April 4, 2015 - San Juan Capistrano, CA - Easter weekend was celebrated in style at Blenheim EquiSports Spring Classic II, complete with an Easter bunny, egg hunt, and the exciting $40,000 Spring Classic II Grand Prix, presented by Orange County Register. Indeed an International class, flags representing competitors' nationalities fluttered in the background. Spectators covered the grassy knoll above the Grand Prix field, while 38 entries tried to conquer Canadian designer Peter Holmes' sizable course.
With 16 efforts in a time allowed of 82 seconds, Holmes intentionally set a challenging track. "There are some good, experienced competitors, so it's a full size course - 1.50m, on the strong end of the height for the class. And I anticipate some good jumping - all these horses have been jumping so well that I think it needs to be this strong to keep up with the horses and riders," the designer explained.
Only two riders, Allyssa Hecht and Calero (Neaulani Farms, owner) and Lane Clarke with Semira de Saulieu (Charlotte Gadbois, owner), qualified for the jump-off. Close but caught by the clock, Scarlett Derby winner Karl Cook and Signe Ostby's Tembla completed the course without a rub but just over the time allowed, finishing with one time fault and settling for third place. Nicole Bloom on Rhys Farms, LLC's Camerone was the only other rider who didn't have a rail but picked up two time faults and fourth place.
Cook, 24, will be representing the United States in this month's Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Las Vegas, Nevada in less than two weeks. Based out of Rancho Santa Fe and training with Eric Navet, he will be taking veteran partner Jonkheer Z and today's third-place finisher, the younger mare Tembla. "It was our goal to make the finals this year. I'm looking forward to competing in a World Championship again," Cook said, having competed in the 2013 Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Hecht, 35, of San Diego, and Calero, a 2003 Holsteiner gelding, have been formidable grand prix competitors in FEI as well as National events, having earned top ten finishes at world-class venues such as Spruce Meadows, Thunderbird, Del Mar, Las Vegas and Thermal.
First to return, Hecht sailed around the jump-off clean in 42.63 seconds, setting the standard for Clarke. Paired with seasoned partner Semira de Saulieu, Clarke cruised across the grass, slicing corners and flying through the finish line to take home the win in 39.53 seconds.
Clarke and the 13-year-old Belgian mare have been burning up the California Grand Prix circuit for the past few years, earning top calls in classes in San Juan Capistrano, Del Mar, Menlo and most recently Thermal. "It was a tough enough course, but I was surprised that there weren't more clear rounds," Clarke said. "After watching Allyssa, I went in thinking I'd have to shave off the time in the corners. Semira is really quick and I know her well, that helps with confidence."
A recent father, Clarke credits his wife, Jennifer, and his daughter Emerson for giving him the balance and energy to win in the ring. "My family is amazing, and I also want to thank Semira's owners, Charlotte Gadbois for many years, and recently the Borgers. Mickey Hayden, who I've been riding with for 15 years, and everyone we work with are fantastic. Most of all, I want to thank Semira, because she's a pleasure to ride and always a superstar."
$40,000 Spring Classic II Grand Prix presented by OC Register
Place - Number - Horse - Rider - Owner - Faults/Time
1. 505 - Semira de Saulieu - Lane Clarke - Charlotte Gadbois - 0/0/39.534
2. 276 - Calero - Allyssa Hecht - Neaulani Farms - 0/0/42.631
3. 905 - Tembla - Karl Cook - Signe Ostby - 1/82.782
4. 117 - Camerone - Nicole Bloom - Rhys Farms, LLC - 2/83.401
5. 284 - Ziedento - Susan Hutchison - St. Bride's Farm - 4/77.574
6. 682 - Zetro Sent - Chris Pratt - The Epic Group, LLC - 4/80.260
7. 940 - Heraldo S - Mei Mei Zhu - Mei Mei Zhu - 4/80.292
8. 607 - Kiwi Iron Mark - Katie Laurie - Katie Laurie - 4/80.343
9. 464 - S.F. Uryadi - Jennifer Crooks - Olivia Cox-Fill - 4/80.467
10. 920 - Daylight - Theodore Boris - St. Emilion Sport Horses, LLC - 4/81.055
11. 839 - Bologna - Nayel Nassar - Andrew Ramsay - 6/83.173
12. 700 - Okapi de Terlong - Jennifer Serek - Jennifer Serek - 6/83.413