Fifteen years together has created a winning partnership between U.S. rider Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata. The pair topped a field of 64 to win the CHF37,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 2 on the grass derby field at Equestrian Village on Friday afternoon.
Shahinian-Simpson has known Akuna Mattata since she was born, one of three triplet fillies by embryo transfer out of her former mount SRF Dragonfly de Joter. Akuna Mattata, a 2008 Holsteiner mare (Quinar Z x Landwind II) took some time to develop and hit a winning stride with Shahinian-Simpson in the international ranks.
Oscar Soberon (USA) set Friday’s track on the stunning grass field and saw 20 jump clear in the first round. After eight elected to save their horses for Sunday’s Florida Coast Equipment CSI3* Grand Prix, Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata, owned by Carol Rosenstein and Silver Raven Farms, faced off against 11 challengers.
“There were so many clear, I was questioning whether I was going to jump-off to get ready for Sunday,” admitted Shahinian-Simpson. The decision to give it a go, however, paid off.
“She feels fit and strong, and I don’t show her a lot, so I figured why not. The jump-off was nice with a lot of gallops. She covers the ground so fast. When you gallop the jumps on her you never really think about the clear, you just go to the jumps and she does the rest.”
Shahinian-Simpson noted that she doesn’t make her plan by watching others jump, instead she focuses on Akuna Mattata in the warm-up ring. “I don’t really like to watch anyone or chase anyone, it's more of a mental thing for me.
“She is unique in many ways, and it takes a bit of a village to get prepared for the class, but once she’s in here she’s all show horse,” she continued. “Quite honestly, it’s just her adrenaline is so high that she just sees red. But, after the round you can walk out on a loose rein and she’s a champion in the prize giving. She’s very quiet at the barn and an easy horse to take care of. When she gets up here and she knows it’s an important class, she’s all sport.”
As the last to return over the short course, Callie Schott (USA) finished just shy of the winning time in second aboard Garant for Southern Arches LLC. USA’s Adrienne Sternlicht and a new mount called Faquitol-S, owned by Starlight Farms, rounded out the top three.
View complete results HERE.