Edited Press Release
Wayne, Ill. – July 29, 2022 – Precision and accuracy were the keys to victory in Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix during EquiFest I at HITS Chicago. Only Nicolas Gamboa and NKH Mr. Darcy were able to stay perfect through the two rounds of competition, completing the only double-clear effort to take home the winning honors.
The first-round featured 13 numbered obstacles, with the most challenging test at the very end as a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination. Five qualified for the jump-off, which began with two single oxers before eventually continuing to an oxer-vertical double combination and finishing with a rollback to a bending line.
Caelinn Leahy was the first to return aboard D. Carolus, and while they had the speed, the duo lowered the height of the penultimate fence before clocking in at 38.140 seconds with 4 faults. Gamboa was next with NKH Mr. Darcy. Knowing there were three horses still to return, he made tight turns and galloped quickly while still leaving all the fences up in a time of 38.759, which would go straight to the top of the leaderboard. Katie Leverick was next with Hardy, but also had a rail down at the second to last fence for 4 faults and the third-place prize with a time of 47.877 seconds. The remaining horses each incurred 8 faults to solidify Gamboa’s victory.
“I thought it was a good course, a bit of a longer course for a Friday grand prix, but it rode well,” said Gamboa. “I got the ride on NKH Mr. Darcy in March and he’s been very consistent – he’s jumped quite a lot of clear rounds, so I am very happy with him!”
Gamboa added, “He turns quite quick and I knew I had some fast riders behind me. I knew going second I had to put it down with four others in the jump-off, so that’s what I did, and it paid off!”
Neil Knox and Christian Heineking of Heineking Show Stables asked Gamboa to join their team in October of 2021, and he was thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to the Lamplight Equestrian Center with them. “I really like it here – the footing has been great,” he noted. “You finish early enough and there’s plenty to do because it is close to the city and good restaurants.”