It was a race against the clock for riders in the $9,000 Wilmington Trust 1.40m Speed Cup, and Rich Fellers relied on his horse Steelbi’s efficiency to rocket to the top of the results. As the final pair of the day, their clear round in a time of 69.92 seconds earned them a win in the premier class of Thursday’s competition at the Split Rock Jumping Tour’s Sonoma International CSI2*.
“She is a very efficient horse. She reminds me a lot of Flexible,” Fellers said, comparing Steelbi to his former FEI World Cup Final winner. “She’s quick across the ground. She has a fast and forward gallop. She’s high energy, and she’s efficient over the jumps. She’s neat and tidy and doesn’t waste time in the air.”
Though he and Kathleen Waldorf’s mare proved to be the best of the bunch with a clear round, they also had a bit of luck on their side as one wily vertical nearly thwarted their perfect result. The crowd gasped when the pink rail popped out its cup, but much to the surprise of everyone, including Fellers, it stayed put and they were free to take the win.
“I heard it, and I actually as I was turning toward the next jump, I saw in my peripheral vision that it stayed in the cups and thought, ‘Wow I’m a lucky fella!'” he said.
Riding for Morning Star Sporthorses, Karrie Rufer took the next two spots on the leaderboard piloting Mai Tai 2 into second with a time of 71.06 and Georgie d’Auvray EC into third with a time of 73.68.
Bert Mutch was determined to be competitive in the $2,000 L.V. Harkness 1.35m Jump Off class, and his hard work paid off as he claimed first and third with Cristar and Fresh B, respectively. Cristar, who is owned by the rider, won with over a second to spare in his jump off in a time of 40.25 seconds, and stablemate Fresh B, who is owned by Sarah Puchalski, finished in an impressive 42.777 seconds. Susan Artes was second in the class with Alix Fargo’s Laurence Z after a jump off time of 41.782.
“I’ve dreamt of doing Split Rock. It’s such a nice event with an international look to it,” Mutch said. “It’s exciting to have this kind of competition in Northern California to raise the bar and really help our sport, so I came here very well prepared, and I hope I can keep that up the rest of the week.”
Katelyn Denby Edwards topped the $1,000 1.40m Junior/Amateur Power & Speed class with Mountain View West Farm LLC’s Kalina. Very last to go in the order, the duo had a clear round with a jump off time of 26.234 seconds.
“I had walked the course with my trainer and we had a plan to do the inside turns to keep it tidy and nice. Since I went last, I got to watch a couple of people, and started doubting some of my plan. Should I do the inside turn? Should I not? Do I need to do it to win? But ultimately I decided to just go for it,” Denby Edwards said.
Emma Catherine Reichow was second in the division. She and her Cubiki had a clear round with a time of 30.56. Carolyn Salas finished third with a spotless round aboard Dusty Blackwood’s Acapulco.
A win in the $1,000 1.30m Junior/Amateur Power & Speed went to Karrie Rufer and Morning Star Sporthorses’ Stern dei Folletti who earned a clear round with a quick time of 27.092 seconds.
“My strategy really was just to stay as smooth as possible,” Rufer said. “Sometimes you’re just faster if you take out all the kinks and be as smooth as possible. It was good for the horse. It was good for me, and luckily it was efficient enough to win.”
Emma Mann-Meginniss bested the 26-entry $1,000 1.20m Junior/Amateur Power & Speed class with Brooklyn Imports’ Madison Avenue after a clear round with a speed time of 39.874.
The Split Rock Gala Presented by Big Bay City, chaired by Kaley Cuoco, will take place on Friday evening, September 7, in the VIP tent at the Sonoma Horse Park, starting with Cocktails at 7:30 p.m. and followed by Dinner at 8:00 p.m. Proceeds from the Gala will benefit Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship.