Breezy light clouds filled the sky, but the upper register notes sounded by Kaitlyn McMonigle, an apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera, seemed to part the cloud filled horizon before the commencement of the $30,000 Santa Fe Fiesta Week City of Santa Fe Grand Prix. Light jazz filled the VIP Lounge as patrons congregated in the outer cabanas to watch the athletes take on Mauricio Garcia’s challenging Grand Prix course. The route was technical, had many related distances, and questioned riders’ ability to navigate a large grass field—beginning with the adobe HIPICO Santa Fe oxer.
Of the 29 entries in the class, only two went double clear to proceed to the jump-off—and those riders were Jenni McAllister and Jenni McAllister!
McAllister walked her track twice beforehand. “I knew it’d be tricky” said McAllister, adding, “There were a lot of related distances with no breaks. You had to ride, ride, ride! A lot of bending lines can get riders in trouble. You’re trying to pick up time and then you end up too early or too late, and if you’re too direct in one line, it causes problem in next one.” McAllister always makes sure she has a plan A, and a Plan B. Although it was a technical route, McAllister appreciated the course’s questions and planned strategically for her two very different mounts.
McAllister took tight inside turns on both horses, but really pressed the gas pedal on Colvados to get the fastest time, coming on the field with confidence from the pair’s Welcome Stake win earlier in the week. She cut out strides and galloped across every stretch of grass possible. McAllister impressively maneuvered the gelding to a clear first round time of 73.04, but unfortunately had a rail as she drove for the faster time, trying to catch Escada VS in the jump off.
Because Escada VS is an even newer ride to McAllister—partnering with second place Colvados for a mere two months—she rode a bit more conservatively than the mare could have gone, “I held her in the turns and did all the inside options,” McAllister said. Strides weren’t cut out in the speedy first round with a time of 70.50; McAllister dialed it down a notch by riding more conservatively in the jump-off—which proved to be a winning strategy. McAllister carefully executed the jump-off in 42.13 seconds, making Escada VS the only horse double clean in the class.
The winning pair brought some serious fire to the arena—galloping around in a chestnut blaze, almost lighting the field aflame with the mare’s hot blood and high energy. “I had a really good feeling about this mare today. I actually woke up this morning thinking I could win this class!”, said the professional of Team McAllister in Sun Valley, California.
McAllister is a queen of adapting quickly to new mounts, because of her long catch-riding history. “I ride off instinct,” said McAllister, who will watch videos to give herself as much information about a new ride beforehand, but otherwise must trust her riding experience. McAllister has only sat on Escada VS a few times since the mare’s journey from Sweden to the United States a few weeks ago.
McAllister’s partnership with the mare started a week ago, but Team McAllister had their eye on the horse for the last two years, when they first saw Escada VS abroad. This is Escada VS’s first show in the United States, although the mare is familiar with the game—competing abroad at high levels. “She wants to win and is a real show horse. And very opinionated! When I went into the first round she was a little nervous, but then she got straight down to business. She’s a true competitor,” said McAllister.
According to McAllister, Escada VS is everything one would want in a jumper, “She’s got a lot of blood, very careful, has a great hind end, is quick up-front, is very light, and wants to get the job done. You never feel like any [jump] is too big!”, said McAllister. In fact, McAllister says that when the jumps get bigger, the mare gets more powerful! Team McAllister believes Escada VS has potential to be Jenni’s World Cup horse.
McAllister’s natural ability to adjust quickly to new horses allowed her to take the top two placings in Sunday’s $30,000 Santa Fe Fiesta Week City of Santa Fe Grand Prix. It was certainly a successful day for Jenni McAllister—two new horses, two clear first rounds and top two finishes. HIPICO Santa Fe seems to be second home to Jenni McAllister!