kind of knew. She did some incredible turns, but I saw that there was an opening to be tidy and fast."
According to Vazquez, Bachelor required a more balanced approach and his nature is to question a bit. The pair have spent some time in the 1.25m and the 1.30m. and it has benefited their relationship. They were second out of 126 in the 1.40m Speed Challenge at the Winter Equestrian Festival in March and earned another second place finish in the $10,000 Champion Shavings Grand Prix at the Caledon Equestrian Center in Palgrave, Ontario in June.
Vazquez raved about Jorge's course and noted that he is on the books to design the tracks for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. "How lucky are we?" he asked. "It was a really fun track. I have known Gui for a long, long time. I consider myself fortunate to ride in the class."
Vazquez looks forward to the return of his partner, Zippo Z who, along with Esprit de Vie and Bachelor 4 will make for a strong string. Vazquez is grateful for the support and encouragement from his wife and Messenger Hill Farm partner, Jodi Vazquez, his friend and mentor, Olympic Gold Medalist Chris Kappler, his clients, his sponsors and the entire Messenger Hill Farm Team