A large and enthusiastic crowd cheered on twenty-seven entries as they kicked off the inaugural $25,000 Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix of the 2016 season. With six returning for the jump-off, it was Michelle Parker and Cross Creek Farms, Inc.’s Vancouver 45 who brought home the blue on a beautiful Southern California spring day.
FEI course designer Catsy Cruz of Mexico created the tracks in the International Field this week and after using a triple combination in several classes, including this morning, she decided to test the riders with three double combinations in the grand prix.
“The group of riders that are here, some are very strong, so I tried to make it a little more technical,” Cruz noted. A good choice, as the questions asked caused rails throughout the 16-effort course.
Of the six clean, two were ridden by Michelle Parker and two by Nayel Nassar. Parker returned first for the jump-off aboard Cross Creek Farm, Inc.’s Cupilor. Clear and fast, they set a solid time of 41.43. Next in was Nassar aboard Baraka, who had three rails for a 12 fault score. The 2015 Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix Series Final winner, Peter Petschenig and Saint Quentin, galloped in third and beat Parker’s time by a fraction in 41.31 to take the lead.
Parker and Vancouver 45 rode a deceptively fast and clean track, stopping the clock in 40.92 to take back her top spot. After dropping a rail at the second jump, Michelle Kerivan and Colin took a longer route and finished with four in 47.81. Last to go, Nassar and Acita, who won this same Markel class in the spring of 2015, gave a solid effort, ultimately taking over the second spot, clean in 41.09. In the end, only .51 seconds separated the first through fourth place ribbon earners.
Parker wasn’t sure she could beat Petschenig’s time and knew Nassar followed her. She noted that a jump-off with two turns to the left could have been an advantage, as Vancouver makes tidy turns in that direction. Pleased with the nine-year-old’s first grand prix win, she also thinks a desire to beat the boys inspired her to gallop that much faster.
The Blenheim EquiSports spring season continues in San Juan Capistrano with the Spring Classic II, featuring a USHJA National Hunter Derby on Friday and another $25,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix on Sunday.