Sapphire Is A Gem at the Memorial Day Grand Prix
BURBANK, CA - The Memorial Day Classic Grand Prix came down to just two and they gave the sellout crowd a thrill. Hap Hansen and Cacao (Linda Smith, owner) led for most of the class with just two time faults, but Ashlee Bond finally posted the clear round that the spectators were eagerly awaiting. Not to be outdone, Mark Watring ensured the jump off when he posted the second clear of the class with only three horses left to jump.
Bond went first in the jump off on Tommy Gun, and although she was speedy, dropped rails opened the door for Watring. Sapphire jumped beautifully and clinched the win.”Whenever there is a crowd it is nice to do well. Sapphire loves it here and the grass (field) is perfect,” said Watring after his win.
For Bond, her second place finish was equally gratifying. “I took two and a half years off from riding. I had lost the passion.” During a trip to New Zealand last fall she climbed on a horse and the fire reignited. “Riding has been second nature to me and I am having fun again.” Bond found the course technical and demanding, as did many other riders based on their results. Many riders had trouble with the triple combination that Scott Starnes placed at the end of the course. Hopes were dashed as otherwise clear rounds became four faults at the “C” element of the triple.
The Memorial Day Classic (May 24-28) wraps up the major spring shows and marks the beginning of the summer show season in California. This year the Memorial Day Classic was a World Champion Hunter Rider show, and the highlight of the week was the $10,000 Memorial Day Hunter Classic. After two rounds of competition, Nicoletta Von Heidegger piloted Clementine to the win. Von Heidegger almost passed on the competition, but her trainers, Joe Thorpe and Keri Kampsen, talked her into going to her friend’s birthday party fashionably late.
“Clementine is a lot of fun to ride,” said Von Heidegger after the class. “She is so smooth and she is a real girl. She has attitude....kind of like me!” Von Heidegger rode Breckenridge to third. Second was Jenny Karazissis on Oracle (Tonia Cook Looker, owner) and she also rode Snafu to fourth for the Wild Turkey Farm.
With a trip to Maui on the line, the Memorial Day Equitation Challenge attracted thirteen teams consisting of a professional, an amateur, and a junior. The professional rider on the winning team wins a week long stay in Maui at the Marriott Maui Ocean Resort. “As a life long professional,” said Show Chairman Larry Langer, “I feel strongly that the professionals in this sport deserve recognition. Many could never enjoy a week in Hawaii at a top of the line resort.”
The Castaways – Nick Haness (professional), Katie Gardner (amateur), and Shelby Wakeman (junior) took the lead after Van Vleck’s BFFs (Best Friends Forever) had trouble in the second round. For Haness, this is his first year as a professional after a junior career that culminated with winning the USEF Talent Search West. He went to work for John Bragg and has been paying his dues. “I am getting some good rides and I have found I really enjoy teaching,” said Haness. “I like watching the clients do well and to watch their progress.”
Like many other veteran riders in the team competition, Haness discovered there was more pressure than he anticipated. “On the second night Katie and Shelby were so good. I felt lots of pressure because we were all relying on another.” Haness rose to the occasion and posted high scores and clinched the victory for his team. The Castaways may have been lost at sea, but they found the winning route over the jumps. After the awards ceremony, Haness called his mom and asked her if she’d like to go to Maui!
The 24th Annual Memorial Day Classic was bigger and better than ever. Exhibitors enjoyed sunny days and mild temperatures. Best Rider honors were presented during the grand prix on Monday afternoon. Devon Manze reprised her Best Child Rider title from the previous year, and she was thrilled. After winning the Low Junior Amateur Owner Jumper Classic, Elizabeth Dickinson was honored as the Best Amateur Rider.
Visit the Langer Equestrian Group website for more information, http://www.langershows.com/
PHOTO: Mark Watring piloted Sapphire to the win in the $35,000 Memorial Day Grand Prix. Sapphire was only one of two horses to jump fault-free. Ashley Bond and Tommy Gun were the other clean round, but they had to settle for second behind the speedy grey gelding. Hap Hansen looked to be the winner when he jumped clear early in the class, but two time faults kept him out of the subsequent jump off. Watring heads to Brazil in July to defend his gold medal from the 2003 Pan Am Games. Good Luck Mark!
Photo by: LEG Up News