April 9, 2015 - San Juan Capistrano, CA - The $25,000 Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix kicked off the first of multiple showcase events during the third and final week of the Blenheim EquiSports Spring Classic series. With 66 entries in the class, veteran course designer Leopoldo Palacios (VEN) had the complex task of designing a track that would adequately challenge the huge field while being appropriate for the varying levels of competitor experience.
With sixteen efforts consisting of a difficult triple combination, multiple rollbacks, and an accurate track connecting nearly every fence, the course kept competitors on their toes. However, the tight time allowed of 81 seconds was the standout challenge, causing faults for the vast majority of the class and keeping several entries with an otherwise clear round out of the jump-off.
Palacios, who has designed courses in nearly forty countries and world-class events such as the Olympics, Pan American Games, and the Central American Games, demonstrated his designing dexterity once more. He hit the target on his ideal of 11 entries clean as a handful of top riders and up-and-coming stars prepared to prove themselves in the jump-off.
Seven elements in a time allowed of 48 seconds made up the twisting course, with three new fences on course, a double combination, and multiple rollbacks that ended in a daring gallop over the final oxer.
Enrique Gonzalez and his own Quilebo du Tillard were first to return. Gonzalez, who represented Mexico at the 2008 Olympics and competed at the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games, set a sizzling time to beat, going clear in 35.45 seconds.
Second to return, Nayel Nassar on Nakich Double Dutch (Madeleine Wilson, owner) executed the skills that earned him the top prize in the 2013 HITS Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix. The 23-year-old Stanford graduate, who represented Egypt in the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games as well as the FEI World Cup™ Finals, calculated a slick track. Riding clean in 35.25 seconds, he narrowly beat Gonzalez.
Several rounds later, Brazilian Eduardo Menezes and Ilan Ferder's Clear Me turned in the third double-clear in 35.36 seconds to sneak into second place. Partners in business, Gonzalez and Menezes are clearly fierce competitors in the ring. While developing a solid string of horses, Menezes has set his sights towards competing in his home country at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Tanya Levorchick and Zanzibar (Megan Camaisa, owner) were also double clear in a solid 37.55 seconds. Levorchick, a trainer at Logan Hill in San Diego, campaigned Zanzibar successfully throughout the 2014 Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix series and placed 8th in the Final during the Las Vegas National Horse Show.
Irish rider Jennifer Crooks and Olivia Cox-Fill's S.F. Uryadi were second-to-last to come back and laid down the final double-clear round in 39.19. This pair has a strong history representing Ireland at top-level events such as the 2012 BMO Financial Nations Cup at Spruce Meadows.
Last to return, Allyssa Hecht and Calvatos Z (Neaulani Farms, owner) had the fastest time in the jump-off, zipping through the timers in 35.07 seconds, but an unfortunate rail kept them out of the top spot. Hecht recently earned a second place finish on Calero in last week's $40,000 Spring Classic II Grand Prix, presented by Orange County Register.
Setting the time to beat early on, Nassar and Nakich Double Dutch clinched the win. "She's a 13-year-old Dutch-bred mare whose owner lives in Boston. She was here and competed on the mare last week, so I actually haven't shown this mare in a couple of months. This is our first class together, so I'm really happy with her," Nassar explained. "She's very careful and really fast. The key is to get her to take a breath when she can and we managed to do that today."
With two Markel Insurance Grand Prix wins already under his belt, Nassar is thinking seriously about November's Final at the Las Vegas National. "We are usually on the West Coast then; if plans stay that way I'll definitely be targeting the class in Vegas."
Nassar has spent the last three weeks competing at the Blenheim EquiSports Spring Series with plans to go for the win in Saturday's $50,000 Spring Classic III Grand Prix on Andrew Ramsay's Bologna. "It's been great to be here for three weeks. This is a beautiful facility, with good prizes and footing that has been holding up very well."
The host of showcase events continue tomorrow in the Grand Prix field, as the hunters take the stage in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, honoring Arthur Hawkins. On Saturday the show jumping excitement returns in the $50,000 Spring Classic III Grand Prix, presented by EquiFit, inc. at 3:30pm.
$25,000 Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix
Place - Number - Horse - Rider - Owner - Faults/Time
1. 454 - Nakich Double Dutch - Nayel Nassar - Madeleine Wilson - 0/0/35.253
2. 870 - Clear Me - Eduardo Menezes - Ilan Ferder - 0/0/35.365
3. 874 - Quilebo du Tillard - Enrique Gonzalez - Enrique Gonzalez - 0/0/35.451
4. 442 - Zanzibar - Tanya Levorchick - Megan Camaisa - 0/0/37.553
5. 112 - S.F. Uryadi - Jennifer Crooks - Olivia Cox-Fill - 0/0/39.194
6. 432 - Calvatos Z - Allyssa Hecht- Neaulani Farms - 0/4/35.071
7. 791 - Cantori - Andrew Kocher - Aleece Jarman - 0/4/35.210
8. 561 - Baldira - Ray Texel - Mirador Equestrian + Paul Schockemöhle - 0/8/35.191
9. 212 - Santa Catarina LS La Silla - Bretton Chad - Stone Ridge Farms, LLC - 0/8/36.025
10. 232 - San Diego - Danielle Korsh - Danielle Korsh - 0/8/38.840
11. 582 - Paloma - Keri Potter - Melanie Brooks - 0/EL
12. 459 - Unlimited - Josephina Nor Lantzman - Josephina Nor Stables, LLC - 1/81.129