San Juan Capistrano, CA - It looked like Karl Cook was going to make it two wins in two days until the final go of the ten horse jump-off.
Speed demon Lane Clarke riding Georgy Maskrey-Segesman's Balu U stole the top spot by two seconds for the win in the $40,000 Spring Classic III Grand Prix, presented by The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.
FEI Course Designer Peter Holmes of Canada set the 1.50m track for the twenty-eight competitors. Initially it was a ladies' game as the first six to go clean were all female. Ultimately, seven women and three men jumped without fault, making it ten total for the jump-off.
Kristin Hardin led the way on Nicole Teague's Firestone, setting the tone with a clean round in 41.86, and taking an efficient route but leaving room to sneak in.
A bit of tough luck plagued the next four females - Michelle Parker, Nathalie Cooper, Lindsey Archer, and Nicole Haunert - as they all raced to catch Hardin's blazing time but fell short, coming home with rails. Canadian Brenda Ridell and Silverstar Farms, Ltd.'s
Wilson took the conservative route, leaving the rails up but not catching the leader. Austria's Peter Petschenig rode Uppercut Chavannaise (Pam Bilek, owner) double clean, coming in just behind Hardin in 42.79. A
After winning the previous class on SIG Firecracker, Susan Hutchison tried to make it two blues and flew around the shortened course on Ziedento (owned by St. Bride's Farm). They had the time, 39.48, but had a heartbreaking late rail for four faults. With Hardin still in the lead, two male riders, both veterans of a fast track, galloped in to try to claim the top spot. Karl Cook and Signe Ostby's Caillou 24 did just as they should, double clean in 41.79, beating Hardin by a hair.
The crowd anxiously awaited as Lane Clarke entered the ring on his new ride, Balu U. Clarke started off slow, but had faith in the horse's gigantic stride, leaving out strides in both lines to steal the blue from Cook with a time of 39.78.
Of the 19-hand, German-bred gelding, Clarke said, "I know he has a huge stride. And that he is equally as good off a really big stride as he is off a medium stride. I knew there were fast times, and a couple leave outs that I could do that others couldn't because of the size of my horse. I took the chance, I got a little long to a few and trusted his scope and he did it no problem."
Clarke fits the tall and talented Balu U well. "I've only ridden him for three weeks now. He has a big heart and is as brave as a lion. He makes you believe you can take any risk and I took a few, and it all worked out."
The highlights of the final week of the Blenheim Spring Series begin on Thursday, April 14th, with a Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix Qualifier and an Interactive Mortgage U25 Series Qualifier running consecutively.
On Friday morning, Blenheim will host a USHJA International Hunter Derby, featuring numerous special awards. On Saturday, April 16th, Davidson Communities presents the $50,000 Spring Classic IV Grand Prix. And the second Interactive Mortgage Horses 10 & Under Futurity class will be held on Sunday.
$40,000 Spring Classic III Grand Prix,
1. 905 - Balu U - Lane Clarke - Georgy Maskrey-Segesman - 0/0/39.783
2. 704 - Caillou 24 - Karl Cook - Signe Ostby - 0/0/41.793
3. 522 - Firestone - Kristin Hardin - Nicole Teague - 0/0/41.864
4. 331 - Uppercut Chavannaise - Peter Petschenig - Pam Bilek - 0/0/42.792
5. 615 - Wilson - Brenda Riddell - Silverstar Farms, Ltd. - 0/0/48.335
6. 264 - Ziedento - Susan Hutchison - St. Bride's Farm - 0/4/39.489
7. 354 - Camerone - Lindsay Archer - Rhys Farms, LLC - 0/4/41.461
8. 236 - NJK No Regret - Nicole Haunert - NJK Showjumpers, Inc. - 0/4/43.522
9. 316 - Cupilor - Michelle Parker - Cross Creek Farms, Inc. - 0/8/39.525
10. 449 - Con Spirit - Nathalie Cooper - Acorn Farm Equestrian, LLC - 0/8/41.602
11. 330 - Peter Petschenig - Peter Petschenig - 4/74.913
12. 846 - Amadeus - Devon Bridges - ACE Equestrian - 4/76.848