Parker, CO- Two thousand eight Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios set a serious task for the 30 riders in the $25,000 High Prairie Grand Prix at The Colorado Horse Park. The competitors from eight states, Canada and Mexico were impressed by the size of the obstacles as well as the technical skill needed to jump clear. And although several competitors came close, merely four horses and riders rose to the challenge of the first round course to advance to the jump-off. Of the four, only Luke Tokaruk, Aiken, SC, answered all of Palacios' questions to jump double clear to take the first place prize money. Tokaruk is now eligible for a $100,000 bonus if he can win the Grand Prix on July 19 and July 26 on the same horse at The Colorado Horse Park.
"I'm just going to try to keep it going," said Tokaruk of his victory and the pressure of the $100,000 bonus. While he'd love the extra cash and the prestige of being the only rider to ever master The Colorado Horse Park Triple Crown, Tokaruk is simply going to focus on riding well. He piloted his own 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding Lucius 35 to the victory. He's only been partnered with the handsome gray since the end of last year, but the partnership is looking very solid. "This is my first year at Grand Prix and my first win," he said.
Tokaruk and his brother Michael Tokaruk journeyed to The Colorado Horse Park with the specific goal of finding good courses and good prize money. Michael explained, "We want to go to places that push us a little bit. Many people want to stay safe in their own backyards." Luke says making the trip to Colorado "was for sure worth it."
Michael also masterfully handled Palacios' course to advance to the jump-off. As the leadoff rider in the second round, he had to go for it with his 14 year old Holsteiner gelding Lord Byron (by Lerano out of a Lord-Ramiro Z mare.) Unfortunately, a couple of rails relegated the pair to fourth place, but he was absolutely thrilled for his brother. "If I don't win, then I want him to win," he said.
This brotherly love has led the twenty something Tokaruks to form Tokaruk Show Stables in Aiken. And although the business is only a year old, success in all areas is coming quickly. Not only did they master the Grand Prix, Michael claimed the Baby Green Hunter Championship with his own Surreal. And student Lindsay Strafuss won the USEF Medal.
Finishing in second place in the $25,000 High Prairie Grand Prix was Mexico's Armando Hassey riding La Roche, who showed he was fighting fit as he played and bucked around Palacios' course. "He enjoys the Grand Prix," Hassey said of the stallion. "He always keeps trying. I can feel he knows when it's important." Of the course Hassey joked, "It was very tricky from Leopoldo." But he confirmed that the world-renowned designer is among his favorites.
Hassey first came to The Colorado Horse Park at the encouragement of Bjorn Ikast, who also hails from Mexico City. Like Ikast, Hassey has had a lot of success in Colorado, including two Grand Prix wins in 2006. Hassey and his family like the place so much, they are now permanently based just minutes from the park.
Of course, no Colorado Horse Park Grand Prix jump-off would be complete without the previously mentioned Ikast. With his great partner Brave Heart he finished in third place. Ikast was clearly thrilled with the performance of Brave Heart and his other horse Monte Cristo. "Both horses jumped fantastic," he said. Although Ikast has six Grand Prix horses at the moment, he carefully chooses the classes for each horse so they are not overworked. "The well being of my horses always come first. Don't sacrifice your horse for your own ego." Ikast is recognized as a true horseman and his attention to detail and horses-first philosophy is evident in every decision he makes. "It is our obligation to take care of the horse. You know how difficult it is to come to this level. If you have something special, you take care of it."
Although the Denmark-native learned many of his technical skills in Europe riding for the likes of Paul Schockemöhle, he attributes his success to his respect and admiration of the horse, which he shares with his wife, Clara Ikast, herself a former international competitor. "She is the same as me-the love for the horses," Ikast says.
The fun continues next week. The $40,000 AGA Rocky Mountain Grand Prix kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Spectators are welcome. Admission and parking are free. Visit http://www.coloradohorsepark.org
for more information.
Results (placing, rider, horse)
$25,000 High Prairie Grand Prix
1. Luke Tokaruk--Lucius 35
2. Armando Hassey--La Roche
3. Bjorn Ikast--Brave Heart
4. Michael Tokaruk--Lord Byron
5. Maggie Jayne--J.F.
6. Mickie Sage--Cocknito CH
7. Bjorn Ikast--Monte Cristo
8. Tiffany Sullivan--Lanaken
$5,000 Working Hunter Classic
1. Maggie Jayne-Mirasol
2. Will Roberts-Dubari
3. Keiri Kaneps-Brescia
4. Kim Dixon-Calvin K
5. Michael Dennehy-Sea Side
6. Mark Mead-Grandor
About The Colorado Horse Park
The Colorado Horse Park is a 501 (c) 3 not for profit organization. The purpose of the Colorado Horse Park is to showcase the history and heritage of the West using the horse as the primary teaching tool through hands-on educational programming, museum exhibitions, competitions, boarding and training, recreation, entertainment and therapy for all ages.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/luke-tokaruk-leopold-palacios-colorado-horse-07-08.html">Luke Tokaruk Masters Leopold Palacios Grand Prix at The Colorado Horse Park</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com