The 73rd Annual Del Mar National Horse Show Hunter/Jumper week’s main event, the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar was full of jaw dropping action. From the very beginning in the Extreme Celebrity Trail Challenge to the final round in the jump-off, the crowd was entertained with heart stopping competition.
Before the main event got started, the Extreme Celebrity Trail Challenge challenged riders and entertained a packed stadium. With riders like Richard Spooner, Will Simpson and Mandy Porter and celebrities like Tim Fennell, the CEO and General Manager of the Fairgrounds, they took on obstacles and raced against the clock in the opening act. In the end, Spooner, the master of faster, was quick and without faults to take home the first place ribbon.
In addition to a fun opening act, a special presentation was held for horsewoman, Judy Martin. Martin received the Harry Forbes Sportsmanship Trophy this evening and was among friends and supporters who have known her for decades within the horse industry and helped her celebrate this award.
“It was such a great honor to present Judy Martin with the Harry Forbes Sportsmanship Trophy,” said Dale Harvey of West Palms Events. “She is really a legend in the sport and a well deserving recipient.”
A total of 27 teams took on the Grand Prix of Del Mar course, which was designed by Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany. The course took the riders around 13 elements, including one triple combination almost directly through the middle of the arena, and a one stride vertical – oxer combination on the rail. Some tough spots on the course included a roll back turn to fence 4, a vertical that had a plank on flat cups at the top, which lead to the triple combination. The triple combination was a two stride to a two stride, vertical – oxer – oxer. Riders managed to maneuver through the triple mostly well, with the vertical being the tricky spot in the line.
The course also had a few options for the riders to consider with strides. From fences 2 to 3, 6 to 7, 10AB to 11, and 12 to 13, the course was set so the riders could wait for an extra stride, or leave one out. The final line on the rail, fences 12 to 13, proved to be the toughest. Multiple riders had a clear round and then had the final fence 13 down, a lofty oxer with a liverpool, to leave them out of the jump-off.
There were a total of 9 horse and rider teams that went clear in round one and advanced to the jump-off. Nicole Shahinian-Simpson was first to go in the first round and laid down a fast, clear round, setting the tone for the rest of the class. Six more riders went before we would see another clear round. Spooner executed a beautiful round on Quirado. With only a few bumps, they advanced into the jump-off with Shahinian-Simpson. Top rider Will Simpson was victim to fence 13, having put in a very fast and tidy round, only to have the oxer come down at the very end. Sayre Happy and Evergate Stables’ New York and Laura Hite and her own Calypso VD Zuuthoeve had back to back clear rounds. Kenneth Vinther and his own Colicchio put in a clear, quick round to make the jump-off. Top International rider Guy Thomas and Emily Livermore’s Jonkheer Z, Carly Anthony and Neil Jones Equestrian’s Clochard, and Michelle Parker and Cross Creek Farms’ Cupilor were three in a row for clear rounds, all advancing to the jump-off. Mandy Porter and Abigail Archer’s Milano were the final pair from round one to move onto the jump-off.
The jump-off was its own show, with each round faster than the last. Shahinian-Simpson was first and put in a very respectable round, clear in a time of 43.186. Spooner was up next on Quirado, also executing a clean round and in a faster time of 41.801 to move into first place. Third up was Happy and New York. The team unfortunately had 8 faults, but a fast time of 41.469. Hite produced a clean round, but a bit more conservative in pace to end up with a time of 45.142. Vinther entered the arena with clear intentions and followed through on a well put together plan. They ended up clear with a lightining fast time of 39.588 to move into the lead. Thomas was just a bit off the leaders’ time, ending with a clean round but a bit slower with a time of 40.131 to move into second. Anthony was the last of three to close out the class and she left nothing to chance, stunning the crown with a clear round in a remarkable time of 38.684 to knock Vinther out of the lead. Parker followed suit, again wowing the crowd with a clean round and an even faster time of 38.105 to take over first place! Porter was last to go in the jump-off and unfortunately had jump 11, the oxer at the South end of the arena down to put them into eighth place.
“I was able to watch Carly go ahead of me and I saw that she was flying. Had I not watched in person, I might have ended up adding an extra stride,” said Parker of her plan for tonight’s jump-off. “It ended up working out, he’s naturally quick anyway. He won the Snapbac Grand Prix a few weeks ago in Temecula and then won tonight, so he’ll have the next few weeks off before we go back to Temecula.”