Del Mar International World Cup™ Week heated up fast on Thursday afternoon with the first FEI Grand Prix of the week, the $36,500 Grand Prix Qualifier. A large field of 54 horse and rider combinations tackled the first round 1.50m course for a chance to earn a share of the $36,500 jackpot, plus a place in Saturday's $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Del Mar.
The first round course, designed by Alan Wade of Ireland, required 16 jumping efforts including three double combinations. Jumping faults were spread evenly around the course, with many of the most careful riders unfortunately going over the time allowed to incur time faults.
Only 11 pairs turned in clear rounds to advance to the 8-effort short course, kicked off by Mandy Porter and Coral Reef Follow Me II, owned by Coral Reef Ranch. Porter and the 12-year old bay Westphalian stallion made the course look effortless with a smooth, tidy track. But with nine entries to follow (Peter Petschenig opted out of the short course) she wasn't sure if it was enough.
"I was pleased overall with how I went, but I thought I left the door open a little bit," recalled Porter. However, nine rounds later it turned out that Porter hadn't left the door open enough for anyone to catch her time. Second place rider Ben Asselin had a great round aboard Spruce Meadows Ltd's Wahrhaftige but finished a half second behind Porter, and third place finishers Adrienne Sternlicht and Toulago had the ground speed to win but a few exuberant bucks on course cost them precious seconds and ensured the win for Porter.
"I got lucky and it all worked out," said Porter.
Gwendolyn Sontheim, owner of Coral Reef Ranch, was on hand to see the win. "It was lovely to see how Mandy and the horse are coming together The horse loves her and trusts her, and she's such a spectacular rider. I couldn't be more proud of them and honored to be part of that team."
Porter wishes to thank her sponsors, including Purina, Voltaire, EquiFit, FarmVet, and Samshield, as well as owners Gwendolyn Sontheim and Abbey Archer, and her barn team. "It's a group effort," explained Porter. "I'm just the fortunate one in the spotlight a little more than every one else, but if I didn't have the great team and sponsors then it just wouldn't work."
For tickets and more info, visit www.jumpdelmar.com
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