The pristine Blenheim EquiSports Derby Field welcomed the first leg of the FEI CSI3* Gold, Silver, and Bronze tours on Thursday. Rich Fellers and his fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, Lux Lady, led the 1.45m Gold Tour victory gallop. The 1.40m Silver Tour win went to Cassio Rivetti of Brazil aboard Neil Jones Equestrian’s Gracile, an eight-year-old Dutch mare. And in the 1.35m Bronze Tour, Allison LaJoie picked up her first FEI win riding her eleven-year-old Dutch gelding, Delmonde.
Rich Fellers and Lux Lady on their way to victory. Photo by McCool Photography
Internationally-renowned course designer Leopoldo Palacios had the task of building a power and speed track that welcomed the Bronze, Silver and Gold Tour participants to the Derby Field on the first day of competition. As Fellers noted in his interview, Palacios built an inviting course. Those who were fault-free in the power phase continued on to the speed phase, where double-clean and fast earned the top prizes.
The Bronze tour kicked off the competition with twenty-four entries representing the United States, Sweden, Japan, Argentina, and Venezuela. Completing both phases of the 16-obstacle track double clean, it was the seventeenth pair in the order that took a commanding lead. LaJoie (USA) and Delmonde stopped the clock in quick time of 36.59 seconds for the win, more than half of a second faster than the second-place finisher, Mariano Maggi (SWE).
The afternoon continued with the first leg of the Silver tour, where thirty horse and rider combinations took to the power and speed course. Third to go in the order, Rivetti (BRA) and Gracile took an early lead in a time of 32.39, which proved to be unbeatable throughout the duration of the class. Shawn Casady (USA) aboard HKC Collection’s Cicomein VDL, came close to catching Rivetti. Casady, twenty-seventh in the order, completed the speed phase without faults in 32.45 seconds, but had to settle for second.
The FEI CSI3* afternoon concluded with the 1.45m Gold Tour. Of the fourteen entries, it was Fellers (USA) on Lux Lady who jumped double clean in a speedy time of 31.96 seconds to gallop away with the victory. Also double clean but a touch slower in 33.25, Saree Gordon Solanki (ISR) and Azuro 108, owned by Tomboy Farms, finished in second place.
Karl Cook and Caillou 24 win the $40,000 1.45m Gold Tour Welcome Speed Stake. Photo by McCool Photography
In the 1.40m Silver Tour Speed Stake, Mattias Ekeroth and Dacarlos, the 11-year-old Dutch gelding, led the victory gallop. Following in his father’s hoofsteps, Christopher Fellers took the win with Kimberly Bruce’s 14-year-old Scottish Sport Horse gelding Wordsworth II In the 1.35m Bronze Tour Speed Stake.
The classes commenced with the Bronze Tour, where eighteen horse and rider combinations took the track created by internationally-renowned course designer Leopoldo Palacios. As the class progressed, the top position continued to change as competitors put in faster and faster rounds. Ultimately, Christopher Fellers (USA) and Kimberly Bruce’s big-strided Wordsworth II galloped through the timers in 55.56 seconds, taking the lead and the win away from the second-place finisher, Hillary Ridland (USA) and Wonder Kid, by more than three seconds.
In the FEI CSI3* Silver Tour, twenty-one competitors took the track for the afternoon’s speed competition. The tenth to go in the order, Mattias Ekeroth (SWE), completed the course in an unbeatable time of 59.00 seconds to take the win. The second-to-last in the order, Lindsay Archer (USA) and Jarpur, owned by Rhys Farms, came close to catching Ekeroth, stopping the clock just under two-tenths of a second slower in 59.18 for a second place finish.
The afternoon concluded with thirty horse and riders galloping on the grass in the Gold Tour Speed Stake. Eighteenth in the order, Karl Cook (USA) took advantage of Caillou 24’s giant stride. The pair covered the ground, sailed over the open water, made tidy turns, and had a solid pace throughout to cross the timers in 65.65 seconds. Next in the ring was Cassio Rivetti (BRA) aboard Neil Jones Equestrian’s Kaiser Van Het Lambroeck, who crossed the timers in 67.58 seconds, ultimately earning second place. None of the remaining riders could catch Cook or Rivetti.
