September 27, 2015—The sold-out crowd at the Sacramento International Horse Show last night may have arrived rooting for familiar faces to win. Crowd favorites, Rich Fellers and 19-year-old Flexible won the World Cup qualifier here last year and stood atop the West Coast rider rankings in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League after capturing the first West Coast qualifier in Langley, British Columbia, in mid-August. Will Simpson and The Dude finished second to Rich and Flexible there, so many hoped for a rematch between these friendly rivals.
Instead it was unfamiliar faces but equally enthralling horsemanship that took the night at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Sacramento in California presented by Lasher’s Elk Grove Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram.
“I love California!” exclaimed charming Chilean rider Samuel Parot after winning the class with the 12-year old Zangersheide gelding, Atlantis. Samuel apologized for his English during the press conference where he explained how he had made the most of his last-to-go post in the six-horse jump-off over Alan Wade’s highly-praised 1.60-meter track.
The jump-off riders before Samuel set some informative examples.
Quentin Judge and his veteran partner HH Copin van de Broy rode clear and quick at 37.55 seconds. Frenchman Eric Navet and Jonkheer Z did the same, but not quite as fast at 38.65
Listen to Samuel, Quentin and Eric discuss their rides.
Then came Richard Spooner and Chivas Z. Richard is nothing if not daring, and he went for the win throughout the seven-effort route. He really hit the gas in a long, bending stretch between the second-to-last and last oxers in the jump-off. The gamble did not end well and the gray gelding plowed through the fence with Richard just barely managing to stay in the saddle. Following them, Karl Cook and his relatively new mare, Tembla, tried a similar approach with similar, if slightly less dramatic, results.
The first jump-off pair, Alec Lawler and Agamemnon, had also incurred a rail, so Samuel entered the arena knowing exactly what needed to be done. He got the ride on Atlantis in May, initially as a Pan American Games prospect. Though the pair didn’t have a lot of big-course mileage, Samuel said he trusted his horse to handle a little speed pressure. With a smooth ride and an efficient track, they stopped the clocks with the winning time of 36.97 seconds, for 20 World Cupä points, $33,000 of the $100,000 prize and a house full of new fans. Astute spectators had known not to discount the newcomer after he had won the qualifier grand prix on Thursday night.
Like several of the out-of-area riders that night, Samuel is headed to the Longines Los Angeles Masters next weekend in Southern California. He also plans to contest rounds three and four of the Longines FEI™ World Cup Jumping North American League West Coast qualifiers at the Del Mar International in October and then the Las Vegas National in November.
Young Quentin Judge has a similar plan. He loved the Los Angeles Masters so much last year he wanted to return while also making the World Cup a priority. Quentin rides for Double H Farms in Florida and with the coaching of McLain Ward. Together they devised the game plan “of getting off to a good start with points early in the league,” Quentin said. A gracious victor, he credited much of the win to his experienced horse while also noting that the change of scenery was a good re-charge for the 13-year-old Darco son.
As mentor and coach for San Diego-based young rider Karl Cook, third-place finisher Eric Navet explained that their program’s emphasis was on Karl’s future. That’s why Eric rode Jonkheer Z, Karl’s mount in the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas this past April, while Karl focused on his promising partnership with his new mare Tembla.
Circling back to those familiar faces, Rich Fellers and Will Simpson: It was not their day.
Drawing the unfortunate first-place ride, Rich and Flexible were among three pairs to incur two rails to the crowd’s great dismay. Just a few hours before the evening class, Rich gave a one-hour clinic on sensitizing the horse to the rider’s aids and shared some principles that help explain how Flexible has been so phenomenal for so long.
One gem really resonated when Flexible entered the ring looking frisky and fit that night after a 90-plus degree day: “If you can consistently take a tiny bit of weight off your horse’s front end every day, he might last a little longer,” Rich had told the lucky young clinic riders and a big section of the spectators for the afternoon session.
Will and The Dude, meanwhile, had been having a great go until The Dude got distracted en route to a skinny vertical late in the first round, slid to a stop and sent Will sailing. Oh well. The Dude is a only 9 years old, and after a second-place finish at the Langley qualifier and a remarkable winning streak at the HITS Thermal show circuit at the beginning of year, he’s sure to get back in the hunt at Del Mar.
The first-round field of 24 included riders from seven countries and a mix of up and comers and veterans. Irish course designer Alan Wade drew praise from several riders. “He really knows all the riders and horses well and builds appropriate courses,” noted Eric Navet, who is a 1992 Olympic team bronze medalist. Alan had designed the courses for the Langley qualifier on the vast outdoor grand prix field, a very different environment from Sacramento’s confined covered arena where the jumps come up quick.
Having just closed its eighth year, the Sacramento International brought World Cup jumping to Northern California for the first time. West Palms Events show organizer Dale Harvey says the show was a hit right away with fans and that Longines’ involvement this year has taken it into the realm of “mainstream sports” on many levels. For more on the show’s evolution, watch the video.
The final familiar face of the class was Vinton Karrasch. He drew the last-to-go spot in the first round and was feeling good about it. Unfortunately he and his World Cup Finals partner Coral Reef Follow Me II were with Rich and Flexible in the trio of eight faulters this time out.
After the class, the crowd flowed out of the grandstands and VIP areas and into a party that spread throughout the show grounds. Live music drifted through the finally cooling air, and spectators lined up happily to get autographs from their new and old favorite riders.