"I had the week of my life," claimed Jenni Martin-McAllister after raking in win after win at Woodside Circuit Opener (June 20-24). "I won every class I entered in the Grand Prix Ring." In fact, her many victories throughout the week included both the $2,500 Open Welcome Stake and the $15,000 Woodside Jumper Classic on the same horse, the latter a qualifying class for the $25,000 LEGIS Jumper Rider Bonus. Not only that, but she swept the top two places in both classes.
In the big jumper class, Jenni piloted three horses through Danny Foster's course and landed in the jump off with all three: her own Here I Come, plus LEGIS Venice and Columbus (LEGISequine.com, owners of both). She led the jump off with Here I Come and set a fast pace while leaving each rail in place. Guillermo Obligado was next on Cecilia (Woodgrove Farm, owner). He rode a conservative round, guarding his young horse, but pulled the last rail down to finish in fifth. Jenni returned on Venice and looked to be rivaling Here I Come's time, but the mare misjudged the two stride at the far end of the field. Jenni pulled her in for two, but Venice clipped the back rail of the oxer and settled in fourth. Nicole Bloom was fast on Amber van Spieveld (Rhys Farms, LLC, owner), but dropped a rail at 11b to take third place. Jenni finished up the jump off on Columbus and took a shot at bettering her time on Here I Come. She rode an aggressive course, taking a great slice over the oxer at fence 5 and a super tight roll back to the vertical at 7b, but the distance came up too deep and Columbus caught the top rail. However, they were the fastest of the four faulters for second place and Here I Come was the winner with his double clear round.
"It was really amazing," Jenni said in disbelief. "I wasn't expecting to win both the Welcome Stake and the Classic, but Here I Come stepped up and showed that he's getting trained. I was really happy with him."
Danny's jump off course was a crowd pleaser, starting with the vertical at the bottom of the ramp to the new bank complex. Riders then had the option to either head up, around, and down the ramp to fence five or cut down at the top of the ramp down onto the bank and then down again, which is what all of the riders chose to do.
"This particular week there were a lot of younger horses in the class," Danny explained. "We needed to be encouraging, yet give them the experience they needed. Including the bank and the grob gave them a good experience, and I thought the good class went very well. I started the first round with the grob because I have noticed over the last number of years that horses jump particularly well there. I thought it was different and unusual, but at the same time I was confident it would have positive results and it did. In the jump off I gave them the option of going down the stairs portion in the middle of the bank or going all the way around the chute section, so that picked up the interest level. Most of them found the most direct line to be down the stairs, and that was neat to watch."
"I know he's not a really fast horse," Jenni explained of Here I Come. "He spends a lot of time in the air when he jumps. I have to leave steps out in the lines to make up for it, but he has plenty of stride so that's no problem. He actually gets more balanced and jumps better when he gallops. I figured, 'I have nothing to lose. Let's go for it.' We were a little cautious on the bank and then added before the oxer because I wasn't sure if he could handle it. That made the rollback really fast, and I was a little cautious to the combination because I knew it would be a little tight. We left out a step in the last part of the combination and got through it. I was really happy to be double clear. Then I didn't have anything to lose with the other horses. I got a little too brave with Venice, but when I came back with Columbus I really went for it. I tried to even better my time on Here I Come, which I did, but I didn't get the rollback the way I wanted and we had a rail. It was a good class. Everyone went fast and tried to win, and that makes it fun. The jump off had a lot of galloping and the bank, which made it interesting."
The show ended early enough for a lot of people to watch the class and cheer on their favorite rider, but the enthusiastic crowd was just one element in a fantastic evening. "From my perspective it went great," Danny added. "The facility at The Horse Park is fabulous. They have the best footing in North America that I've seen, and the conditions are great. The horses jumped fantastic all week. We had a great grand prix, especially since they added the banks. That was a terrific addition to the ring, and I think it is up to scratch with the best rings in the country."
"The footing is incredible," Jenni agreed. "We could not have run in the jump off like we did if we had a different surface. With this you don't have to worry you'll fall or slip, so you can go as much as you can go. It makes the sport so much better. I love it here. The competition is nice, and the courses are good. They have international course designers that really train your horses. It's so good for young horses to show and compete in a grand prix setting with all the crowd, music, and pressure of a grand prix, but a little smaller. Then, the first time they jump a real national standard grand prix they're ready for it."
Jenni bought Here I Come from a breeder friend in Germany two years ago. "There was just something about him," Jenni recalled. "Elastic, good mind, amazing balance and rhythm. We named him Here I Come because we had an off-the-track Thoroughbred named Ready Or Not. He was quirky and challenging but left the jumps up and I won a lot with him throughout the East and South. Last year, Here I Come finished Woodside by moving up to the 1.15M Jumpers, and he stepped into his first 1.40M class this week--and won all three classes he went in. I am planning to take him in the eight-year-old section of the Young Jumper Championship, and he is proving that he will be a contender."
