San Juan Capistrano, CA - On an idyllic Southern California afternoon, the $30,000 1.40m Markel Insurance Grand Prix, presented by Davidson Communities, welcomed twenty entries. With a mixed field of veterans, young horses and rookie grand prix riders, Jackie Leemon's expansive course challenged but didn't over face the competitors. In a jump-off of eleven horse and rider combinations, seasoned partners John Perez and Utopia rose above the rest to earn the top prize.
Featuring 13 efforts in a time allowed of 92 seconds, challenging elements included the spooky Davidson Communities oxer and a triple combination at the end of the field. Course designer Jackie Leemon from Wellington, FL, elaborated on the process of creating a course for horses of all levels.
"I tried to utilize the entire field, and the riders will need to gallop quite a bit to make the time allowed. There are some good turns in here, a lot of square oxers, and I tried to keep the water attractive for the younger horses."
Leemon was excited to return to the West Coast. "I was Linda Allen's assistant last year, so it's great to be back here on my own this year," she explained. "I lived in California and rode with Hap Hansen back in the day, so I'm very happy to return to this beautiful venue!"
Although eleven entries went without fault, ten returned for a thrilling jump-off. Featuring tight rollbacks and daring inside turns, as the jump-off progressed the riders demonstrated increased speed and accuracy. Gabby Salick aboard Centuria 2 was the first double clean in 42.05; immediately afterwards, Leslie Steele on Oh My Goodness bested that time, going clean in 40.52.
Fifth to go in the jump-off, Jamie Barge on Kylieco's Lasse set the next clear time to beat of 38.77 seconds. She held the lead until Michelle Parker on Washington (David Kroff, owner) sped through the timers in 38.32.
Galloping in after Parker, Perez and Utopia demonstrated their veteran partnership by shaving off 1.38 seconds, stopping the clock in 36.94. Parker and Washington finished second, while Barge and Lasse retained their place in the standings to take third.
Perez reflected on his winning track in the jump-off. "I think where I really made up the time was to the combination, and I also did one stride less to the last line. Utopia is really fast!" he said. "I've been riding her for seven years. Our plan this year includes the Central American Games in Xalapa, Mexico where I will ride for Columbia."
John Perez and Amelia Ace the CardFlex $10,000 1.35m Jumper Classic
Twenty-six entries competed on Friday afternoon for the top spot in the CardFlex $10,000 1.35 Jumper Classic. Riders were asked several questions throughout the Leemon designed course, including a triple combination bending to a challenging line and several demanding rollbacks.
Fourteen entries returned for the jump-off. First to return, Jamie Barge on Kylieco's Luebbo zipped around the course with a clear time of 39.83 seconds. Many unsuccessful attempts were made to catch her until John Perez on his own Gran Amour entered the ring and left all the jumps up in 39.38.
He proved to be his own biggest competition, however, when he returned with his final entry, Amelia, and beat his previous time in 38.98, earning the top prize. Perez finished second with Gran Amour and Barge was third with Luebbo.
Blenheim EquiSports takes the competition down to Del Mar for the next two weeks for the Showpark Summer Classic and All Seasons Tournament. Next week's highlights include the CPHA Foundation Finals, a $25,000 1.40m Markel Insurance Grand Prix and the $40,000 Grand Prix of Showpark.
$30,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix
Place - Number - Horse - Rider - Owner - Faults/Time
1. 657 - Utopia - John Perez - John Perez - 0/0/36.943
2. 683 - Washington - Michelle Parker - David Kroff - 0/0/38.327
3. 461 - Lasse - Jamie Barge - Kylieco - 0/0/38.770
4. 678 - Alfie - Eduardo Sanchez Navarro - Eduardo Sanchez Navarro - 0/0/39.394
5. 255 - Oh My Goodness - Leslie Steele - Leslie Steele - 0/0/40.524
6. 462 - Luebbo - Jamie Barge - Kylieco - 0/0/42.036
7. 246 - Centuria 2 - Gabriella Salick - Gabriella Salick, LLC - 0/0/42.053
8. 458 - Zamiro 16 - Kara Chad - Stone Ridge Farms, LLC - 0/4/37.367
9. 319 - Java Keltic Courage - Molly Talla - Molly Talla - 0/8/39.795
10. 674 - Daylight - Theodore Boris - Mary Sweeney - 0/8/52.429
11. 658 - Gran Amour - John Perez - John Perez - 0/DNR
12. 677 - Socrates - Michelle Parker - Cross Creek Farms, Inc. - 4/84.587
$10,000 CardFlex 1.35m Jumper Classic
1. 656 - Amelia - John Perez - John Perez - 0/0/38.984
2. 658 - Gran Amour - John Perez - John Perez - 0/0/39.389
3. 462 - Luebbo - Jamie Barge - Kylieco - 0/0/39.837
4. 534 - Sixtus 48 - Becky Smith - Sophia Mossman - 0/0/39.897
5. 676 - Climaz Jr Nau - Theodore Boris - Theodore Boris - 0/0/40.246
6. 461 - Lasse - Jamie Barge - Kylieco - 0/0/41.542
7. 678 - Alfie - Eduardo Sanchez Navarro - Eduardo Sanchez Navarro - 0/0/41.717
8. 321 - Gobi Van De Roshoeve - Molly Talla - Molly Talla - 0/0/41.949