MINDEN, NEVADA (June 29, 2001)- Jenni Martin, 32, of Central Point, Oregon, riding Careless, won the $15,000 Open Jumper Prix at HITS Tahoe in Minden, Nevada, today. Martin bested a field of 23 and took home $4,500 for owner Augustin Walch of Stratford, Ontario. Doug Russell of Wellington, Florida, was the Course Designer.
For Round One, Russell built a 13-jump course that included a triple combination at Fence No. 9 and a double at Fence No. 13. Time Allowed was set at 104 seconds. Eleven horses had clear rounds and moved on to the Jump-Off. Martin rode three horses in the class, Da Vinci, Careless, and Alcatraz 34, andqualified for the tiebreaker on the latter two horses.
Russell's Jump-Off course asked the riders to re-jump Fences 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and the double combination at 13. Time Allowed was set at 57 seconds. First in the Jump-Off order was Damian Gardiner of Rancho Sante Fe, California, riding Hilda owned by Albert Court Ltd. Gardiner set the pace with a clear round in 43.951 seconds. Gardiner, a member of the Irish team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, maintained his lead for the next four rides, but ended up in second place, taking home $3,300. Martin was sixth to go on the short course with Careless and snatched the lead from Gardiner with her clear round in 42.122. There was only one other rider to have a double-clear in the class--Beate Kuske-Shart of Acton, California riding Piro, but her time of 46.376 put her in third place. Kuske-Shart took home $1,950 for owner Malibu Equestrian Estates, Inc.
After taking Russell's Round One test three times, Martin said that it was a new ride for her each time. "All three horses are really different and they present different problems," she said. The most difficult obstacle on course in her judgment was the last in-and-out, Fence No. 13. "It rode a little bit difficult because of the way he built the fence with the wave in it. You could get caught a little to one side or the other and have to jump a little higher. There were two big oxers at the end before the in-and-out that were far away. The number 12 fence posed a problem because it was towards the in-gate at the end of the course and people were getting a little tired. You were thinking about the time and you were tempted to gallop down there and get really long and flat. A lot of people knocked that down."
Martin said her main concern in Round One was the Time Allowed, pointing out that there were a lot of single jumps with long distances in between where riders spent time readjusting their horses. "It was an easy course but if you didn't stay on it the whole time you would get lost and you might have a time fault," she said. "I didn't have a problem with the time but I really thought about it the whole way, and sometimes that can be a big factor because it gets you riding a little quick or you turn a little early."
Martin added that she thought the height of the jumps was comfortable. "I think [Doug Russell] did a good job with that because even though he had eleven clean it was good for today, to give everybody confidence. Maybe a few extra people will go on Sunday and think that they can do it."
Martin also had one extra element to deal with in Round One. As she was preparing her third horse, Alcatraz 34, to go in the ring, he lost a shoe in the warm-up. Her partner, Steve McAllister, a horse shoer for 30 years, was able to put the shoe back on and get the pair in the ring for a clear round. "It was a big break in concentration," said Martin. "He doesn't like the warm-up ring very much, and I thought I'd have to warm him up all over again, but he was fine with it. He jumped really well the first round, but his nerves all came out in the jump-off. Once he had one rail down then he really fell apart." Alcatraz had 12 faults in 54.520 and finished 10th, taking home $300 for owner Augustin Walch.
Martin had one make-or-break moment in the jump-off at the No. 4 fence when spectators could hear her call out to Careless, "Come on, git!" when he suddenly looked frozen on course. "[Russell] had a big rollback to Fence 4," explained Martin, "and [Careless] really stuck in the corner. He lost all his momentum. He's a really big horse and he throws out a lot in the turn. When I turned back to that fence and I needed him to go forward, he was just sort of stuck. You only have one shot. It's now or you're not making it at all. So I gave him encouragement."
Augustin Walch imported Careless, a 14-year-old, 17-hand, bay Holsteiner, in February. Martin started riding him in March and has shown him twice, at Saratoga in New York and Devon in Pennsylvania. "We call him 'Frazier' like the TV show because he reminds us of that psychiatrist-he's kind of stiff but funny," said Martin. "Alcatraz came at the same time so we called them 'Frazier' and 'Niles'-like the two brothers. They're different, but they act like they're brothers. Careless is the most fun to ride. He knows everything--he's easy. I'd put my grandmother on him. Steve jumped him. I put my sister, Cecily, on him. The kids love him. People at Devon stopped by the barn, and he's just a character in his stall-trying to eat their lunch, smell their hair, what's in your pocket? You can always trust him. Kids can hang off of him. If I had money I'd buy him for Steve to ride. Everybody can ride him. He'd be the family horse."
Martin won the $15,000 Open Jumper Prix last year at HITS Tahoe Week I with Rio Grande, also owned by Augustin Walch, and said that she thought about that pressure to win again. "Yes, I thought about it. I don't know if I'm superstitious but you always have a little pattern in your head and I thought, 'We didn't win any other classes yet, last year we won a couple other Prelims before [the $15,000 Prix]. Then this morning one of my horses won the High Prelim and I said, 'That's a good sign'."
Course Designer Doug Russell summed up the class from his point-of-view, "It was a nice class that looked like it had a lot of promising young horses. Round One was long but I gave them plenty of places to breathe. Fence No. 13 became a factor in the jump-off because of the time involved, but it was a good test for them. We tried to build a course to get the horses confident for Sunday and I think we did a good job. The horses will jump even better on Sunday. It told me that I could probably build a little bigger, but we don't want to lose the horse's confidence. We're going to keep everything pretty straightforward for Sunday, just a little bigger."
All three of Martin's mounts from this class will compete in the $50,000 Cosequin® Grand Prix on Sunday, July 1.
$15,000 Open Jumper Prix, June 29, 2001
HITS Tahoe, Minden, Nevada
Course Designer: Doug Russell
Pl#/Horse/Rider/Owner/Prize Money/Rd 1 Faults/J-O Faults -Time
1/Careless/Jenni Martin/Augustin Walch/$4,500/0/0-42.122
2/Hilda/Damian Gardiner/Albert Court Ltd/$3,300/0/0-43.951
3/Pirol/Beate Kuska-Shart/Malibu Equestrian Estates Inc./$1,950/0/0-46.376
4/Cassandro/Patrick Seaton/Betty Meyer/$1,200/0/4-40.704
5/Lapaloupe/Ashlee Bond/Ashlee Bond/$900/0/4-41.392
6/Valkyrie/Carol Wright/Ken Williamson/$750/0/4-41.629
7/Pablo/Ashlee Bond/Ashlee Bond/$600/0/4-42.829
8/Farmer Jaque/Macella O'Neill/High Ridge Ranch/$450/0/4-47.189
9/Above and Beyond/Kristin Ferguson/Kristin Ferguson/$450/0/8/43.504
10/Alcatraz 34/Jenni Martin/Augustin Walch/$300/0/12-54.520
11/Moyglare/Robyn McAndrews/Edgewood Equestrian/$300/0/15-60.831
12/Spanish Parade/Sarah Ballou/Sarah Ballou/$300/ ¾ /NA
Number of horses who competed in this class: 23
Class Prize Money: $15,000