With three impressive speed classes, Blenheim EquiSports welcomed 82 horses representing 13 countries on the opening day of FEI CSI3* competition. Hosted as part of the Spring Classic II, the 1.35m Bronze Tour, the 1.40m Silver Tour and the 1.45m Gold Tour Welcome Speed Stakes were won by Keri Potter, Zazou Hoffman, and Will Simpson respectively.
In the 1.35m division, twenty-nine horse and rider combinations tested their speed over the track built by Olaf Petersen, Jr., which included two combinations, inside turns, and long bending lines across the open grass field.
Third to go, junior rider Natalie Dean aboard Mary Poppins, an eleven-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, stopped the clock in 68.69 seconds and held their lead throughout the following twenty rounds. But when Keri Potter let Diabolical C (Jo Cho, owner) open his stride in the long gallops, she managed to beat that time of .68 seconds, taking lead and ultimately the win.
An American-bred horse, the eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding won the Young Jumper Championships last fall. “This course was great for him because it had a lot of long lines and allowed us to open up and keep our speed. I don’t think I’ve ever gone this fast with him until today, so I’m very pleased,” exclaimed Potter. “Jo Cho bred him herself. The majority of show horses are imported here from Europe, so he’s very unique. I know Jo is very proud, and it would be great to see more show horses from the U.S.”
The CSI3* 1.40m Silver Tour Welcome Speed Stake welcomed twenty-one horse and rider combinations. Eleventh to go was Zazou Hoffman aboard W Zermie 13, a 15-year-old bay mare owned by Woodacres Stables, LLC. The duo crossed the finish line in an unbeatable time of 66.28 seconds. Closest to catching this pair was Rachel Fields aboard VDL Groep Cyrano Z (owned by The SHF Group & Fields), who picked up second in 72.09s.
Hoffman credited her win to her relationship with Zermie, “I have been riding her for years and I know her very well, so it allowed me to make the most difficult turn on the course – from fences two to three – very early.”
She continued, “Zermie is a very sensitive mare – she likes to be handled and ridden with care, so it’s important to keep her happy and on your team. I have a lot of faith in her, she’s very reliable and competitive. She wants to win.”
This afternoon’s FEI competition concluded with the CSI 3* 1.45m Gold Tour Welcome Speed Stake, which included two combinations, an open water option, as well as many bending and related lines throughout the Petersen, Jr. designed track. Thirty-two horse-and-rider combinations took the track, each competitor seeming to post a quicker time than the last.
The fastest of all was Olympian Will Simpson aboard his own Chacco P, a 9-year-old bay Mecklenburg gelding. The speedy pair crossed the timers in 62.53 seconds, with second place honors going to Frenchman Eric Navet aboard Catypso in 64.68s. Simpson’s assistant, Delaney Flynn and Milan IV, posted a time of 65.91 to finish in third place.
“I found the horse from a friend of mine in Eastern Germany. I didn’t want to like him, but I kind of had to – he’s so fast and good. The combinations are the tricky part with him because once you open him up it’s a bit hard to get him back, but I’m getting to know him better,” Simpson said. “He goes in a rubber snaffle now. He’s very fast and he’s figuring out the sport already. I need about six months to get him together, get more muscle on him, and get him a little easier to ride. I think he’s a real big-time jumper. He’s got bravery and scope, but his foot speed is just unbelievable.”
He wrapped the first day of competition with a smile saying, “We have a great venue here with The Oaks International Grand Prix Field, and it’ll be a great to show for fans to come watch on Saturday afternoon.”
The action continues through Saturday, with three power & speed classes on Thursday, and two classics on Friday. The FEI CSI3* excitement culminates with the $80,000 Gold Tour Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon at 4p.m.