Jenni was happy she made the trip from Burbank for the show, as was Guillermo Obligado, who drove up from Carlsbad. "Danny did a really good job," Guillermo commented. "It was a fun class." In addition to his fifth place finish in the grand prix, Guillrmo was 1.30M Jumper Champion aboard Quiloa Du Tillard (Suanna Singlehurst, owner). "He's a very nice horse and a lot of fun. He's super fast, careful, and very enjoyable. He was very good this week. It was very nice to be champion; of course, it's always nice to win. I loved the show. The people are super nice, and the footing is unbelievably good. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. I will put it on my calendar for next year as an option because it was very nice."
The class to watch in the hunter ring was the $2,500 USHJA National 3'0" Hunter Derby. Priscilla Trees, after winning this class on Diamond River (Abigail Friedman, owner) last fall, brought him back for a repeat. "We did all the higher options and were sitting on top with a score of 90 after the first round," Priscilla recalled. "Paul Bennett put the pressure on in the second handy round by doing all the inside options brilliantly and scored a 90. After watching him go, I knew I needed to do the same inside options and do them well to keep the lead. Luckily, Diamond was great and we ended with a win."
Diamond's win last fall was his first derby, and he is quickly proving himself to not only be a contender, but to be versatile as well. He also carried his owner, Abigail, to Adult Amateur Hunter Reserve Champion. "I was really happy with Diamond because the derby was the first class of the show for us," Priscilla added. "It's always nice to repeat a win and stay consistent in the ring. He has gotten better this year at the derbies, so I can be a bit handier than last year."
Paul and Capitol Hill (Nicolette Hirt, owner) won the derby at Woodside Spring Classic and the pair has placed in the top of several other derbies this season, so their second place finish was right in line with their consistent performance. "It was a nice field," he noted. "It's not hard to lose to Priscilla; she's a lovely rider on a beautiful horse. I'm just happy Capitol Hill has been so consistent. He's an athletic horse, but he's just out of the greens. We were reserve champion in the 3'3" Performance Working Hunters, and he was champion in Children's Hunters with his owner, Nicolette. They also won the $500 Children's Hunter Classic. We've only had him just over a year, and Nicolette is the first kid to ride and show him." Paul had the opportunity to try out the new footing freshly installed in the Bay Arena Complex. "The new footing is going to be wonderful. By the end of the week it was getting really good."
Lucie Wharton had some success of her own in the hunter ring, winning First Year Green Working Hunter Champion with Silent Knight (Louisa Ward, owner). "Silent Knight just turned six, and he's a very immature six," Lucie explained. I was really pleased with his attitude at Woodside. He went right into the ring and marched around and was consistent all week. His handies are starting to get really fun, so that's always good."
In the equitation ring, Shannon Boyle (Denize Borges, trainer) showed herself to be a contender when she won Equitation 12 thru 14 Champion riding her Up In The Air, plus she won the Cloverleaf Equitation Classic Medal. "I was really happy because I had trouble at the beginning of the week. I kept adding to the fences and getting deep distances. I talked it over with my trainer, Denize, and she said to let go and he'd go faster so I wouldn't be able to add anymore. I worked past it toward the end of the week and got back to my normal self. I was especially happy about the Over Fences portion of the Equitation 12-14 section, because it was really competitive. I had a big setback when I got my horse because he was really young. My hard work with him is starting to pay off."
Samantha's barn mate Courtney Ketzler also performed well in the equitation win, topping the Taylor Harris (THIS) Children's Medal and just edging out Samantha to win the NorCal 3' Junior/Amateur Medal.
"The Woodside shows are good for my clients because the location is very convenient to our farm, the class list has something to offer to every level of competitor, and the juniors and amateurs can compete Wednesday through Sunday," Denize explained. "All the kids are out of school, so they are available to ride every show day and get loads of experience. The schedule was very well thought out, so there were very few trainer conflicts. This makes for a much more enjoyable show for all, especially the professionals. I appreciate the VIP trainer tent, the t-shirts for the grooms, and the 'thank you' bottles of wine and hats the trainers received. Sometimes it isn't what you get but the thought behind showing appreciation towards the trainers who bring their clients to support the show."
With two more weeks to go, each with hunter derbies, jumper classics, and a whole host of other great classes, the fun at Woodside is just beginning.
For more information on Woodside Circuit Opener, including a prize list and complete results, visit the LEG website.
The Woodside Summer circuit continues with Bay Area Summer Festival (June 27-July 1) and concludes with Golden Gate Classic (July 4-8). In Southern California, the Gold Coast series will continue with Gold Coast 5 (July 20-22), and the Verdugo Hills series of shows at Hansen Dam Equestrian Center will wrap up with League Preview (Oct 26-27). In Colorado, the show jumping action resumes Sep 6-9.
Photos: Jenni Martin-McAllister and Here I Come are double winners; Priscilla Trees and Diamond River win another hunter derby; Lucie Wharton and Silent Knight are anything but silent in the First Year Green Working Hunters; Courtney Ketzler is a shining star in the medal classes. All Photos by Sheri Scott.