San Juan Capistrano, CA - The $25,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix kicked off the Blenheim EquiSports show jumping summer season with a victory for Nayel Nassar and his young mare Acita. This is the second win with Acita and the third win for Nassar in the 2015 Markel Insurance Grand Prix Series. Twenty-six entries competed in this 1.40m class that also served as one of the qualifiers for the Zone 10 North American Young Rider Trials taking place this week at Blenheim's June Classic I.
Germany's Olaf Petersen, Jr. set a track with 15 elements, including a triple bar, tight lines, and a triple combination towards the in-gate, to tackle in 79 seconds. "Ideally, there are challenges everywhere. That is the idea behind a good course. The time is a factor for the first round as well," Petersen explained.
The challenges gave the range of professional, amateur, and junior riders plenty of opportunity to test their skills in preparation for larger courses and potentially the challenge of the Young Rider competition later this summer. Predicting six clear for the jump-off, Petersen proved his expertise yet again as that exact number returned, with Susan Hutchison riding two of the six entries.
Featuring rollbacks and long gallops, the jump-off began with Nathalie Manning on her own Con Spirit. They posted a double-clear round, zipping through the course in 48.97 seconds. Hutchinson on Ali Nilforushan's Fortuna Di San Martino and Josephina Nor Lantzman on her own Chello Z posted quick but unfortunate four-fault rounds on both of their mounts. Hutchison's final ride on Ziedento (owned by St. Bride's Farm) displayed her signature scorching speed as she took over the lead in 45.54. Eduardo Sanchez-Navarro had an unplanned dismount on his own Pacifico but walked off the field unharmed.
Nassar on his talented young mare Acita returned last and showed off the sizzling and smooth ride that has landed him in the winner's circle for two of the past three qualifiers in the Markel Insurance Series. Earning yet another championship cooler and big blue sash, the pair flew through the course and stopped the timers just ahead of Hutchinson in 45.27 seconds. "I thought the course was really nice for the number of horses we had here and for the opening week of the circuit. Olaf did a good job. I think he set a nice jump-off for us to have to chase to win," Nassar said.
After watching Hutchison clock in her blazing time, he knew he had to plan out every step of his jump-off track. "I slipped inside after fence 1 to fence 2, so I think that's where I made up the time. I can't really outrun her so I had to out-think her a little bit, so I just snuck inside there and luckily it held up by fractions!"
The Markel Insurance Series has given young horses like Nassar's winning partner Acita a chance to shine. "She's an eight-year-old, so it's a nice class for her to start stepping up into these money classes and having a challenge to chase. It's really an ideal class for the horses I have right now and luckily it's been paying off."
The competition excitement continues in the first week of the June Classic series at Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano with tomorrow's WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular and "Picture Perfect" Gala. This will be the first year Blenheim EquiSports is hosting this elegant event with over thirty horses planning to gallop onto the gorgeous grass field. Ideal for both show jumpers and show hunters, Nassar noted today, "The field is beautiful. The grass got some rest after spring; it is nice and soft for the horses to jump on."
The June Classic I culminates on Sunday with the final results of the Zone 10 North American Junior and Young Rider Trials, the $7,500 CashCall Mortgage Futurity and the $30,000 Blenheim Grand Prix.
$25,000 1.40m Markel Insurance Grand Prix
Place - Number - Horse - Rider - Owner - Faults/Time
1. 524 - Acita - Nayel Nassar - Nayel Nassar - 0/0/45.27
2. 265 - Ziedento - Susan Hutchison - St Bride's Farm - 0/0/45.54
3. 512 - Con Spirit - Nathalie Manning - Nathalie Manning - 0/0/48.97
4. 526 - Chello Z - Josephina Nor Lantzman - Josephina Nor Stables, LLC - 0/4/48.94
5. 260 - Fortuna Di San Martino - Susan Hutchison - Ali Nilforushan - 0/4/49.79
6. 603 - Pacifico - Eduardo Sanchez Navarro - Eduardo Sanchez Navarro - 0/EL
7. 122 - Apex - Harley Brown - Emma Reichow - 1/79.56
8. 164 - Wolf S - Sydney Callaway - Callaway Stables LLC - 1/80.10
9. 527 - Unlimited - Josephina Nor Lantzman - Josephina Nor Stables, LLC - 4/72.19
10. 352 - Clockwise of Greenhill Z - Uma O'Neill - Uma O'Neill - 4/72.29
11. 242 - Rockford I - Mackenzie Drazan - Mackenzie Drazan - 4/72.42
12. 303 - Arivederci Alex - Peter Petschenig - Pam Bilek - 4/74.30