The competition was fierce for the final legs of the FEI CSI3* Silver and Bronze Tours on Saturday afternoon . With a jump-off of ten, it was Lindsay Archer and Rhys Farm’s 10-year-old BWP Gelding, Jarpur, who topped the field in the $25,000 1.45m Silver Tour Classic. Four jumped off in the $10,000 1.40m Bronze Tour Classic, and Swedish rider Viggo Bjorklund, aboard Merida 8, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare owned by Alma Bjorklund, led the victory gallop.
Lindsay Archer and Jarpur take the win in the $25,000 1.45m Silver Tour Classic. Photo by McCool Photography.
The afternoon began with the Bronze Tour classic competition, where twenty-three horse and rider combinations took the track, created by Leopoldo Palacios. The four who went clear for the jump-off competition included Karl Cook (USA) on both of his rides, Bjorklund (SWE) and Hannah Selleck (USA). Going last on his second horse, E’Special P.S., Cook had the winning time, but also a heartbreak rail at the final obstacle. Bjorklund and Selleck both provided clear rounds in the jump-off, but Bjorklund crossed the timers two and a half seconds faster to take the lead and the win.
Saturday’s FEI competition concluded with twenty-nine competitors in the $25,000 1.45m Silver Tour Classic. Ten competitors, representing Israel, Canada, Sweden, and the USA, crossed the timers without accruing any faults, the makings of an exciting jump-off. Rails and refusals plagued the beginning of the list, when eighteen-year-old Mckenna Norris and MTN Equine’s Cristall Colorado provided a superb clear round in 42.05 seconds.
The next rider in was Archer, who was clean and quick in 39.82 seconds to jump into the lead. Last to go, Shawn Casady and VDL Stud’s Doraindo, stopped the clock in 40.85 seconds to take the second-place finish. As the only other double clear, Norris earned third place.
Competitors brought their A-game on Sunday afternoon for the final leg of the FEI CSI3* Gold Tour. A sizeable crowd filled the hillside cabanas, the Riders’ Lounge and the grandstands at the Blenheim EquiSports Derby Field. The challenging course and top competition did not disappoint! With a jump-off of seven, it was last to go Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and Silver Raven Farms’ 11-year-old Holsteiner mare, Akuna Mattata, who topped the field in the $100,000 1.50m Gold Tour Grand Prix.
Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata. Photo by McCool Photography
Twenty-seven competitors tested the track, created by Leopoldo Palacios, which included two liverpools, a line with an open water jump to a combination, and a final line away from the in-gate with five elements – an oxer to a triple combination to an oxer with yellow planks.That final test kept eleven competitors from returning to the jump-off round.
First to ride without fault wasn’t until ninth in the order, Cassio Rivetti (BRA) and Neil Jones Equestrian’s Kaiser Van Het Lambroeck. Six more riders representing four countries, Mariano Maggi (SWE), Rich Fellers (USA), Shawn Casady (USA), Taylor Siebel (USA), Uma O’Neill (NZL), and Shahinian-Simpson (USA), joined the Brazilian in the jump-off.
Rivetti was the first to ride against the clock setting the bar high going clear in a time of 39.69 seconds. A tough time to beat, the following five competitors weren’t able to go as fast and leave all the fences up.
With the enviable position of last to go, Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata, a pair known for their fast footspeed, came in blazing. The pair’s tidy turns and fast pace carried them through the timers one second faster in 38.71 to seal their victory.
Along with the glory, prize money and awards, Shahinian-Simpson is now also a strong contender to win the The Gold Tour Leading Rider Award . Shahinian-Simpson’s win puts her in the second spot in the standings, just behind Rivetti. Earning second place in two of the three classes this week boosted Rivetti to the top. Generously sponsored by Club Hípico La Silla, the rider with the most money won in the six Gold Tour classes at the Blenheim Spring Classic II CSI3* and the Showpark Ranch & Coast CSI2* will be given a chance to experience FEI competition in beautiful Monterrey, Mexico, this fall.