April 17, 2016 - The Spring Series at Blenheim EquiSports concluded four weeks of grand prix events on Saturday afternoon with the $50,000 Blenheim Spring Classic IV Grand Prix, presented by Davidson Communities. With hundreds of guests enjoying a catered lunch in the hilltop VIP and spectators spread around the field, it was a grand afternoon under a cloudless spring sky for the audience and equestrians alike, most especially for class winner Vani Khosla, who earned her first and well-deserved grand prix win aboard her lovely mount Billy Mexico.
The class was preceded by several special presentations. The Shea Therapeutic Riding Center, one of the Chip In For Charity recipients, gave an exhibition led by Executive Director Dana Butler-Moburg to demonstrate the equine therapy work the center does to effectively work with a variety of disabilities in children and adults.
Also a part of the Chip In For Charity program, Uryadi's Village, an organization that works to help support orphans in remote areas, had a silent auction and a "Jump for the Village" fundraiser., where participants pledged a fixed amount of money every time a rider in the Grand Prix cleared the Uryadi's fence on course.
Following the touching presentation, RJ Brandes, Robert Ridland and Melissa Brandes of Blenheim EquiSports, formally announced the naming of the Grand Prix field. In honor of Joan Irvine-Smith and all of the work she did for the sport over the years, the field was christened as "The Oaks International Grand Prix Field". Morton and Marianne Smith, along with their daughters Charlotte and Virginia, James Swinden and his son Jase, and Nathalie Cooper, were on hand to represent the family and accept a ceremonial plaque.
Bill Davidson seeks to continue the legacy Irvine-Smith initiated. "Davidson Communities is humbled and honored to represent the ongoing legacy of The Oaks, and we look forward to an exciting future for the equestrian sport in San Juan Capistrano."
The opening ceremonies concluded with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, sung by Mercedes Martin-Raya, before twenty-nine entries took to the field to battle for the blue.
Renowned course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela built a comprehensive track consisting of 16 efforts in a time allowed of 79 seconds. The most challenging element of the class was the time, with more than half the entries accumulating time faults. Other difficult aspects included the line from the open water to a vertical, a short double combination, and multiple rollbacks.
Early on, young Vani Khosla on her own Billy Mexico and Peter Petschenig riding Pam Bilek's Colour Your Life both qualified for the jump-off within the first five entries. Going midway through the order, Karl Cook and Tembla (Signe Ostby, owner) ultimately ended up being the last pair clear. Jeffrey Fields, riding Katie Ohaupo's Kiwi Iron Mark, had a single time fault and Thursday's Markel Insurance Grand Prix winner, Brenda Riddell and Dutch Amouretta, finished with just two time faults, keeping them out of the jump-off but ultimately finishing fourth and fifth for the day.
Just the three entries returned for the jump-off, which featured eight fences in a time allowed of 38 seconds. Tricky elements such as the double combination and daring rollbacks gave riders the opportunity to shave off precious seconds as they attempted to jump clear. Khosla and Billy Mexico returned first, with a single rail at fence eight and a quick time of 33.928. Petschenig and Colour Your Life galloped in second, looking to beat Khosla's time but taking down jump-off fence 15 and riding at a more cautious pace to finish with one rail in 35.62.
Last to return, Cook and Tembla appeared to have the class clinched, gliding around the course until fence 10 came down. The pair quickly accelerated, hoping to be the fastest four-fault score for the win.
As the leaderboard revealed the result, the crowd gasped in astonishment, seeing a time of 33.929 - one thousandth of a second slower than Khosla. Cook earned a close second, with Petschenig awarded third.
Khosla and Billy Mexico added another accolade this week, as they took home the win in Thursday's Interactive Mortgage U25 Developing Rider Series Qualifier as well.
Elated with her result, the talented rider commented about the class. "The open water to the skinny was a very hard line for me and the last line was also really tough, but my horse read it so well and we were really in sync."
This is Khosla's first Grand Prix with the 11-year-old chestnut gelding. "This win means everything to me! I just started doing the Grand Prix classes this year and to have a big moment like that with the great riders in the jump-off with me was amazing. I can't even put it in words."
The final day of Spring Classic IV will wrap up four weeks of spring shows at Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano. Up-and-coming show jumpers will compete in the Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity, plus special Leading Rider Awards will be presented in several divisions.