Galloping across the Oaks International Grand Prix Field, Keri Potter and Julia Koetting’s Bitalica earned a first place finish in the $30,000 Blenheim June Classic II Grand Prix. In a class of twenty-five entries, just three advanced to the jump-off. Josephina Nor Lantzman aboard her own Chello Z, were last and fastest but had one rail down, leaving Potter and Bitalica in the winning position with their fault-free time of 49.04 seconds. Joie Gatlin rode Jasmine Talley’s Rammstein to second place, also double clean in 50.42.
German FEI Level 4 Course Designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. designed a first round track with sixteen efforts that presented competitors with numerous challenges, including a tight time allowed. To encourage riders to jump the newly renovated open water, Petersen Jr. masterfully offered two options for fences 11 to 12. Fence 11 was the open water or a stout oxer and fence 12 was one of two vertical options. It was much easier for riders to stay within the time allowed if they chose to jump the water; and of the twenty-five starters, over half of opted to do so.
Each of the three jump-off riders turned on the heat for the shortened course. First to return, Gatlin executed a clean yet slightly conservative jump-off. Potter then used her horse’s need for speed to her advantage.
“He’s an unbelievable trier, but he sees a jump and wants to go so he’s not always the easiest to control,” Potter said of 11-year-old Bitalica. “He can jump a big fence, but right now when it comes to technicality and control I have a little bit of a challenge. I think today was a really good test for him and he proved to come out on top, so that was great.”
Potter and Bitalica have been a competitive duo with quite consistent results since March of this year.