Rich Fellers and Colgan Cruise. Photos By: Rick Osteen Photography.
Saturday evening began with a loud buzz of a sold-out stadium, busy merchandise vendors and food stands at the Del Mar National Horse Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The Del Mar National Horse Show celebrated its 70th Anniversary in style, with a spectacular list of competitors in both the Speed Derby and Grand Prix of Del Mar to entertain the fans who came to celebrate the sport of show-jumping.
The Speed Derby consisted of a course that had the riders taking on obstacles in the Del Mar Arena, then galloping from the Del Mar Arena outside to complete tight rollbacks in the Durante Arena, galloping back inside to tackle a triple bar to finish the exciting course with another tight roll back. The riders and their mounts meant business, turning and burning on tight inside tracks for a well-designed course by world-renowned course designer Olaf Petersen.
The Master of Faster, Richard Spooner, kept a quick pace with Ace of Spades, but Karl Cook and his mount Banba came in to take the lead, maintaining a long, lofty stride and executing all the inside turns flawlessly. Another well-known West Coast rider, Richard Fellers trotted in on Colgan Cruise with determination to take the class, in front of an enthusiastic crowd that cheered him on as he came galloping back into the Del Mar Arena, hitting every distance with precision. Fellers and Colgan Cruise took out the class to take home first place, with Cook and Banba close in second, and Spooner and Ace of Spades rounding out the top three.
Next up, the Grand Prix of Del Mar! After yielding 30 competitors from Friday night’s Surfside Grand Prix, presented by Hunt+iJump, 29 ended up joining for the Saturday night fun for the Grand Prix of Del Mar.
The bustling crowd was energetic and the horses and riders could feel the excitement throughout the Del Mar Arena. It was a battle of accuracy, as the course, designed by Olaf Petersen, kept the riders and their mounts on their toes – or hooves – with the course containing a tight roll back to the colorful Lego Jump to a bending line to the impressive triple bar and the riders finished with a bending line from the liverpool to a two stride combination right on the rail.
The level of competition was at an all-time high with world-class riders such as Richard Spooner, Richard Fellers, Eduardo Menezes, Eric Navet, Karl Cook and others as they went head to head in this well laid out course. Only six pairs progressed to the jump-off, which was an annotated course that finished with a lengthy gallop to part B of the two stride combination that finished the initial course.
Both horses and riders knew they were up against incredible competition and if they were to win the class, they would have to not only be fast, they would have to go clean. Menezes and Quintol, who won the Surfside Grand Prix on Friday night with another mount, came in with a tight, clean round at 43.234, with Navet and Jonkheer Z not far behind in time, at 43.953, but with an unfortunate rail. Elicia Edgar and Cipolini VD Gastheuv were a bit more conservative with their time at 49.806 and one rail down. It came down to Spooner, the ultimate Master of Faster, with his mounts Chivas Z and Cristallo, and Fellers, on crowd favorite Flexible.
Chivas Z and Spooner put up a quick, clean round with a time of 42.177, the elegant grey Zangersheide gelding making the course look easy. Fellers and Flexible looked happy tackling the course in the large Del Mar Arena, just coming out of the Longines FEI World Cup Finals with a respectable seventh place finish in Las Vegas, NV. Not only did the 19 year old Irish Sporthorse Stallion look happy, he smoked his competition with a clean round in a time of 40.303. The time was tough and Spooner knew that when he walked back into the ring on his second ride, Cristallo, and the last round in the jump-off. The beautiful bay Holsteiner gelding and Spooner left it all in the arena, keeping the tidiest track we saw all evening and a galloping pace that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats. They flew threw the final timers, fault free, and shut out the rest of the competition with an incredible time of 38.754.
The crowd went wild for what was one of the most impressive grand prixs of the 2015 show season. The seasoned veterans congratulated each other on a job well done and Spooner acknowledged the great competition that made up the Grand Prix of Del Mar as he accepted the Governor’s Cup Trophy. Congratulations to all the riders and their amazing horses and thank you for a spectacular evening of show-jumping.
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