It was a packed field at Thunderbird Show Park for the $42k George & Dianne Tidball Legacy Grand Prix on Friday night. Seven advanced to the jump off, keeping spectators on the edge of their seats until the final ride. Pan American silver medalist, Andres Rodriguez aboard Verdi, was last into the ring, leaving out a stride to shave a tenth of a second off Will Simpson’s time and take top spot.
“I was very upset with my first ride,” Rodriguez noted regarding his single time fault on SF Ariantha. “I made a mistake, so I had to wrap my head around what I would do with my second horse and make it happen.”
Competitors battled the clock throughout the opening round, with Jill Blunt posting the first clear on her 14 year-old grey, Udam. Blunt was a scratch in the second round, leaving Alec Lawler to lead a pack of six into the jump off. A solid ride ended in sighs from the crowd as Agamemnon tipped a rail at the final fence to finish with four faults and a time of 42.69.
Jack Hardin Towell and New York were in next, posting four faults at the Longines fence mid-course to move into second. Vinton Karrasch on Coral Reef Follow Me II would also drop a single rail, but edge into first with a time of 42.45.
With just three rounds left, Will Simpson and The Dude left everything up and were fast in the air to finish clear at 39.20. Richard Spooner looked to challenge, but was just off the pace with Chivas Z, posting a time of 40.20.
“I knew it was going to be fast,” Rodriguez explained. “Will was fast and Spooner was right behind him. I saw his effort so I knew I had to take a big risk.”
Simpson’s time left little room to challenge, but Rodriguez had a plan. “The line from one to two was eight strides, but I thought I could chance it with a very long seven. Once I jumped in, my horse’s stride was very open, so I knew I could leave one out.”
Fresh from a silver medal performance at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Rodriguez credits his team for every success. The podium finish in Toronto was a first for Venezuela, earning him a spot in Rio next year. “We were in contention for a medal, so it was a different kind of pressure. I had to deliver. Now I think the biggest responsibility is to keep going and develop my young horses.“
With a handful of youngsters at Thunderbird, Rodriguez appreciates the opportunity to get them into the ring every day. “I love coming to Thunderbird. It’s a beautiful ring, the same as you’d see in any top show facility in the world. The Tiball family has been very good to me.”
And, Rodriguez is already looking ahead to Sunday’s class. “I hope to deliver a good result on Sunday with Ariantha. She’s still coming along, but she’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a horse – she has it.”
The $126k Longines FEI World Cup qualifier goes Sunday at 2pm. If you are planning to attend, media accreditation can be arranged and a press conference will follow the class.
Source: Press release from Thunderbird Show Park
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