Kicking off the spotlight classes at Showpark Summer Festival, the $25,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix welcomed an impressive 51 entries to compete for the top prize. With both green and seasoned horses in the class, course designer Linda Allen built a technical track that asked many questions at the 1.40m height. Featuring 17 efforts in a time allowed of 90 seconds, the intricate track required both speed and endurance from competitors to jump clean while staying within the tight time.
"At this time of the year the majority of the green horses in this class have had a fair amount of experience, plus we have other horses with a lot of experience at the 1.60m level," Allen explained. "I'm using many technical aspects while still staying within height specifications. It's a 1.40m course made to be quite challenging."
Difficult elements of the course appeared for many particularly at the last half the course, including rails at three different double combinations throughout the course. Fences 11 and 13, both as part of two separate lines involving the tricky double combinations, also asked competitors challenging questions.
Allen predicted these tests and elaborated on her track. "This is not very big for experienced horses, so I try to use distances that ask some questions. I use some verticals that will require accurate riding - I have no triple, but three doubles that each ask different questions," she said. "It's technical mostly starting with fence 5, because the jumps come very quickly and the horses have to stay ridable and balanced."
Ten entries returned for the jump-off, which consisted of eight efforts in a time allowed of 48 seconds. First to come back, John Perez on his own Utopia, winners of last week's Markel Insurance Grand Prix, demonstrated their award-worthy speed with a sizzling time of 41.00 seconds.
Several came close to his time, including Jamie Barge on Kylieco's Lasse in a time of 41.74 seconds, but his time was unchallenged until the last three entries. Chris Pratt on Vanotrouska (Luce de Sole, LLC, owner) sped through the timers in 40.92 as the new leader, only to be outrun by the next entry, Josephina Nor Lantzman on Josephina Nor Stables, LLC's Chello Z in 40.53.
Last to return, Karl Cook on Farrari (Signe Ostby, owner) galloped in with the pressure mounting. The crowd cheered excitedly as Cook and Farrari sped around the course, racing to the win in a blistering time of 39.30. Nor Lantzman and Chello Z finished second, while Pratt and Vanotrouska were third. Perez and Barge finished fourth and fifth on their mounts, respectively.
"It was a solid 1.40m course with a few hard lines and a tight time," Cook said. When asked about his quick jump-off time, he explained, "I think I made up the time between fence 9 and 10a-Josephina did nine strides and I did seven." Farrari is very careful and sensitive, but we've finally gotten at a point where we can just go. I think his name is quite fitting!"
$25,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix
Place - Number - Horse - Rider - Owner - Faults/Time
1. 268 - Farrari - Karl Cook - Signe Ostby - 0/0/39.300
2. 454 - Chello Z - Josephina Nor Lantzman- Josephina Nor Stables, LLC - 0/0/40.553
3. 473 - Vanotrouska - Chris Pratt - Luce del Sole, LLC - 0/0/40.924
4. 751 - Utopia - John Perez - John Perez - 0/0/41.003
5. 130 - Lasse - Jamie Barge - Kylieco - 0/0/41.747
6. 832 - Manolito Fortuna - Manuel Alvarez - Manuel Alvarez - 0/0/41.808
7. 269 - Jonkheer Z - Karl Cook - Signe Ostby - 0/4/41.281
8. 767 - Alfie - Eduardo Sanchez Navarro - Eduardo Sanchez Navarro - 0/4/44.157
9. 752 - Amaija - John Perez - John Perez - 0/4/44.607
10. 833 - Spirit Magic - Manuel Alvarez - Manuel Alvarez - 0/8/43.156
11. 214 - Casco Junior - John French - Danielle Walker - 1/90.176
12. 127 - Zamiro - Susan Artes - Alix Fargo - 2/91.134
Source: Press release from Blenheim Equisports.
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