San Juan Capistrano, CA - The competition was intense in the heat of the Southern California sun when Mandy Porter and David Murdoch's Eminent topped a field of 24 entries to win the $30,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix, presented by Davidson Communities.
The 'meter-forty' class hit the mark, offering an opportunity for a wide variety of rider experience, including 16-year-old junior, Sydney Hutchins, competing in her first Grand Prix, to experienced show jumpers, such as Lane Clarke, John Perez, Jenni McAllister and Nayel Nassar. FEI course designer Pierre Jolicoeur kept all this and more in mind when he set the track. "I set the course with a lot of invitations; it has a nice rhythm to it, normal distances, not too many funny-looking jumps. I wanted to create balance, pace... You want everybody to go around and learn something, and you want the best horse to win."
The line from fence 4 to 5a-b-c, a tight vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination, was set to ride in six or seven strides. This test tempted riders to ride up for the six, but that choice made it difficult to jump through the combination without having a rail. Those who jumped clean shaped the line in seven strides. Getting deep to the second to last jump, a vertical set on a bend after the triple bar, also caused rails to fall.
One quarter of the class entries rode without fault. Riding ninth in the order, veteran John Perez and Daniel Rihan's Chianti Classico were the first clear. There wasn't another clean ride until Jenni McAllister galloped in fifteenth on LEGIS Touch the Sun. Four of the remaining nine horses rode a fault-free track for a six horse jump-off.
Returning first, Perez and Chianti Classico set the pace going clean in 39.48. Also double clean, McAllister and LEGIS Touch the Sun couldn't catch the time, stopping the clock in 42.54. Porter and Eminent proved to be the most tenacious pair when they took a risk with a tight inside turn. Although the mare hesitated for a split second, she still jumped it beautifully. The strategy paid off, when they were clean in 38.93, a cool half of a second faster than Perez.
The crowd quieted to a hush when Hutchins and Zorlando entered the ring, and then unanimously groaned for her when she had a rail, ultimately finishing sixth, but still stellar at just 16. Gabriella Salick and her mare Centuria 2 also had a rail. And the final effort, McAllister aboard LEGIS Venice, beat her own time, finishing clean in 40.97, for a third place finish.
Fresh off a win in the $40,000 Bentley Grand Prix at Menlo just last week, Porter was glowing about Eminent. "She's amazing. That's all I have to say. She has a big, big, big heart. And she's fast, careful, and she just loves to do her job. I'm so grateful to David Murdoch for the opportunity to ride her."
Porter's jump-off plan? Speed. "I knew that John was really fast and he always is. There were a couple of fast ones after me as well. So I wanted to go.
"And I'd also like to give a huge thank you to all the sponsors that have helped me through the years - Purina, EquiFit, Devoucoux, FarmVet, Theraplate, and Equi-Feeds - all of them... It just makes the job that much easier when they can help us out."
After the Menlo win, Murdoch and Porter decided to try to qualify for the Markel Insurance Grand Prix Final, which will be held at the Las Vegas National. And it appears they are off to an excellent start.
With more Markel Insurance Grand Prix classes scheduled over the next two weeks at the Showpark Summer Classic and Showpark All Seasons Tournament, there's certain to be some hot competition in Del Mar. Other highlights include the Sallie B. Wheeler/USEF National Hunter Breeding Championship, a $7,500 CashCall Mortgage U25 Qualifier, the $45,000 "YJC" Young Jumper Championships, the $50,000 Showpark Summer Grand Prix, presented by EquiFit, inc. and the $50,000 Grand Prix of Showpark, just to name a few.
Place - Entry - Name - Trainer - Faults/Time
1. 577 - Eminent - Mandy Porter - David Murdoch - 0/0/38.938
2. 520 - Chianti Classico - John Perez - Daniel Rihan - 0/0/39.488
3. 193 - LEGIS Venice - Jenni McAllister - LEGISequine.com - 0/0/40.979
4. 192 - LEGIS Touch the Sun - Jenni McAllister - LEGISequine.com - 0/0/42.546
5. 588 - Centuria 2 - Gabriella Salick - Gabriella Salick, LLC - 0/4/42.619
6. 587 - Zorlando - Sydney Hutchins - Sydney Hutchins - 0/4/42.694
7. 279 - Con Spirit - Nathalie Manning - Nathalie Manning - 4/79.402
8. 597 - Acita - Nayel Nassar - Nayel Nassar - 4/80.632
9. 451 - Ohara Saint Clair - Lauren Kay - Lauren Kay - 4/80.949
10. 267 - Semira de Saulieu - Lane Clarke - Brooklane Farms - 4/81.640
11. 263 - MH Wardance - Lane Clarke - MH Warbucks, LLC - 4/81.890 12. 295 - Cambridge 28 - Nicole Haunert - George Meyer - 4/82.969
Click here for Markel Insurance Grand Prix Series standings - as of 8/13/15