Del Mar, CA - Forty-nine horse and rider combinations competed in the $25,000 Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix on an ideal Del Mar afternoon. As one of five remaining qualifiers this season, three more at Blenheim shows coming this fall, current series leader Michelle Parker secured her top spot with a sweet victory aboard Cross Creek Farms' Cupilor.
Over a challenging Anthony D'Ambrosio course, which he accurately predicted eight would complete without fault, five finished double clean. Young rider Mackenzie Drazan and Waliba VDL narrowly missed a chance to advance to the jump-off, picking up just two time faults in round one, ultimately finishing in ninth place.
No stranger to creating a track that makes riders think, internationally-acclaimed designer D'Ambrosio's plan worked well for the class.
"It's a technical course. The lines are a little bit demanding, asking riders to open in certain places and to be able to close the stride when necessary," he described. "It's a careful track. There is a plank combination, a liverpool and a skinny. The material is very good, as it always is with Blenheim. Overall, I think it is a very legitimate 1.40m grand prix."
With eight returning, Jacobo Saaib aboard his own Ifran jumped first and finished with four faults in a time of 44.45. Next to go, Jaime Azcarraga and Toulonia set the double clear time to beat at 44.70.
He didn't sit on top for long, as next in Peter Petschenig maneuvered through the jump-off track on Colour Your Life a touch faster and clean in 43.12. However, he was quickly knocked out of the running for the blue when Hanna Mauritzson and Parkmore Lux beat his time by just three tenths of a second, taking the lead in 42.83.
Azcarraga, who had three of the eight horses in the jump-off, returned next on For Fashion and continued the trend of double clean and quick rounds, relegating Mauritzson into second with a time of 41.50.
Sixth to jump-off, Parker opted to take seven strides between the first two fences rather than eight. She reigned Cupilor back in promptly, however, to complete a pirouette-like turn back to fence 14. Keeping a brisk pace, they again changed the leaderboard, stopping the clock in 41.19. The final two riders, Mandy Porter with Milano and Azcarraga back on Anton, each ended with jumping faults.
"It was a fast jump-off. I left out a stride in the first line which was a little risky to get the turn back but it ended up working out. He has a really big stride so I thought he could do it without landing too far past it. When I asked him to turn he turned well," explained Parker. "He started to run out of gas at the last two jumps, so I was worried that someone would catch me."
But she managed to challenge Azcarraga just enough that when, in his attempt to catch her in a time of 40.15, he picked up four faults.
Cupilor and Parker have been a pair since he was just a four-year-old, when she purchased him from Branscomb Farms. In 2013, they won the YJC Western League Six-Year-Old Finals on this very field. This time last year, the pair picked up a Markel Insurance 1.40 Grand Prix win, and today they once again led the victory gallop.
Parker had plenty of praise for her horse. "He's awesome. He's always very competitive. He makes my job easy," she noted. "He was actually very fresh today. So at the last minute I switched my bridle, because I know he likes a certain bridle when he's fresh. We know each other so well, so that's a good thing."
Regarding her plans with the flashy chestnut, she will stay close to home for a couple of weeks, jumping in the Markel and some 1.50m grand prix classes. She definitely plans to participate in the Markel Insurance 1.40m Series Final at The Las Vegas National this November. With this win, she secures her leading spot in the series. The purse for the finals, currently at over $52,000, continues to increase with each qualifier.
Stay tuned for more highlights for this week, including the 2016 CPHA Foundation Equitation Championships, the final qualifier for the Interactive Mortgage Horses 10 & Under Futurity and the $50,000 Grand Prix of Showpark.
$30,000 Markel Insurance 1.40M Grand Prix
1. 238 - Cupilor - Michelle Parker - Cross Creek Farms, Inc. - 0/0/41.193
2. 683 - For Fashion - Jaime Azcarraga - Jaime Azcarraga - 0/0/41.507
3. 467 - Parkmore Lux - Hanna Mauritzson - Ritz Fuente, LLC - 0/0/42.833
4. 746 - Colour Your Life - Peter Petschenig - Pam Bilek and Peter Petschenig - 0/0/43.127
5. 682 - Toulonia - Jaime Azcarraga - Jaime Azcarraga - 0/0/44.740
6. 685 - Anton - Jaime Azcarraga - Jaime Azcarraga - 0/4/40.159
7. 793 - Ifran - Jacobo Saaib - Jacobo Saaib - 0/4/44.451
8. 500 - Milano - Mandy Porter - Abigail Weese - 0/16/52.685
9. 231 - Waliba VDL - Mackenzie Drazan - Mackenzie Drazan - 2/80.508
10. 429 - NJK No Regret - Nicole Haunert - NJK Show Jumpers, Inc. - 4/74.562
11. 337 - Woodpecker de Villars - Zazou Hoffman - Woodacres Stables, LLC - 4/74.972
12. 344 - Samson II - Zazou Hoffman - Dogwood Hill, LLC - 4/75.609