SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA. – Blenheim Spring Classic II welcomed the much-awaited West Coast Jumping Tours to the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. As a new program this season, the Blenheim EquiSports West Coast Jumping Tours offer riders three tours categorized by height and prize money. The tours are made up of three classes spread throughout the week: the two-phase, a speed stake, and a jump-off classic or the Grand Prix.
The smallest of the tours, set at a height ranging from 1.35m – 1.40m, is the Bronze Tour. The next level is the Silver Tour at a 1.40m – 1.45m in height. The largest in both height and in prize money available is the Gold Tour at 1.45m – 1.50m.
The highlight events of Blenheim Spring Classic II was the highly anticipated West Coast Gold Tour. Renowned Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela built a 1.45m track and two 1.50m courses for the Gold Tour exhibitors in the grass Derby Field at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. On Wednesday, Keri Potter and Toscana set the pace winning the $7,500 1.45m Gold Tour Two-Phase. Thursday’s feature class was won by Will Simpson and Chacco P who raced to the blue in the $40,000 1.50m Gold Tour Welcome Speed Stake, sponsored by Competitive Equestrian. Finishing out the week on a high note was Luis Sabino claiming first and second aboard Camino Imperio Egipcio and Argan de Beliard respectively in the $100,000 1.50m Gold Tour Grand Prix, sponsored by the Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
$100,000 1.50M GOLD TOUR GRAND PRIX
The feature class of the West Coast Jumping tour was the $100,000 1.50m Gold Tour Grand Prix, sponsored by the Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, held on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Thirteen competitors navigated the first-round track, which featured thirteen numbered obstacles offering sixteen total jumping efforts, technical turns, a liverpool, and a water jump with a rail on top.
“This is a very beautiful ring and different than all the others and I believe the variety is most important in this sport today,” commented Palacios. “Here we break all the standards and are going with different – I have different fences – I have a fixed water jump that is different; I have a fixed low liverpool set under the shadow of the trees. I think it is very important to give the sport another dimension and this gives it.”
In an interview prior to the class, Palacios commented on his building process and reasoning behind his decisions claiming nothing to be over done but each fence having a question attached to it.
He predicted about four horses going clear and five ended up making it to the jump off. In the end, Luis Sabino took home first place aboard Camino Imperio Egipcio with a clean go in 43.122 seconds. Sabino claimed second place aboard his other mount Argan de Beliard with another clear effort in 43.525 seconds. Rounding out the top three was Hanna Mauritzson and Parkmore Lux who also jumped without faults in 43.797 seconds.
“Normally Camino is not faster than Argan,” said Sabino. “I figured if I did a clear round, I could put more pressure on them (the other riders) and I could be relaxed with the second horse.”
Hailing from Portugal, Sabino just added to the already amazing success he is having during his inaugural stent in California. His first and only other outing in the US was back in 2019 while representing Portugal at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. This season, Sabino has had multiple top three finishes in the grand prix classes at the Desert International Horse Park with his biggest accomplishment placing first in the $137,000 FEI 1.55m CSI3* and winning the $36,600 FEI 1.50m, both aboard Argan de Beliard.
$40,000 1.50M GOLD TOUR WELCOME SPEED STAKE
On Thursday afternoon, sixteen competitors navigated the $40,000 1.50m Gold Tour Welcome Speed Stake, sponsored by Competitive Equestrian. Consisting of fourteen total jumping efforts and designed by top FEI course designer Leopoldo Palacios, the track was set on the impressive Derby Field at the 1.50m height.
The top three podium winners all jumped clean. Speeding to a decisive victory was Will Simpson aboard his own Chacco P in 67.149 seconds. With a time of 70.597 seconds, Chandler Meadows with Christy JNR placed second, and rounding out the top three was Luis Sabino and Argan de Beliard who finished on a time of 72.033 seconds.
“My horse was on fire today,” exclaimed Simpson. “First time on the grass but it was fantastic footing. My horse left out a stride in the first line but still made the inside turn, really felt good right off the bat.” About the course, Simpson went on to say, “It was fantastic. We had a lot of turns, we had the wall, the grass footing was perfect and just a lot of questions that Leopoldo asked out there. It really felt good to have a horse with confidence.”
Simpson and Chacco P, a twelve-year-old Mecklenburg gelding, are longtime partners in the show arena. The duo competes on both the national and international level with a recent third place finish in the $250,000 FEI 1.55m CSI4* at the Desert International Horse Park.
In a pre-event interview Palacious explained that this specific track was designed to “improve the horses for the future jump off class” and that “this is not a normal speed class at a lower height that they are able to go super-fast…..I think it is very important to have these types of classes….since speed is not the only factor.”
Palcios also expounded on the grass footing, mentioning its importance in developing a horse and showcasing the best of the sport. “Grass is better; at the really big shows, like Aachen and Calgary, that are the grand slam of this sport, they are on grass. Today, more natural is more important, and this Derby field is fantastic in my opinion. It is one of the best fields that I have built on.”
$7,500 1.45M GOLD TOUR SPEED AND POWER
On Wednesday afternoon, twelve horse and rider pairings battled it out in the $7,500 1.45m Gold Tour Two-Phase. The fastest of the double clear and the winner of the class was Keri Potter and Toscana. Claiming second was Matt Archer and Luigi VD Bisschop; third place was awarded to Kyle King and Enzo.
All Photos: McCool Photography