By Catie Staszak for Thunderbird Show Park
James Brennan (IRL) and Vajra du Blay have carried their strong form forward to Thunderbird Show Park’s CSI2* BCHJA Fall Finale. After making the podium in every start of their two-week stint at Spruce Meadows, the pair kicked off the final FEI event of the season in Langley with a win in the $8,700 CSI2* tbird 1.40m.
“It looks like he’s having his best results ever,” Brennan said.
Brennan, 30, rode Crooks Show Jumping’s 12-year-old chestnut gelding to top honors over a competitive field of 21 horse and rider combinations, some of which were fresh off starts in the $150,000 CSI4*-W Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver at the venue Sunday prior. Vanessa Mannix (CAN), second in that feature class aboard longtime mount Catinka 25, finished second again with up-and-coming mount Balzane du Mazes (61.68 seconds), while Brennan’s fiancé Lauren Crooks (USA) finished third with Louisiana van de Moortelshoeve (63.19).
With 13 starters jumping clear in the Thunderbird Jumper Arena, Anderson Lima’s (MEX) course very much lived up to its billing as a speed contest. Brennan’s winning time was 61.22 seconds.
“[My strategy] was to be efficient and just be kind of tight everywhere and do the strides that would get me there the fastest without really having to push the ball too much,” Brennan detailed. “He’s a very naturally quick horse himself, so I [used] the first day to set up a little bit for [Friday’s $36,900 CSI2* tbird 1.45m], but it seems like the more you let him roll, the better he goes. I kind of stuck to my usual plan, and it just worked out today.”
The gelding’s competitive spirit carries over to the stable. Over the course of the 15 months that he’s been riding the chestnut, Brennan has learned that his mount thrives off of a challenge.
“He loves being around people, but he also sometimes doesn’t understand that he plays a little bit hard,” Brennan said. “He’s actually a very sweet horse. He gets in the ring and he’s a real competitor. He likes the fight, and the harder the question, the better the answer.”
Though based in Seattle, WA and Wellington, FL, Crooks Show Jumping has established a strong presence at Thunderbird Show Park. The operation even sponsors the venue’s young horse program.
“It’s probably my favorite show in North America, if not the world,” Brennan said. “I think they do a fantastic job here. I can’t say enough good things.”
$8,700 CSI2* tbird 1.40m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Vajra du Blay / James Brennan / IRL / Crooks Show Jumping, LLC / 0/61.22
2. Balzane du Mazes / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 0/61.68
3. Louisiana van de Moortelshoeve / Lauren Crooks / USA / Crooks Show Jumping, LLC / 0/63.19
4. Beneficial / Alicia Gadban-Lewis / CAN / Alicia Gadban-Lewis / 63.72
5. Ittolo / Kyle King / USA / Kerri Volek / 0/63.86
6. Willow / Lauren Myers / USA / Lauren Myers / 0/65.35
7. Peninsula Swanky / Samara Heinrichs / USA / Marilyn Dawson-Dixon / 0/65.57
8. Ilana / Halle Duke / CAN / Halle Duke / 0/68.62
9. Chico ASK / Johanna Siefert / USA / Jill Davidson / 0/68.87
10. Incredible Bleu / Tiffany Foster / CAN / Coxe Horses, LLC / 0/68.9