Del Mar, CA - September 1, 2012 - The first World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix of the 2012/2013 California season kicked off today in extraordinary fashion. The crowds filled the International Grand Prix Grass Field for the $50,000 Showpark World Cup Grand Prix as top West Coast show jumping horse and rider duos truly delivered a fantastic competition. Ferraris and Maseratis scattered in and around the field, adding the extra touch to an already picturesque course. It was an FEI level competition at its finest as twenty-four entries took on Canadian course designer, Michel Vaillancourt's World Cup Qualifying track.
"The difficulty level had to be substantial, Vaillancourt commented on his design. "With a World Cup Qualifier, you have to stay within the specs of a World Cup." Vaillancout's course had all the riders raving on not only the challenge it brought but the uniqueness of the track. The first obstacle led right into a tight rollback to the EQU Lifestyle vertical that had numerous knock-downs. "I put the triple combination in early," Vaillancourt added, "because I knew it was a mixed level class and faults were going to happen everywhere anyway." Coming out of the triple combination, riders were faced with a tall wall which produced a handful of refusals. Riding into the diagonal was a triple-bar, followed by a liverpool oxer. The 11ab vertical-oxer combination not only met up with the horses as they began to tire, but "if not approached correctly, would cause a rail, and if not exited correctly wouldn't set up the bending line to come home well," Vaillancourt described.
Of the twenty-four entries, five nations represented the field with hopes of accruing both valuable World Cup points and purse money towards the HITS Million Grand Prix. Ashlee Bond and her young nine-year-old mare Wistful were the first to master Vaillancourt's course and post a clear round in 78.46 seconds, well under the tight time allowed of 82 seconds. Nick Gegen and the thirteen-year-old Sancerre were the next candidates to keep all the rails up, but with their safe ride came an unfortunate time fault, stopping the clock in 82.82 seconds. With only four rounds to go, Rusty Stewart and Bristol galloped in taking one last look at the course. Coming in off a very confident 3rd place finish from Thursday's $32,000 Showpark Jumper Classic, Stewart guided Bristol to a flawless clear round in 80.61 seconds, setting up the jump-off.
After a quick course change, Ashlee Bond and Wistful were the first to return in the jump-off. Vaillancourt was clever and kept the same two obstacles from the qualifying round, but asked riders to snake their way through a few new obstacles inviting new challenges. Bond took advantage of her mare's speed and kept the foot on the gas pedal throughout the round. Picking up four faults on the new EquiFit vertical, Bond kicked it into high gear to get Wistful home in hopefully an unbeatable four-fault time.
Stewart knew that being up against a blazing four fault time could allow for him to back off and ride a careful clear round, but this wasn't just any Grand Prix to take that risk. "It's plenty big," Stewart commented on the course, "so we weren't going to take it lightly. My plan was to go fast, not crazy fast, but quick enough to stay with the clock so if I were to have a rail, I'd be able to kick it up enough to be competitive." Stewart serpentined through the jump-off asking Bristol to cut all the corners to make up for his cautious speed. Coming up to the final oxer, Rusty lined up perfectly to ensure a clear round, and Bristol delivered without question, stopping the clock in a clean 43.33 seconds, securing the first place finish.
"He was perfect. The plan worked, the course was fantastic, we couldn't ask for more." Stewart went on to comment Vaillancourt's ability to meet a World Cup Qualifier standard, "It was a big course and it sure makes you sit up and ride, but that's what a World Cup Qualifier is supposed to do. If you are going to a World Cup, that's what you are going to see and you better learn how to ride around a course like that. That is the only way the U.S. will be any good is to have course like that to compete on." Rusty Stewart and Bristol's next stop will be in San Juan Capistrano, CA for the $50,000 Blenheim World Cup Qualifier. This is the second FEI World Cup Qualifier hosted by Blenheim EquiSports and will be held in the Blenheim Farms Indoor Arena on Friday, September 14th.
For more information please visit the Blenheim EquiSports website or view our upcoming World Cup Qualifier event details below:
BLENHEIM FALL TOURNAMENT
San Juan Capistrano, CA
$32,000 Blenheim Jumper Classic - FEI
presented by EquiFit, inc.
Wednesday, September 12th
Blenheim Farms Indoor Arena
$50,000 Blenheim World Cup Grand Prix - FEI
presented by Summit General Insurance Agency
A World Cup Qualifier and HITS Million Grand Prix Qualifier
Friday, September 14th
Blenheim Farms Indoor Arena
Opening Ceremonies begin at 7:00PM
FREE admission and parking
*Event times are subject to change.
Please visit website prior to event for updates.
Photos: Rusty Stewart Guides Bristol over the large liverpool oxer; Ashlee Bond pilots Wistful over the wide triple bar oxer; Nick Gegen and Sancerre fly over the final obstacle, posting the third clear round of the day but picking up one time fault. Photos © Amy McCool Photography.