International show jumping kicked off at the 168th Upperville Colt & Horse Show (UCHS) Thursday afternoon with the $37,000 Power & Speed Stakes CSI4*, presented by Sotheby’s Realty. Forty-nine athletes from six countries tried their hand over the track, with 19 combinations producing double-clear efforts. The fastest performance belonged to Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa and Venice Beach, owned by Artemis Equestrian LLC.
Brazil’s Marina Azevedo designed a welcoming track for the first FEI event of the week, featuring two double combinations and two liverpools. The speed phase of the course offered several options for inside turns to shave off time and top the leaderboard. Ireland’s Jordan Coyle was seventh in the ring and set the early pace to beat in a clear 30.32 seconds with Elan Farm’s Eristov.
Olympian McLain Ward (USA) took over the lead midway through the class with Susan Heller's Blossom Z, stopping the clock at 30.07 seconds, which would hold up for 11 more rounds until Pessoa stepped into the B&D Builders Jumper 1 ring with Venice Beach. He and the 12-year-old Hanoverian mare by Voltaire were hoof perfect, slicing through the middle of the arena upon advancing to the speed phase and leaving a stride out to the final fence to break the beam 29.68 seconds to top the leaderboard.
Molly Ashe Cawley (USA) tried to catch up with Louisburg Farm’s Berdien, but she was just 2/10ths of a second shy of the time, finishing with a clear effort in 29.80 seconds to take over the second-place position. In the end, Pessoa took home the victory, while Ward and Coyle placed third and fourth, respectively.
Pessoa was thrilled with the mare’s performance, stepping up the pace in the second half of the course after Venice Beach jumped so well in the first round. A consistent competitor in speed classes, Pessoa and Venice Beach will return to the arena Saturday for the $37,000 Speed Stakes CSI4*.
Thursday’s competition wrapped up later in the afternoon with the $30,000 Upperville American Standard Grand Prix, presented by the Ingram Family. Twenty horses advanced to the tiebreaker where Mimi Gochman claimed three of the top five spots, including the victory with Celina BH. David Blake took home the second-place position with Dy Zento, while Abigail McArdle and Victorio 5 rounded out the top three.
International show jumping competition will continue at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show throughout the week. Friday’s highlight event will be the $73,000 Upperville Welcome Stakes CSI4*, followed by the $37,000 Speed Stakes CSI4* Saturday. The pinnacle of the competition will be held Sunday as athletes vie for the top honors in the $213,300 Upperville Jumper Classic CSI4*.
“When you come and compete you always want to win. This mare in particular is always fast and very competitive, and she went very well. After she jumped really well in the first phase, we decided to step it up in the second phase and she was great. I knew that the time was pretty good, but until it is over you never know if it is going to hold up or not. I thought I would have a pretty good chance to do a top three result and luckily, I did not get beat. I am really happy with the result for the mare today.”
On Venice Beach as a speed horse and his plan for the rest of the week:
“These classes are the type that she really excels in. She will have the day off tomorrow and do the speed stakes on Saturday. I will ride my other horse [Lord Lucio] tomorrow in the Qualifier and on Sunday.”
On competing at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show:
“It is a wonderful event and it is very nice to compete here. I want to say thank you to all of the sponsors who made this possible during these difficult times. We are very grateful that we have the support of great people. To be able to compete here and in these conditions is really great.”