San Juan Capistrano, CA - The threat of rain from ominous clouds overhead didn't deter competitors from a good gallop in the $10,000 Scarlett's Speed Derby, presented by Park Place Foundation, on Saturday afternoon. For the second year in a row, Karl Cook and Signe Ostby's gray mare Banba took the top prize.
Twenty-four entries displayed speed, stamina and skill in the single-round 1.30m speed class, in which each rail converted to four extra seconds on the clock. Over a lengthy course consisting of nineteen efforts in a time allowed of 180 seconds, elaborate decorative elements adorned both the field and multiple jumps, causing quite a few spooky glances from horses as they galloped around.
Course designer Peter Holmes laid out a twisting track that included special derby features such as a sloping grob, an option track for fences 8 and 9, and a gallop up the bank to the final two fences.
A lively group of spectators came out to support both the competitors and benefactors of Scarlett's Derby. As the cheering audience enjoyed Argentine asado and kept the energy going in the stands, the competitors in the field provided a great show.
After the first four entries finished with rounds topping at least 100 seconds, Kyle King aboard Taylor Jay's Boogy Woogy cruised through the finish line in 97.81 seconds, even with his two rails converting into eight extra seconds. King's was the time to beat until Jason McArdle and Da's Mooi Man (owned by Fairbanks Valley Farm, LLC) stopped the clock clean in 95.85 seconds.
McArdle remained the leader until veteran partners Cook and Banba laid down a blazing fast, fault-free round, in a time of 88. 17 seconds, almost ten seconds faster than the leading score.
Several riders came close to the leading duo, but none could catch their lightning fast effort. Notably, Kelly McKnight rode Zan Chin (Jane Hind, owner) in a leather halter, with a throat latch and a running martingale attached to the reins, and were clean in 95.89 seconds, ultimately finishing in fourth place.
Jill Blunt on her own Udam clocked in a fault-free round in 93.88 seconds, closest to catching Cook's time, and good enough for second place.
Cook spoke well of the striking gray mare, and knows exactly what works for their partnership. "She likes this. She's not the biggest jumper, but she goes fast and so we keep her at this level, keep her happy and she does well," he said.
As a rider who has competed internationally and knows what it takes to win, his strategy for this winning ride was straightforward. "You have to go fast, but it's so long you can't go too fast because you won't jump very high by the end. You just have to pick a good speed and not interrupt - not slow down, not speed up, just keep going."
The Blenheim Spring Classic III concludes tomorrow with the $7,500 Interactive Mortgage Horses 10 & Under Futurity, the $40,000 Spring Classic III Grand Prix, presented by The Ritz Carton Laguna Niguel and special awards for the WCHR Hunter Divisions. With a host of highlight classes, next week's Spring Classic IV wraps up Blenheim's Spring Series.
1. 777 - Banba - Karl Cook - Signe Ostby - 88.171/0
2. 387 - Udam - Jill Blunt - Jill Blunt - 93.886/0
3. 575 - Da's Mooi Man - Jason McArdle - Fairbanks Valley Farm, LLC - 95.855/4
4. 579 - Zan Chin - Kelly McKnight - Jane Hind - 95.897/0
5. 737 - Boogy Woogy - Kyle King - Taylor Jay - 97.814/8
6. 567 - Cornet Fever - Jennifer Wymer - Los Ranch - 98.142/0
7. 321 - Socrates De Midos - Michelle Parker - Cross Creek Farms, Inc. - 106.181/8
8. 609 - Saffier - Humberto Quirarte - Humberto Quirarte - 106.282/0
9. 693 - Bionetty - Kay Christine - Big Bay City, LLC - 106.791/4
10. 848 - Canaletto - Devon Bridges - Ace Equestrian - 108.503/12