Del Mar, CA - The event opened with a ceremonial American Civil War demonstration by the Frontier Army of the West, 2nd U.S. and 8th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Regiments, along with the National Anthem performed by Mercedes Martin-Raya. To honor the 155,000 veterans served by the R4 Alliance organization, the course had a custom jump featuring the American flag.
The flag obstacle was one of 16 jumping efforts on a demanding course set by former Canadian Olympian and FEI course designer Michel Vaillancourt. Twenty-five entries attempted the track and one-fifth of those returned for the jump-off.
Vaillancourt had height in mind today, rather than technicality. "I do have a little bit of a mixed group again, so I opted to stay a little strong with the size. I kept it true to a 1.50m format, but I stayed a little kinder with the distances."
Those kinder distances still asked plenty of questions of the competitors. The line set along the rail of the far side of the ring, an oxer-vertical-oxer triple combination, required a well-executed ride. The first two elements were set in a snug two strides, so if the horses didn't balance after the first oxer in time, the vertical came up quickly. Directly after the triple combination was a tall but skinny oxer set on the half stride, so whether riders chose to add in the five strides or gallop up in four, either option needed to be ridden early with dedication, as there was no room for changing the plan. The second combination on course, 11a-b, set diagonally off the corner in a bend to the final line, also demanded a precise ride.
Third into the ring, Karl Cook, no stranger to tough tracks, smoothly conquered the course aboard Tembla. Ninth to go, Nathalie Manning aboard Con Spirit, and fifteenth in the order, Barge on Luebbo, were fault-free. Both women were seeking their second career grand prix wins. Later, Cook also qualified a second mount for the jump-off, Basimodo, and Cook's coach, Olympic Medalist Eric Navet, earned the final clear round on Jonkheer Z (both owned by Signe Ostby).
The short course consisted of a bending line, the difficult 12a-b combination, and room for lots of galloping. Cook and Tembla produced a clear round with a speedy time in 38.07. Manning was also double clear, but a touch off the pace in 42.39, ultimately third place.
Barge made a daring turn halfway through the shortened course and then, to the crowd's delight, galloped down to the last line. Quicker by just .11 seconds, she took the lead with a time of 37.96. Navet had two rails, relegating him to fifth place. With another attempt, Cook went for the win on Basimodo. It looked like he might take the lead back, as he was clear and fast, until a rail fell at the final jump in what would have been a winning time of 37.39.
Barge's coach Gaby Salick could not join her today, but knowing the course had some tough questions, she didn't hesitate to communicate with her coach. "I thought it was a lot harder and obviously built bigger [than Thursday's class]. I wasn't sure if I should stay out and do the eight strides to the triple combo where everyone was doing seven, because I didn't want him to get stuck at 6b. I was actually texting Gaby and she said, 'You should probably add.' So I did the eight and it worked out really nicely. I was happy with that."
Of her winning ride, Barge said, "When I was coming to fence 15, I thought, 'This is a little too much of a slice, but too late, we are going!' And he was really good. He got his eye on it and was like, 'I got this!'"
Still working out her fall show schedule, Barge definitely plans to compete at The Las Vegas National in November.
Tomorrow, the Young Jumper Championship Western League Finals will crown three new champions as the five, six and seven year old horses compete in their final rounds. Stay tuned for all the details of their championship week. Join us in San Juan Capistrano in September for more young horse finals, grand prix classes, medal finals and derbies at the Blenheim Fall Tournament and the International Jumping Festival.
$50,000 Showpark Grand Prix
Place - Entry - Horse - Rider - Owner - Faults/Time
1. 111 - Luebbo - Jamie Barge - KylieCo - 0/0/37.963
2. 187 - Tembla - Karl Cook - Signe Ostby - 0/0/38.071
3. 339 - Con Spirit - Nathalie Manning - Nathalie Manning - 0/0/42.398
4. 182 - Basimodo - Karl Cook - Signe Ostby - 0/4/37.393
5. 186 - Jonkheer Z - Eric Navet - Signe Ostby - 0/8/38.420
6. 369 - Carushka - Eduardo Menezes - Eduardo Menezes - 4/71.838
7. 361 - Golden Horta - Eduardo Menezes - Carlos Hank, Jr. - 4/74.215
8. 371 - Quintol - Eduardo Menezes - Carlos Hank - 4/74.620
9. 609 - Eminent - Mandy Porter - David Murdoch - 4/76.044
10. 184 - Catypso - Eric Navet - Signe Ostby - 4/76.159
11. 485 - NJK No Regret - Nicole Haunert - NJK Show Jumpers, Inc. - 4/77.032
12. 179 - ASB Conquistador - Eric Navet - Signe Ostby - 8/69.607