The hotly anticipated Temecula Valley National Horse Show made its debut Wednesday morning, kicking off the initial day of competition as the largest equestrian event ever held at Galway Downs in its 22-year history. Bjorn Ikast and Classini finished as the big winners of the day in the Grand Prix Arena, taking the lion’s share of the purse in the $5,000 Moon Valley Nursery 1.35m Welcome Stake.
A destination horse show for equestrians and locals alike, the day culminated at the “Bright Lights, Vintage Nights!” party, bringing the glitz and glamour from Old Hollywood, Cuba’s Havana Nights and New York City’s Cotton Club to the hills of California.
The promise of prize money brought athletes to the Grand Prix Arena for the $5,000 Moon Valley Nursery 1.35m Welcome Stake, with Anderson Lima’s (BRA) track proving the perfect degree of difficulty for the talented field. Of the original starting order, eight horses and riders advanced to the jump-off, with five leaving all the rails intact over the short course, attempting to beat the clock and climb to the top of the leader board.
Keri Potter and Jung Cho’s Diabolical C were the pathfinders during the tiebreaker, clocking in at 35.431 seconds without touching a rail and setting the time to beat. John Perez and Extra Minkus, owned by Daniel Rihan, edged them out as the next to go, breaking the beam at 34.000 seconds.
Their time looked tough to beat, but Ikast saw the opportunity for an inside turn early in the course and left out a stride to the final fence with Classini, owned by BBB Showjumpers. The risk paid off when they blazed through the timers in 31.877 seconds to take home the victory.
“I bought him myself in Europe as a 6-year-old. He has grown up and he’s just starting in the grand prix classes now,” Bjorn said of the nine-year-old gelding. “He’s still learning a little bit but he’s super brave and composed. Today, I took a big chance in the jump off. We took fence three very sharp, I think I was the only one to go inside there, and I think that was enough to have the victory and then I left a stride out to the last. It’s a beautiful horse, a nice coming horse for the future.”
Mitch Endicott and Ideal De La Hasse, owned by Alex Trubey, were the only other combination to come close to Ikast’s time, stopping the clock in a clear 33.209 seconds to earn the second place prize, while Perez and Potter settled for third and fourth place, respectively.
Bjorn shared his thoughts on the Temecula Valley National Horse Show after his victory. “I love it, Ali has put on a great show here. Ali is very professional and put a lot of work into this. It’s a place that will rise from year to year in the details. What a setting it is and what a view you have from here! I feel like I’m in Europe riding again because that’s what the view looks like. They have everything you are looking for – good footing, jumps, good courses and prize money. I think that this show is going to take off. I will definitely support it, it’s really nice.”