Unruly Weather Brings Out the Best In the International Competition

San Juan Capistrano - April 15, 2012 - It was one for the books as the Blenheim Spring Classic Series wrapped up this weekend with a bang. Thunderstorms rolled in Friday afternoon just as the first round of the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby was underway. As a result, the High Performance Hunter Challenge rescheduled for a night under the lights Saturday evening. Saturday afternoon featured the $50,000 Orange County Register Grand Prix that had everyone holding their breath as top riders raced against the clock gunning for the top prize.

By Saturday morning, the clouds cleared and the footing held up seamlessly for Week III of the Series to pick up just where it left off. Guilherme Jorge (BRA) designed a demanding course in the Grass Grand Prix Field for the $50,000 Orange County Register Grand Prix that was both technically challenging and tactical. The tight Time Allowed made for multiple careful clear rounds but unfortunate time faults. Only ten horse and rider duos were able to master the first round of two double combinations back-to-back, a water jump, and a liverpool vertical, to make it back for the jump-off. 

Everyone was on their feet for veteran Hap Hansen and Archie Bunker putting up the first of five double clear rounds in 43.594 in hopes of it being Grand Prix victory #100. Tiffany Sullivan and Haley Farms' Tristan were able to kick it into gear and claim the lead in 42.793. Then came Rusty Stewart and his brave Bristol, owned by Grey Fox Farms, cutting corners and making it look easy to top the board in 39.077. With countless tight turn slips and lucky fence chips, a faster time seemed near impossible.   

It was going to take guts and speed to better the top time and doing so by three tenths of a second (38.846) was Columbian rider John Perez and Arezzo. "I knew I had a really good horse," John smiles, "and I was just going to have to go fast and careful to win. Guilherme Jorge is the best course designer. Nothing too big, but very technical. It was a great course". Carla Diewert and Nippur De Legash were the last pair to try and better the leader stopping the clock in 40.798 without fault, settling for third respectively. "I think it was a really exciting class, with a very competitive jump-off," commented Jorge, "I was a expecting a few less riders to go clear , but the horses were jumping great out of the footing that held up pretty well after all the rain we had Friday. In the end, I was happy with the outcome."

The sun set and the lights lit up for Saturday evening's $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Twenty six High Performance Hunters took the stage for the Classic Round in the Blenheim Farms Indoor Arena. Hope Glynn locked in the top two standings with Roccoco and Chance of Flurries after the first round, followed closely by Nick Haness and his two mounts, Gelato and Montague. Course Designer Scott Starnes offered multiple options for riders to demonstrate consistency and elegance in which the top twelve proved in more ways than one. 

Hope Glynn led the way riding four of the returning twelve horses for the Handy Round. With an immediate option at fence one, a trot into fence two, and a hand gallop to fence four, riders strategized for ultimate bonus points through unique approaches, style and handiness. Refusals, rails, and unfortunate mishaps resulted in quite an intense Handy Round. The only rider to earn a score of 100, all ten handy points, plus bonus points was Nick Haness and Conor Perrin's Gelato, locking in the Handy Round to be named Champion of the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Reserve Champion went to Erin Bland and Weatherly who moved up from fifth in the Classic Round with an exceptional Handy Round.

Blenheim EquiSports presented the annual Arthur Hawkins Award of Excellence during the evening's Hunter Derby. This award is given annually to an individual who has contributed to the industry of show hunters in a significant way during the prior year. The 2012 recipient went to Hope Glynn of Petaluma, CA. More than honored to receive such an esteemed award, Hope shared" I was so surprised. I was thrilled to have five horses in the class tonight let alone go home with this award. I am so excited."

The Blenheim EquiSports competition continues the following weekend in Del Mar with the Showpark Spring Festival, April 26-29, the Showpark Ranch and Coast highlighting the $60,000 Grand Prix of California, May 8-13, and the Showpark June Jamboree, May 31-June 3. Blenheim EquiSports horse shows return to San Juan Capistrano in June for the June Classic Series running June 6-24. 

RESULTS: $50,000 Orange County Register Grand Prix
1st Arezzo - John Perez - John Perez 0/0/38.846
2nd Bristol - Rusty Stewart - Grey Fox Farm 0/0/39.007
3rd Nipper de Legash - Carla Diewert - Carla Diewert 0/0/40.798
4th Tristan - Tiffany Sullivan - Haley Farms 0/0/42.793
5th Archie Bunker - Hap Hansen - Linda Smith 0/0/43.594
6th Chianto - John Pearce - Forest View Farm 0/4/36.824
7th Fitzpatrick 2 - Theodore Boris - Theodore Boris 0/4/44.373
8th Coral Reef Coloredo - Vinton Karasch - Coral Reef Ranch 0/12/39.707

RESUTS: $10,000 USHJA High Performance Hunter Challenge
1st Gelato - Nick Haness - Conor Perrin 372.5 pts
2nd Weatherly - Erin Bland - Erin Bland 354 pts
3rd Gabbano - Jenny Karazissis - Elizabeth McGillivay 349 pts
4th GPS Bayside - Carlton Brooks - Stables at LaBocage 327 pts
5th Small Persuit - Katie Taylor - Iwasaki & Reilly 323 pts
6th Dinner For Two - Hope Glynn - Rebecca Reyes 318.5 pts
7th Wood stock - Hope Glynn - Sabrina Hellman 299 pts
8th Montague - Nick Haness - Lily Blavin 283pts
9th Chance of Flurries - Hope Glynn - Helen McEvoy 262 pts
10th Charming - Mckenna Skelton - Mckenna Skelton 25.5 pts

Visit the Blenheim EquiSports  website for more information.

Photos: John Perez and Arezzo Win The $50,000 Orange County Register Grand Prix; Rusty Stewart and Bristol finish 2nd; Nick Haness and Gelato are Champions in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.