Forty-two horse-and-rider combinations convened to tackle the 16-obstacle track that course designer Marina Azevedo (BRA) fashioned for competitors in the highlight of the day, the $72,900 Honor Hill Farm 1.50m CSI5*. As the first CSI5* event of the week, the order of go saw the sport’s top international riders battle it out for top honors. The technical first round track proved challenging for some pairs, requiring them to accurately adjust their strides between the course’s various double and triple combinations in order to leave all the rails intact and earn a ticket into the jump-off round.
First to enter the ring was Natalie Dean (USA) aboard Chance Ste Hermelle, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, riding carefully and efficiently to jump clear within the time-allowed and set the standard for the rest of the class. Also adding their names to the jump-off list was veteran show jumper Margie Engle (USA) on her longtime mount Royce, Kristen Vanderveen (USA) on Bull Run’s Risen, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) on last week’s $36,600 Keyser Welcome Stake CSI3* winner Ideal, and Karl Cook (USA) on Caillou 24, who claimed the $137,000 Meijer Grand Prix CSI3* last Saturday.
With a star-studded lineup set to go in the jump off round, Vanderveen was the first to return to allow Dean’s mount, who pulled a shoe in the warm-up, ample time to prepare.
Riders who returned for the shortened track were unable to ride faultlessly until Arturo Parada Vallejo (MEX) and Coachella 4 entered the arena, riding the 8-effort course in 42.6 seconds. Schuyler Riley (USA) and Robin DePonthual took the challenge head on, setting yet a new leading time with a clear effort in 40.36 seconds. Ready to prove his quick foot speed and technical savvy, Alex Granato (USA) and Carlchen W blazed around the course next, taking over the top spot with a clear effort in just 38.69 seconds, two seconds faster than the previous best. While the remaining riders did their best to overcome Granato’s time, none were able to cross the finish with a quicker time and clear effort. Granato took the top prize and a victory gallop at the conclusion of the class, while Riley and Robin De Ponthual took home second place, and Nicolas Pizarro and Oak Grove’s Enkidu finished in third.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE: Alex Granato – Winner of MLSJ $72,000 Honor Hill Farm CSI5* 1.50m
On Carlchen W:
“He’s great — he’s my long time partner, I’ve had him since he was five coming six years old. He’s 13 [years-old] this year and feeling better than ever. This is our first week up here, we spent our spring and summer prepping for these next couple of weeks – he feels great stepping in, so I’m really excited.”
On the jump-off:
“I didn’t actually get a chance to walk the jump-off, I was actually busy at another ring so I got a quick look and got to see two of the riders go. Again, I’m lucky I’ve had my horse for so long because I think you needed to have a lot of trust in your horse and they needed to believe in the plan because there were a lot of tight turns to start it off. He felt great so I rode my plan going in and it paid off.”
On his strategy in the jump-off:
“Well luckily he’s so quick across the ground anyways and he’s fast in the air. The first three turns were really tight and I think a lot of people were getting lost on their pace and their decision, especially in the turn to the NetJets vertical. I didn’t see exactly what I wanted initially but I trusted him enough and kept coming forward till he knew where we were at and that worked out. Then from there I tried to keep as smooth and forward as possible.”
On Major League Show Jumping competition this week:
“It looks amazing already — it’s a great group of riders that are all here with their top horses, all prepped and ready for the next two weeks especially. I think we’re in for a lot of good show jumping in the next few classes.”
source: Press Release