Saree Gordon Solanki rode Azuro 108 to the win in the $25,000 Markel Insurance Jumper Series 1.45m Jumper Classic on Thursday, May 13, during the Ranch & Coast Classic at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park, San Juan Capistrano, CA.
A starting field of 21 entries contested the class, all vying for a piece of Thursday’s prize money and qualifying points towards the Markel Insurance Jumper Series finale to be held at the Las Vegas National Horse Show in November.
Solanki would ultimately take the lion’s share of both points and prize money, but not before being given a run for her money by eventual second and third-place finisher, Uma O’Neill.
Solanki and O’Neill each qualified two horses for the jump-off, accounting for four of eight entries that jumped without fault over the first-round track set on the Oaks International Grand Prix Field by international course designer Ivan Tagle of Argentina.
In the jump-off, Solanki was first to set the standard by jumping clear on Tomboy Farm’s Loro Piana Ebony MSF in 39.724 seconds. O’Neill and her first mount, Edelweiss, were the second pair to return for the short course and they stopped the clock on a clear round in 39.490 seconds. That time would hold as the one to beat until O’Neill returned to best herself, finishing with a new leading time of 39.074 seconds aboard her second mount, Clockwise of Greenhill Z.
O’Neill’s lead did not last long however, as Solanki and Azuro 108 entered the ring as the next and final combination to return. The duo made quick work of the course, shaving more than a second from O’Neill’s time to take the win in 37.807 seconds.
Despite valiant efforts by the other jump off contenders, Michelle Parker & Easy Does It; Brooke Morin & NKH Carrido; Sara Van Fleet & Council FZ; and Mariano Maggi & Quintago VA, it took a double clear ride to claim the top four prizes.
Solanki, 39, who competes for Israel, has been partnered with Azuro 108 for the past four years and credits the win on Thursday to their partnership. “It was a great jump-off; it was super fun! [Azuro] is like my security blanket,” said Solanki of the 15-year-old Westphalian gelding also owned by Tomboy Farms. “He’s really taught me how to ride at the grand prix level. He sent me to my first Nations Cup for Israel. I really have him to thank for giving me the confidence to go out there and jump clear rounds today.”
Solanki’s fourth-place ride, Loro Piana Ebony MSF, is a newer partner for her, but she is equally excited about the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion and will compete both horses in Saturday afternoon’s feature event of the week, the $75,000 Interactive Mortgage “Ticket to Ride” 1.50m Grand Prix.
For her win on Thursday, Solanki earned 22 points toward the Markel Insurance Jumper Series standings. Having also earned 11 points during the Blenheim Spring Classic II, Solanki now sits atop the leaderboard. To view the series specifications and the full leaderboard after the first four qualifiers, click here. Solanki was also presented by Shady Lady and Topline Design Ribbon Wreaths with winning prizes.
$25,000 Markel Insurance 1.45M Grand Prix Classic Results
Place – Entry # – Horse – Rider – Faults/Time
1. 461 – Azuro 108 – Saree Gordon Solanki – 0/0/37.807
2. 144 – Clockwise of Greenhill Z – Uma O’Neill – 0/0/39.074
3. 145 – Edelweiss – Uma O’Neill – 0/0/39.490
4. 463 – Loro Piana Ebony MSF – Saree Gordon Solanki – 0/0/39.724
5. 369 – Easy Does It – Michelle Parker – 0/4/41.179
6. 336 – NKH Carrido – Brooke Morin – 0/8/41.794
7. 384 – Council FZ – Sara L Van Fleet – 0/14/55.425
8. 148 – Quintago VA – Mariano Maggi – 0/RT
9. 549 – Tylientje Z – Shawn Casady – 4/71.199
10. 142 – Aramis de b’Neville – Mariano Maggi – 4/71.274
11. 392 – Edita – Zume Gallaher – 4/72.541
12. 469 – Elicole – Jason McArdle – 4/72.945
All Photos: McCool Photography