September 14, 2014 - San Juan Capistrano, CA - The summer heat and show competition continued to sizzle all weekend at the Blenheim EquiSports Fall Tournament. Twenty-seven entries in the $30,000 1.40m Markel Insurance Grand Prix, presented by Davidson Communities, contested both the terrific temperature and Brazilian course designer Marina Azevedo's winding track layout.
Conquering the course required particular stamina from competitors today, as they tried to jump clear while staying at a safe level of exertion in the extreme weather.
Azevedo carefully accounted for the heat and the competitors in designing the course consisting of 13 jumps with 16 efforts in a time allowed of 85 seconds. "It's a 1.40m Grand Prix, but a little complicated. They can either do well or easily get faults if they're not paying attention. It's hot, so everything counts for the result."
Eight entries returned for the jump-off of eight efforts that wound tightly around half of the Grand Prix field, requiring speed and caution from the riders as they negotiated a turn off the entry gate, a bending line, a sharp rollback to 6a-b of the triple combination, and finished on a galloping bending line.
First to return, Lane Clarke on Semira (Charlotte Gadbois, owner) raced around the course clean in 37.71 seconds. Veteran partners Kristin Hardin and Emily Cohodes' Bert galloped in next, also clean with time of 39.49. The third rider, Leslie Steele on her own Oh My Goodness, came close to catching Clarke, but wasn't quite quick enough in 38.56. The rest of the jump-off rides couldn't catch the three who stopped the clock in under 40 seconds, and Clarke took home the win, with Steele earning second and Hardin taking third.
"I thought Marina set a great course. Sometimes it's tough to have twenty-seven good horses and have to set at 1.40m and not have too many clean. Eight is a perfect number," Clarke said.
He was also full of praise for Semira and Markel. "She always tries 100 percent. She's won 5 grand prix classes this year - she's got a huge heart. You love her not just because of her ability but because she's a really good animal to be around. And a big thank you to Markel Insurance who sponsors this great series of classes."
C Déjà Vu II Wins International Jumper Futurity Western Regional
Young horses were in the spotlight again this week with the International Jumper Futurity 4-Year-Olds and the Blenheim Five and Six-Year-Old Jumper Finals. C Déjà Vu II (Con Caletto x Contender) earned first place in the 2014 International Jumper Futurity Western Regional. Owned by Con Caletto Enterprises and ridden by Kristin Hardin, the dark bay Holsteiner stallion won all three IJF phases: Best Scope/Technique, Best Movement/Type, and Most Consistent Performance.
Second place went to Titanium (Carbon G1 x Du Gateau) owned by Gwen Strickland and ridden by Britt Harley, and third to Caballito (Caballo x Corradino), owned by Willow Tree Farm and ridden by Guy Thomas.
Jason McArdle and Elrito Master Blenheim Five-Year-Old Jumper Finals
In three rounds over three days, the Blenheim Five-Year-Old Jumper Finals saw only one double-clean round of the nine who competed on the final day. Despite the pressure of being last and the only zero-fault score of the previous two rounds, Jason McArdle and the KWPN Elrito (owned by Fairbanks Valley Farm, LLC) remained cool and collected in the sweltering sun, finishing fault free.
McArdle added a third win to his impressive number of young horse titles this season.
"I thought the finals were very good this week. Marina always does a super job. If anything, the second course was the toughest overall," McArdle said of the course before explaining his history with Elrito. "We bought him last year; I was over in Europe looking at horses and was told that I needed to come try him, so we did and it ended up working out perfectly. Next year we'll do the six-year-olds, but he's done for this year and gets turned out."
Kristen Hardin and Americana Unbeatable in Blenheim Six-Year-Old Jumper Finals
After the conclusion of the Five-Year-Olds, the final round of the Blenheim Six-Year-Old Jumper Finals was underway, with 13 entries in the field tackling Marina Azevedo's young horse course. Four entries rode clean in the final round to add to their zero-fault scores from rounds one and two, qualifying for the jump-off. Last to return, Kristin Hardin piloted Americana (Con Caletto Enterprises, owner) to an efficient time, leaving all the rails up and earning the lead in the victory gallop.
"The courses were progressively a little harder every day, and I think every horse got better throughout the week," Hardin reflected of the finals. She went on to elaborate about her talented partner.
"I broke Americana and started showing her when she was four. She won the four-year-old finals in Sacramento, and now these finals. She's everything we thought she would be. She'll be a Grand Prix horse if somebody decides to buy her and go that route with her, but she has a good enough mind for an amateur. She has a big future."
The Blenheim International Jumping Festival kicks off a second week of competition in San Juan Capistrano. Look for coverage on the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals West, the Zone 8, 9, and 10 Hunter Seat Medal and Adult Equitation Finals, the Blenheim Four and Seven-Year-Old Jumper Finals, and the $30,000 1.40m Markel Insurance Grand Prix.
$30,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix, presented by Davidson Communities
Place - Number - Horse - Rider - Owner - Faults/Time
1. 320 - Semira de Saulieu - Lane Clarke - Charlotte Gadbois - 0/0/37.714
2. 259 - Oh My Goodness - Leslie Steele - Leslie Steele - 0/0/38.565
3. 424 - Bert - Kristin Hardin - Emily Cohodes - 0/0/39.492
4. 550 - Walter's Finale - Kilian McGrath - Georgy Maskrey-Segesman - 0/0/40.823
5. 668 - Luebbo - Jamie Barge - Kylieco - 0/0/42.161
6. 142 - Casco Junior - John French - Danielle Walker - 0/0/42.462
7. 392 - Zanzibar - Tanya Levorchick - Megan Camaisa - 0/0/43.093
8. 669 - Daylight - Theodore Boris - Mary Sweeney - 0/4/42.420
9. 455 - Acer - Hap Hansen - Geraldine Bidwell - 2/86.317
10. 670 - Climax Jr Nau - Theodore Boris - Theodore Boris - 4/80.083
11. 539 - Alhaurin de la Nancy - Jason McArdle - Morgan Hill Partners - 4/81.385
12. 321 - McLord's First John - Lane Clarke - Mickey Hayden - 4/82.142