It was a spectacular Saturday afternoon at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park, as twenty-three competitors representing eight countries were riding for the win in the $80,000 CSI3* Gold Tour Grand Prix. Seven riders posted clear rounds and returned for a remarkable race against the clock. Third to go in the jump off, Keri Potter (USA) aboard the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Bitalica (Julia Koetting, owner), beat the leading time held by USA’s Zazou Hoffman to take her second win of the week.
World Cup Champions, Olympic Medalists, and CSI5* athletes, mixed with up-and-coming horses and riders, all faced the track challenges set by FEI Course Designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. that included a combination, a large California Grizzly Bear wall, an open water obstacle, related bending lines, scopey oxers and tall verticals.
Peterson’s jump-off course asked the riders to execute two rollback turns, and to gallop up several lines. First to go, Hoffman and Samson II (owner, Woodacre Stable, LLC) set the bar for the six riders to follow, double clean in a tidy 45.42s. Two rides later, Potter’s strategy, and slighter quicker turns, stopped the clock in 45.18s, a mere 0.24 seconds quicker. Jim Ifko and Eventyre Farms Ltd.’s Un Diamant des Forets had a forward pace throughout the track, but couldn’t top the girls, crossing the timers in 45.69s to take third place.
“The course was definitely a notch up in regards to technicality and height, but it suited the forward distances suited my horse. It was a good track for him,” Potter noted. “This is a pretty cool horse. I’ve been riding him for about a year now. He was pretty scared when I got him, so it’s been great to form a relationship with him.”
The afternoon opened with a welcome speech from Blenheim EquiSports President Robert Ridland as well as recognition of the newly formed Founders Club, a group of passionate equestrians who want to raise the level of the sport on the West Coast. Ceremonies continued with the Camp Pendleton Color Guard presenting the colors and entertainer Francesca Sola performing the National Anthem. Sola sang a beautiful rendition of “This is Me” before the jump-off.
Potter summed up the CSI3* experience. “This week for me has been incredible. My horses have jumped really well, the show jumping has been great, the FEI classes have been a big step up for California. It raises the horses and riders to a certain level that we should be at in order to compete with the rest of the world.”
Watch Potter’s winning interview here.