Robert Blanchette and Chardonnay leave the others behind at Desert International Horse Park

Robert Blanchette and Chardonnay leave the others behind at Desert International Horse Park

Robert Blanchette looked like he was going to have a good day in the office on Carnlea Premier Balou in the $30,000 1.45m Open Classic, taking an early lead. But then his day got a whole lot better.

Aboard Chardonnay, a 12-year-old Westphalian mare (Comme Il Faut x Jus De Pomme) owned by RTS Holdings LLC, the Irishman clocked in with the fastest time in the single-round speed class, unseating his own lead at the time with his first mount, also owned by RTS Holdings LLC. Two young riders, Michael Williamson and Ian McFarlane, each managed to snag a time between Blanchette’s two, pushing Carnlea Premier Balou into fourth. Williamson and Granito Noordenhoek claimed second while McFarlane and Escapado S, owned by Mountain View West Farm Inc., took third.

While many riders thought Peter Grant’s track was a step up in difficulty, Chardonnay saw it as a challenge she must overcome. “She’s a fighter,” Blanchette said. “When the course looks difficult, she tries harder. If I do my job alright, she’s hard to beat.”

Chardonnay upped her etiquette for the day on the grass, especially considering she had a fast 4-fault round during week eight that kept her out of the prizegiving.

“She loves the grass,” he continued. “She tries harder. She thinks it’s a fancy dinner party on the grass and she’s on her best behavior.”

Despite the soothing name and desire to please in the ring, Blanchette admits, “She’s not a sweet horse; she’ll bite you if she gets the chance. But she is a big trier with a very big heart. She loves to go fast. The faster you are as a rider the harder she tries. She’s just a great horse and a money maker. I couldn’t be more grateful to be able to ride her.”

Blanchette took a quick trip to Sweden in 2020 to try the horse, and wine certainly played a role in his decision to bring her home.

“It was hard to get there, but when we got to the stable, I rode her once and she had one down,” he explained of his first trial ride. “I rode up to that oxer again – it was probably 1.40m or 1.45m – and she actually pulled really hard at it and then jumped harder. I thought, ‘I really like this horse. If I make a mistake she’ll take care of me.’ We had some wine and then I came home. She’s been a great horse ever since.”

If you wonder why you haven’t seen him in top ribbons much this season at DIHP, it’s because Blanchette sat out the early part of the season with a minor injury, but he’s back in top form now with his two top horses, taking second place in the National Grand Prix during week eight with Carnlea Premier Balou and first and fourth in Thursday’s class.

“It’s actually been a godsend because I’m in better shape than I was before,” he joked. “When you have to stay in shape, you do it. When you’re young you can just go to parties and ride and it works out. Not when you’re 52.”

Blanchette, reflecting on a successful circuit that’s only getting sweeter with time, echoes the improvements everyone has praised, the grass field among them. “It’s a great circuit,” he said. “The new owners are doing a wonderful job. It just keeps getting better and better. I love the grass field.”

source: Press Release