Wayne, IL - The Lamplight Equestrian Center had no empty seats Sunday afternoon as the $30,000 Barrington Saddlery Grand Prix got underway during the Showplace Spring Spectacular I. Kelsey Thatcher rode to a fantastic win during Saturday's $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, and duplicated her efforts today with Athena to race to the win in a seven-horse jump-off.
Twenty-eight horse and rider combinations attempted to master Héctor J. Loyola's challenging track, but only seven were able to ride to a clean first-round effort. The cheers and applause resounded through the Grand Prix Ring as spectators rooted on their favorites, many of which hail from Illinois. Many in the crowd had their money riding on several of the riders in a Calcutta benefiting Assistance in Healthcare, a charitable organization founded to assist patients and their families who have become financially distressed as a result of their fight against cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. The benefit raised over $7,000, with 40 percent going to the charity.
Laura Linback was the first to tackle the short course, blazing the trail with HH Dauphin, owned by Woodrun of Mundelein, IL. Linback set a hard time to beat from the get go, breaking the beam in 44.052 seconds. Dorothy Douglas and S&L Elite, owned by S&L Farms of Flower Mound, TX, posted the second of what would only be three double-clear efforts. She took a more conservative approach, leaving the rails intact with wider turns, but using S&L Elite's large stride to cover the ground in 44.903 seconds, just behind Linback.
The young hometown talent, Giavanna Rinaldi, clocked in at 40.187 seconds, aweing the crowd as she crossed the final oxer in blazing speed. G.P.S. Brilliant Disguise clipped the front rail on their way down, finishing with the fastest time of the class, but with a heartbreaking four-faults.
Thatcher was the only rider to qualify with two mounts, riding the shortened track with Dulf Van Den Bisschop, owned by Pony Lane Farm of Bluffdale, UT, first out of the two. The pair had an unfortunate rail in the double-combination, but the experience made the 21-year-old well prepared for her next go.
"I am really proud of the fact that I qualified for the jump-off with two mounts," Thatcher smiled. "They are all really nice horses, but they do need to be ridden well. Every single horse jumped really well, and I was really happy with my stallion, because that was the best he had jumped in a while. Even though I had one down, I was excited that he was jumping so well. It was a challenging course for riding today, you had to be mentally aware."
With her eyes set on the win, Thatcher entered the ring with Athena, owned by Pony Lane Farm. They won the $10,000 High SJHOF Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic on Saturday, and their luck continued as they raced around the course. Thatcher was able to leave out strides on her runs between fences, as well as utilize Athena's ability to turn. They stopped the clock at 40.196 seconds, taking over the lead.
Linback would finish in second today, while Douglas took the third place, a brilliant feat for only her third grand prix attempt. Rinaldi captured the fourth place with her blazing four-fault round, while Ericka Baran of Chicago, IL, and Ad Fundum took the fifth. Thatcher would also finish in the sixth place position with Dulf Van Den Bisschop, while Tracy Fenney of MTM Farms rode to the seventh place award with MTM Timon.
"I followed my plan," Thatcher stated. "Chicago Grand Prix may not be the biggest that you will ever jump, but they are the fastest. You have so many people who can go so fast. Anytime you go clear, you have to go full out to even have a shot at the win."
Thatcher continued, "Athena was great out there, we were long to the opening fence but she picked up on the second one and zoned in on it. She picked up on everything, and as I turned her outside on her haunches she was able to get to everything quickly."
Thatcher has been riding with Pony Lane Farm out of Bluffdale, UT, since she was 15 years old, and she is enjoying the summer before going back to school in the fall.
"They are like family," she said. "They all take such good care of the horses, and I am so blessed to have this team supporting me. It would not be possible without them."
Earlier in the day 16-year-old Stephanie Novas rode Amyra R to the victory in the $10,000 NAL Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. They rode to the time of 39.114 seconds to take the lead ahead of 11 contenders.
"I got Amyra R almost two years ago, and she has been doing really well for the past year. She used to be a hit or miss, but she has become consistent at this point," Novas said. "I thought the course was a little bit hard for this division, but honestly I was just happy that I remembered where I was going. I used to have issues with that [laughs]."
Novas explained her plan during the jump-off, "I blew two of the turns a little bit, but I figured I was going pretty fast, so hopefully they would catch a rail trying to match me. I followed my plan for the most part. I lost my stirrup towards the end, which wasn't part of my plan!"
Baran and Calvigo finished second with a clean jump-off in 43.066 seconds. Elizabeth Adelson and Con Chino Z, owned by Four Fillies, LLC of Tulsa, OK, took the third place finish for a double-clear effort in 44.766 seconds.
"I really like the Lamplight Equestrian Center, this is our home base," Novas concluded. "I like this series, and the classes here seem to bring out some of the faster competitors. We always have to go fast in the jump-off; there is always someone in the class that might be able to catch our time. I like these classics though, my horses are speed horses, so it works to our benefit, and it is great the Spring Spectacular has them for us."
The Showplace Spring Spectacular I came to a conclusion today, but the second week of the series will run June 11 - 15 with exciting hunter and jumper action. For more information please visit, www.showplaceproductions.com.