In the $40,000 Grand Prix de Santa Fe Week Grand Prix at HIPICO Santa Fe, ten riders negotiated a clear first round on Steve Stephens’ course, which flowed at the beginning, held a minefield combination in the middle, and ended on long bending lines to a final stout Griffis Residential oxer. Steve Stephens is known for his challenging courses that demand the best from participating athletes. Earlier in the week, he provided an encouraging Welcome Stake course, giving riders the confidence necessary to take on the $40,000 Grand Prix de Santa Fe course on Sunday. “I stepped it up from Friday’s Welcome Stake a bit. This Grand Prix course met the National standards. I felt that I had faults equally scattered around the course. I avoid chasing faults at the triple combination, because it’s hard to build confidence if horses get into trouble in it. When everyone walked the course, they probably thought it seemed large, but the riders knew the Grand Prix would be built fairly. Since this is the featured class of the whole series, it had to be bigger and stronger than what the riders have done previously in the circuit. I didn’t feel the time allowed needed to be tight—for me the first round was spot on,” said Stephens.
Although the afternoon began on a sunny note, just after first round finished, the Santa Fe skies rained down, providing an intermission for both riders and spectators. Spectators sought refuge in the billowing tents beside the Grand Prix Field and patiently awaited the jump-off. Scheduled to ride the jump off were Peter Petschenig (Ramona De Flobecq and Bariton 40), Kaitlin Campbell (Doraindo, Ilan and Palina De L’Escaut), Paul Rohrbach (Quinto), Jenni McAllister (Escada VS), Erin Davis Heineking (Leonie), Matt Cyphert (Lochinvar), and Christian Heineking (NKH Darco Son). The storm worsened and the riders held a meeting with Show Manager John McQueen where the riders agreed not to jump off. “As thunderstorms rolled through the area, we had a riders meeting where the majority voted to call it and divide [the prize money] for the safety of the horses,” reported McQueen. The prize money for the 11th and 12th placings were paid as per the premium’s instruction and the remainder of the monies were split evenly amongst the top 10 riders with clear rounds. Although the competitors weren’t able to battle head-to-head in the jump-off, McQueen anecdotally added, “a great time was had by all at the Naughty Stallion [bar] immediately following.”
Though the afternoon ended on a rainy note, the festivities leading up to the $40,000 Grand Prix de Santa Fe Week Grand Prix were as grand as ever. Much pomp and circumstance preceded the eagerly anticipated class. Two dashing Clydesdales, provided by Jami Jensen at Crooked Willow Farms, pulled a cart driven by competitor Amanda Tallman. The chariot sported strands of flowers and a HIPICO Santa Fe banner, the majestic horses led the way with faux cactus bouquets in their tails. The horse-drawn cart carried Angel Romero, an apprentice singer from the Santa Fe Opera, to centerfield, who looked dashing and wore a yellow flower in his lapel picked from from a hunter jump’s flower-box. The young tenor, who is featured this season in La Boheme, Jenůfa, Thirteenth Child, and the Pearl Fishers, delivered a soaring performance of the National Anthem for our bubbly crowds in the HIPI Hangout and VIP Lounge. HIPICO Santa Fe’s owner, Brian Gonzales, delivered a short speech to the crowds in which he warmly thanked everyone for being a part of the HIPICO family and for their support of the Santa Fe Summer Series. Gonzales was dressed festively in traditional formal evening Huntsman attire, including scarlet tails bearing the colors of Caza Ladron Hunt (based in Santa Fe) on the collar, white breeches and black dress boots with ox blood red leather tops, polished til they gleamed in the sun. The HIPICO Santa Fe staff was proud to honor the weekly award winners and the annual Heart of the Horse Award. 15-year old Mackenzie Hamilton of Storybook Sport Horses received the prestigious Heart of the Horse award, which is presented annually to the horse/rider combination earning the most points during the Santa Fe Summer Series, in honor of the five Rancho Corazon horses, owned by the McElvain family, that perished in a 2009 trailer fire. The Grand Prix de Santa Fe week’s Jumper Rider of the Week is Christian Heineking of Heineking Show Stables. The Hunter Rider of the Week is Amanda Tallman of Hidden Creek Ranch. The Trainer of the Week is Nicki Wilcox of Nicki Wilcox Show Jumping. Georgie Murray was awarded the week’s Triple Crown Award of Excellence. The afternoon air around these Grand Prix festivities brimmed with energy, laughter and great conversation, and VIP guests enjoyed a delicious champagne and steak brunch, catered by Cowgirl BBQ.