Challenging on multiple levels, the $50,000 Grand Prix of California, presented by Mary’s Tack & Feed and designed by Leopoldo Palacios (VE), had a solid forty-five entrants resulting in a jump-off of just four. The track was tight and the combinations technical, causing both time faults, rails, refusals and involuntary dismounts for riders.
Palacios left no room for error, keeping riders on their toes from the first turn to the last line. Although the rollback turn from one to two seemed straight forward, it was the initial spot where time was wasted and often could not be made up later in the course. The last line paralleled the in-gate in a steady seven strides to a triple that rode long in one to a sizeable gate oxer to another long two stride followed by a turn away from the in-gate to a big square oxer. The first rider to negotiate the course without a rail went fifth in the line-up, Gretchen Lof aboard Zambezi (Kings Wood Farm, LLC). However she stopped the clock at 79.41 resulting in three time faults, and a fifth place finish. Following her round, one or more rails dropped and time faults accrued until the twenty-second pair, Will Simpson aboard Nadia (Gotham Enterprises, LLC), galloped through the timers completely clean. Shortly after, Jill Humphrey and Kaskaya (Leone Equestrians Inc.) did the same. Twenty-ninth in the ring, Guy Thomas and Urian (Vicki Juelsgaard), joined the jump-off participants and not until the thirty-ninth horse, Veronica Tracy on her mount Muscadet De La Saveniere, did we have the fourth clean ride.
Simpson had a surprising two refusals with Nadia in the jump-off, leaving the door wide open for the next three. Humphrey rode Kaskaya to a neat and clean 35.85. Thomas on Urian and Tracy on Muscadet De La Saveniere tried to top her, but both had one rail apiece and took third and second respectively.
Four-faulters placed sixth through twelfth; the top of that pack was Susie Hutchison on Cantano (El Dorado 29) who went lightning fast with just one rail. Third time in the ring was a charm for Guy Thomas when clean aboard Urian, having his share of ups and downs with four entries including a fall off Midnight Dance (Alec Lawler), one rail on Carino (Willow Tree Farm, Inc.), and just one rail on Peterbilt (Peterbilt, LLC). Although possibly a touch sore on Sunday, Saturday was still worth celebrating for Thomas and Willow Tree, finishing with three in the top twelve (see results below).
We had an awesome weekend; starting with a chance to interview Leopoldo during this great Grand Prix in Del Mar and ending with a chance to watch the final day of the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program (EAP) Level I Training Session at Hansen Dam Equestrian Center in Sylmar. Melanie Smith Taylor gave a great clinic, also challenging at multiple levels, keeping these potential grand prix riders on their toes. So keep an eye out for ‘Conversations with…’ Leopoldo and Melanie in upcoming newsletters!
Hope all mothers, of children and animals great and small, had an enjoyable Mothers Day.
Grand Prix of California photos © CapturedMomentPhoto.com.