An excited audience gathered around the Grand Prix Arena at the Lamplight Equestrian Center on Saturday to witness some of the nation’s top show jumping athletes compete for the ultimate prize in the $50,000 Buck Brothers John Deere Grand Prix. Following the $25,000 Welcome Grand Prix that took place on Thursday evening, anticipation for the highlight event of Equifest II continued to rise into the weekend.
Spectators were not disappointed with the turnout for the class, seeing Olympians, national champions and many international competitors enter the arena. Ultimately, Tracey Fenney and Igor Van De Heibos, owned by MTM Farm, came out on top.
The grand prix course, designed by Leopoldo Palacias, proved challenging for the horse-and-rider combinations. Featuring several rollbacks and large combinations, only three of the original twenty pairs made it through to the jump-off with no faults. Liz Atkins and Rodeo VDL, owned by Benchmark Stables LLC, were the first of the three to go clear, crossing the finish line in 80.613 seconds.
Determined to make it to the jump-off and ride a smooth course, Fenney and Igor Van De Heibos carefully completed their first round fault-free in 82.206 seconds. Douglas Boyd and the Sapphire Riding Academy’s Berkley III were the final combination to navigate the course without any faults, finishing in 82.995 seconds.
“He’s super scopey and he really wants to be very careful. He’s really hard for me to stay on so my biggest strategy is always thinking about hanging on and not getting jumped loose. He’s so powerful and is such a strong and careful horse. For being a stallion, he’s amazing. There’s not one ounce of stallion in him. He’s just like a puppy dog around the barn, he loves everybody. He’s great to be around and lovely to work around. Everything he does is super nice.”
Going into the jump-off, Fenney knew that she would need to be both careful and quick to come out on top in the class. She watched as Atkins and Rodeo VDL sped around the arena, finishing in 41.631 seconds but unfortunately knocking several rails. After Boyd and Berkley III were disqualified for going off course, Fenney and Igor Van De Heibos took to the ring as the final combination, claiming the only double-clear round in a time of 47.696 seconds.
Fenney began her partnership with the 10-year-old stallion in 2017, and has spent a great deal of the time since getting to know him in and out of the ring. Fenney says that Igor Van De Heibos possesses so much power and scope that her strategy in the ring is mainly to stay in the saddle and direct his energy into producing clear rounds. She has been continuously impressed with his work ethic and overall gentle, kind nature.
Atkins and Rodeo VDL took home second place in the large class, while Boyd and Berkley III were awarded third place for their clear first round.
$50,000 Buck Brothers John Deere Grand Prix
Place / Horse / Rider / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults / Time
1. Tracy Fenney / Igor Van De Heibos / 0 / 82.206 / 0 / 47.696
2. Liz Atkins / Rodeo VDL / 0 / 80.613 / 16 / 41.631
3. Douglas Boyd / Berkley III / 0 / 82.995 / EL
4. Tracy Fenney / MTM Reve Du Para / 1 / 83.501
5. Wilhelm Genn / Van Gogh / 1 / 83.864
6. Dorothy Douglas / S & L Elite / 4 / 77.504
7. Nicole Bellissimo / Jersey V.D. Hunters / 4 / 78.638
8. Brian Moggre / MTM Vivre Le Reve / 4 / 78.662
9. Tracy Fenney / MTM Apple / 4 / 79.889
10. Tracy Fenney / MTM Como No / 4 / 81.802