Traverse City, MI - July 12, 2013 - If trainer Michael Morrissey gets especially nervous watching Jazzy Belle and Lourdes De Guardiola perform in the 6-year-old Young Jumper classes, it's understandable. He bred Jazzy Belle, who is out of his famous junior jumper mare Gera 28, and the gray mare is considered the pet around his Imperial Show Stables in Wellington, FL.
"We've had her since she was born, and she's been on the road with us since she was 3," said De Guardiola. "We've brought her up the levels in the Young Jumpers, and she did the finals last year and was great. We're slowly working our way through the 6-year-old year, too.
Today, the beautiful Holsteiner (by Cassini II) was anything but slow. She jumped to a decisive victory in the Sweet Oak Farm 6-year-old Young Jumper Championship Qualifier with De Guardiola, topping a competitive field for the blue ribbon.
"She's the spitting image of Gera," said Morrissey. "Both horses were really careful, and Gera won a lot as a junior jumper and got me into the grand prix ring when I was a junior. She really was a good mare, and it's crazy how much her 6-year-old daughter is just like her. You look at pictures of them jumping, and they have the same technique and style. So, if she turns out anything like her mother, we'll be happy. She looks like she's well on the way, and we're so happy with her."
After jumping a confident clear round over Guilherme Jorge's first-round course, De Guardiola counted on Jazzy Belle's carefulness and increased the speed. "I think I just picked up a fast pace to fence 1 and stayed on it," said De Guardiola of her jump-off strategy. "I stayed on the leave-out stride from fences 2 to 3 and the second line as well. I just kept that pace, and she was great for me.
"She loves competing; she's a ring horse," De Guardiola added. "She's great at home, and we love her to pieces, but when she gets in the ring it's a whole different level for her. She loves it. "
Morrissey and De Guardiola are finishing their second and final week at Horse Shows by the Bay, and they've enjoyed their time in Traverse City. "The horse show is great. It's beautiful weather up here," she said. "I think we've had the best weather of any summer circuit in the country. It's nice and everyone's friendly, and the rings run smoothly."
Morrissey added: "The jumps are very nice, and the courses have been great for the young horses, so that's important. They've been big, but they've been on as far as what the young horses should be doing."
This week's jumper course designer, Guilherme Jorge, of Campinas, Brazil, is an international-level designer with 15 years of experience. He's traveled to Horse Shows by the Bay since its inaugural year and missed just one edition, in 2007 when he designed the show jumping courses for the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"I've been here since the very first one, and Alex [Rheinheimer] and her team have come a long way," said Jorge. He also helped with the design of the Grand Prix Ring, and he enjoys having the opportunity to build courses on a ring that's not a standard rectangle.
"I think that it's important when you can have a different shape, with the corners that are rounded," he said. "It allows us course designers to design different courses and also gives a lot of personality to the horse show. Even being an all-weather ring, it's a unique set-up with all of the green around and the trees in the background, so it's very nice."
This year, Jorge also has a variety of new jumps to use on his courses, and riders have raved about the designs and the footing. Each year he fine-tunes his designs as the week progresses and the weekend's big classes approach.