By Brooke Goddard
PARKER, Colo.— LEG Shows & Events’ Summer in the Rockies series has gotten off to a sizzling start with SIR VI (July 8-12) at The Colorado Horse Park. In Saturday’s SIR Grand Prix, amateur rider Katharin Gualtieri trained by John McConnell and her own Castalano posted the win with two double clear rounds and a jump off time of 38.190 seconds. In second place was Andrea Hassey and Aleegria Du Val Henrry, and Bjorn Ikast swept up third place on Crespo VDL as well as fourth place on Classini.
Katharin successfully navigated a track designed by Mauricio Garcia of Puerto Rico. “We just went for it,” she proclaimed. “The jump off was really challenging. We had to ride a tidy track, and there were a couple spots where we had to gallop. My horse can make very tight turns, but since he is small, it can be hard for us to get a fast enough gallop sometimes. Today, we figured it all out.”
This marked Katharin’s second victory this week after topping the 1.35m Open Welcome Classic on Thursday. “To be honest, I saw her during the Open Welcome, and I was impressed,” Mauricio noted. “Katharin rode well in the grand prix, and she is a fearless lady. I am really happy whenever I see an amateur or junior win over the professionals. She sorted out all of the questions on the course, and I am very happy for her.”
Katharin was very proud of her horse Castalano, known as Tony around the barn. “He doesn’t look like he belongs, and he is always the underdog,” Katharin said of her longtime mount. “Tony is small and nothing flashy. He surprises people when they see him jump. I brought this horse along on my own, so we are sort of an amateur-made team. We have been competing in grand prix classes for quite a while together. It’s pretty neat that I get to ride against all these professionals.”
Professional rider Bjorn Ikast was glad to see Katharin take home first place. “She rides well and has a fast horse,” he said. “Katharin has been around for a long time, and I am happy for her. That was fantastic to see her win, especially because her horse is 18-years-old.”
Castalano is one of the older horses competing at the grand prix level, and Katharin credits their longevity in the show ring to his relaxed life at home. “On his days off from showing, Tony lives at home on a goat farm,” she shared. “He herds goats and spends time in a pasture. I try to give him a great life, and in exchange, he gives me his all in the show ring.”
Bjorn had three horses in the jump off: Crespo VDL, Classini, and Castino. He had two clear jump-off rounds with Crespo VDL and Classini with times of 40.366 and 40.990 seconds, putting him into third and fourth place, respectively.
As the last pair to jump off, Bjorn and Castino were the only ones standing between Katharin and another grand prix win. He took a shot and stopped the clock in 38.064, but a rail dropped the pair into sixth place. “I was last to go so I had to ride very fast,” Bjorn commented. “We made a tight turn into the second to last oxer and had a hind rail. In over 20 grand prix classes we have done together, Castino has only dropped two rails. He is extremely careful. That’s the game of show jumping – sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you pay for it.”
“In the first round, Fence 4 was a wide oxer and I made it a bit narrower for the jump off. Bjorn cut his turn too much to the oxer on his last horse,” Mauricio explained. “Castino jumped up and didn’t cover the back rail. He chose to take that risk, which is the beauty of the sport.”
Despite his unfortunate rail with Castino, Bjorn was happy with all his rides and enjoyed the course. “Overall, I was very impressed with Mauricio’s course design,” Bjorn added. “It was a very nice course that was challenging but still friendly. It was a great course, and the horses liked it.”
After today’s win, Katharin is now in contention for a LEGIS Rider Bonus if she clinches another grand prix with her horse during the 2020 LEG Colorado Horse Shows. The LEGIS Rider Bonus Program, sponsored by LEGISequine.com, rewards riders who win multiple grand prix classes or hunter derby classes on the same horse. “I think Tony is on top of his game, and hopefully we can pull off another win. I don’t have a lot of time or money to do this sport. I got lucky to breed this amazing horse, and all the money we win goes to help us keep doing this. It is wonderful that LEGIS offers its rider bonus program to help us riders keep going.”
Read on below to learn about how Michael Dennehy and Double Down topped the USHJA National Hunter Derby and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with horse show happenings. Good luck in the show ring and keep sharing your #RibbonsintheRockies on social media!