Thirty-three horse and rider duos stepped up to the challenge of the Leopoldo Palacios designed course in the $35,000 Summer Classic II Grand Prix, presented by Equ Lifestyle Magazine on August 21st in San Juan Capistrano. Out of all who had aspirations of going clean, only the first two on course, Lane Clarke aboard Bay Rose’s Nikko and Hannah Selleck riding the fiery mare Tosca of Descanso Farm, were able to do so. After a battle of the sexes in the jump-off, it was twenty-one-year-old Selleck who came out on top with a stellar double clear ride for the win.
Master course designer Palacios presented competitors in Saturday’s event with a difficult course. The track was technical and demanded a careful, yet gutsy ride. A total of 17 obstacles, including three combinations and a water jump in a keep-up-the-pace time allowed of 87 seconds. “This was a very tough national grand prix. I tried to challenge the group as much as possible,” commented Palacios.
The first two horse and rider teams made fault-free rides appear possible. First to gallop onto the grass, Clarke jumped Bay Rose’s Nikko around the course just under the time allowed in 86.72 seconds. Next in the ring, Selleck brilliantly answered Clarke’s call and forced the jump-off, laying down a clean and aggressive first round ride in 79.98 aboard her chestnut mount Tosca.
“The track suited Tosca,” said Selleck of her 14-year-old Belgium Warmblood. “The opening and shortening between fences is exactly what she likes.” Selleck appreciated the course too. “Leopoldo’s designs are great because they make me think about the track, which helps me ride better.”
As the rest of the thirty-three competitors took to the course, Palacios’ challenge was evident. All remaining exhibitors picked up faults of some kinds – rails fell, time allowed was exceeded, hooves landed in the water, and refusals, run-outs and accidental dismounts also occurred.
“Leopoldo’s courses are hard, technical and have a tight time allowed,” explained second place rider, Clarke. “He does a great job of getting rails in different places, plus the horses and the riders always learn something.”
As the first to take on the shortened track, Clarke knew his ride had to be strong.
“Hannah is a rocket and I knew I had to put the pressure on her,” Clarke explained. Clarke and Bay Rose’s Nikko navigated the shortened track in a time of 48.98 seconds and picked up eight faults towards the end. “I am really happy with my horse,” said Clark of Bay Rose’s Nikko. “He is green at the grand prix level and is coming along fantastically.”
Having the advantage of following Clarke in the jump-off, Selleck and Tosca galloped onto the International Field with an air of determination. “In the jump-off, the pressure was on. I just had to go out there and stick to my plan,” Selleck noted.
Selleck presented the crowd with a masterful ride and triumphantly crossed the timers without fault in 45.15 seconds to surpass Clarke and clinch her first win in the grand prix arena.
Although close but not clean in round one, some of the remaining prizewinners deserve mention. The fastest four-fault ride was Mexico City’s Jaime Azcarraga aboard his grey partner Selsius, who had just one unlucky rail at the second element of the 5A-B combination in 82.52, for third place honors. Slightly over half a second behind Azcarraga, Susan Hutchison and El Dorado 29’s Cantano picked up the fourth place prize, with four faults at 13A, the tall black and white striped vertical, the first element in a combination that caused trouble for many. Fifth through seventh went to four fault rides from Mexican riders Eduardo Menezes and his horse Utopia, last week’s winner Otavio Penedo aboard Carando Equisearch and Eduardo Menezes riding Avargo Mercedes Benz.
Earning the eighth spot, Michelle Parker and Socrates De Midos (Cross Creek Farms Inc., owner) thrilled the crowd when they miraculously cleared fence six from a near standstill. It looked as though the duo was going to go clean until, like so many others before them, they lowered the height of the first element in the one stride at 13A for four faults. In addition to finishing second in the competition, Clarke also finished in the money aboard his second mount, Mickey Hayden’s McLord’s First John, stopping the clock just over the time allowed for one time fault in addition to eight jumping faults. Winner Selleck rode Descanso Farm’s Bauer to an eleventh place finish as the fastest of the twelve fault rides.
Reprinted with permission from Blenheim Equisports.