By Catie Staszak for Thunderbird Show Park
Langley, BC – July 10, 2022 – One could say the odds were in Kyle King’s (USA) favour Sunday at Thunderbird Show Park.
Bringing forward four horses for the Odlum Brown Ltd. Grand Prix, he was the busiest rider on course. But his winning mount not only surprised him; the horse also made a believer out of his owner.
Besting a seven-horse jump-off that included his student—and Friday’s Welcome winner—Brooke Morin (USA), King rode Greg Tomb’s I. Zapo to the 9-year-old gelding’s first career grand prix victory, crossing the timers of Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) shortened 1.40m course in 39.81 seconds. Morin settled for second behind her coach (41.47 seconds), with Katie Kruger (CAN) and her longtime mount Goodwill VB third (42.88).
“[I. Zapo] honestly showed me a lot of character today,” King said. “Last to go, I was just really excited to feel the kind of step that he has. He has a stride like Secretariat, and on the big grass field, I could really let him open up.”
I. Zapo has had a few different riders in the last year, as Tomb originally purchased the gelding to be his personal horse. But when work pulled Tomb away from the saddle more than he’d envisioned, he turned the reins over to King. Ultimately, Tomb decided the best course of action was to sell the horse, so King sought to get I. Zapo miles with a younger rider. Along with King, talented 20-year-old (and King’s employee) Jarne Francken (BEL) rode I. Zapo, earning strong results in tbird’s U25 division at the Canadian Premier CSI5* in May.
“I really like his character. He likes the sport, he wants to do it, and he has a lot of scope,” King said of I. Zapo. “He’s now been good for three different riders.”
With a breakout win now on his resume, I. Zapo’s plans are changing.
“I think as of today, he might be off the market,” King said. “I just got off the phone with Greg. The horse changed our minds for us.”
King had plenty to celebrate, as he and Morin shared the top two placings for the second time this week. While Morin was able to learn from her coach’s jump-off in Friday’s Welcome, this time around, King had the advantageous position in the starting order.
“I was rooting for [Brooke] today in the jump-off, and I honestly didn’t know if I could catch her,” King said. “I had one of my top horses Etalon in there as tune-up class, and I gave it a good shot, but we had a cheap rail in the jump-off. I didn’t think I’d be able to catch her on a young horse, but I knew once I landed off the second to last jump that we could just keep on ticking. It was a lot of fun.
“I’m excited to see what [I. Zapo] can really do.”