Thanks for all the feedback on my previous post, The Definition of Prix. It’s good to know that people are watching, learning and talking about the new Hunter Prix series taking place this year. One day, I hope to write about a hunter class taking place in front of thousands, contested by riders known around the world, and treated with all the pomp and circumstance that a top class deserves. But until then, I give you those qualities currently being enjoyed by top show jumpers on both coasts:
Show jumping continued to shine last night during the $78,000, CSI 2** Grand Prix at WEF. The warm weather (still 75 degrees at 8pm, natch) brought out the crowds, and McLain Ward brought another new horse to the top of the class after going double clear and besting a seven horse jumpoff.
He’s only been riding the horse with the ten-dollar name, Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve, for about a year, but the gelding has already won a few WEF Challenge Cup classes this season.
And, surprise surprise, McLain really wanted to win the class tonight. Last year McLain told me that with his father Barney, he studies video of himself at the end of each day, analyzing and picking apart his every ride, his courses, his decisions. And if he’s second, as he was a few weeks ago during the $150,000 Spy Coast Farms CSI-W GP, he files that “mistake” away in his mind, and works to prevent it the next time out. The man is methodical to a fault, and as always, it was inspiring to watch him rule that grand prix course like an equitation round. Complete class results are here.
The showgrounds stayed alive after the class had wrapped last night, and Lé Club was the place to be for everyone from non-horse spectators to our star of the night. Reviews are still mixed for this showgrounds nightclub, but it’s undeniable that Mark Bellissimo’s ambitious plan to bring more people to WEF is, indeed, working.
Beezie Madden and Margie Engle placed 2nd and 3rd, and used the class to get their horses ready for the upcoming Nations Cup competition. They’ll be riding Coral Reef Via Volo and Indigo for the U.S. team, and if this was their “warm up”, we can all feel pretty confident about the U.S. team’s chances next Friday!
One more notable moment from WEF last night – Marie Hecart and her father Michel Hecart both rode in the class last night. Marie is a regular on the WEF circuit, but her father hadn’t ridden in four months! Both riders, natives of France, jumped clear in the first round and made the jump off. Michel was 4th, Marie 6th. Many thanks to photographer Kym Ketcham for capturing these moments.
And with that, we take it to the West Coast. The crowds may not be quite as large in number at HITS Thermal, but in intensity and enthusiasm, the support for show jumping back “home” is there in spades.
This weekend, Selena Frederick has been busily shooting the 2011 USA World Cup, Modern Pentathlon series (taking place near Thermal in Rancho Mirage), but lucky for us, she stopped by the HITS Indoor on Thursday night for the $31,000 HITS Welcome Classic Grand Prix.
Each week this season, I’ve ended up texting Selena, of the fabulous Cheval Photos, the same question after the Thursday night GPs; did Rich win it again? Rich Fellers is one of the most consistent riders on the West Coast, and on Thursday he won a fast and wild class with Flexible, the amazing little chestnut stallion owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman.
Rich is a man of few words (at least, when he talks to reporters), but I suspect that he doesn’t over analyze his rides, not too much. He just goes fast, really fast, and in Flexible he’s got a willing partner, time and time again. Thursday night was the fourth big win for Rich and Flexible this season. World Cup Finals, here they come!
Last night, Rich was edged from the top spot during the $50,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix CSI-W by Mark Watring (remember Mark? He’s the owner of Sapphire, the cloned gelding that I’ve written about several times). Mark is a great rider and a super nice guy who hasn’t had another big horse since Sapphire retired. So it’s nice to see that he may have found another top partner with Green Sleeps Vioco.
Rich and Flexible had to “settle” for 2nd place, and Susie Hutchinson was 3rd with Cantano. Complete results from both classes are on the HITS site here.
On to next week!