Menlo Park, Calif.—Aug. 9
When Lane Clarke walked the jump-off track for the $40,000 Los Gatos Luxury Cars Grand Prix, he knew he and Semira de Salieu would have the edge. There were two options after the second last fence: turn left for a longer smooth path, or turn right for a shorter path with a few fences to weave around.
“I know my mare really well, and I know she’s always going to try her best to jump clean,” said Clarke. “That allows you to take some risks. I walked the track and thought you know what, going first I need to make a really efficient track and trust that mare’s going to do what she always done and jump clean.
“You needed to slow down to the [vertical] to make the left, so I thought if you need to slow down you may as well go right, and she’s really broke,” he continued. “I just figured once I needed to slow down, we may as well take the fewest number of steps.”
Sure enough, that turn helped Clarke and Semira de Salieu lock down the fastest jump-off time and the blue ribbon in the feature class of the Menlo Charity Horse Show. The only other person to choose the more awkward route—Keri Potter on Paloma—also turned in a double clear to finish second ahead of Peter Breakwell and Finnley 5.
Clarke walked the Linda Allen-designed track with his longtime coach Mickey Hayden. The first round saw few major problems, and seven of the 21 found a fault-free path. Clarke went first in the jump off, and he wasn’t sure his time would hold up.
“When there are fast riders behind you like Keri Potter and Peter Breakwell and Bert Mutch, you can’t be a slacker,” he said. “I knew I’d get an efficient track, and she’s speedy and really handy, but I never gunned her to the last fence, and there’s usually someone that will do that. I didn’t have to because her turns were so tight.”
Clarke paired up with Semira de Salieu about a year ago, after the mare had spent 2 ½ years in the barn as a young rider and grand prix mount for Hayden Show Jumping student Charlotte Gadbois. The 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Darco—Horeade d’Alex, Major de la Cour) is a perfect fit for Clarke.
“We get along great,” said Clarke, Laguna Hills, Calif. “People might not think so because she’s short and I’m tall, but our styles match. I like a really careful horse and I get along with a careful horse. I always feel more relaxed on horses that jump really high.
“You can be in tune with her because she’s part of it," he continued. "She’s into it. She’s a gamer. She’s true. You know what she’s feeling and you’re never surprised. Sure she’s a little spooky, but she always goes. If she’s a little bit tired you know, but she always tries. If she’s a little bit hot you know, and you have to hold her back, but she’s there for you.”
This marks Clarke’s fourth grand prix win of the year on Semira, but even if he notches a few more it won’t be the highlight of his year. He and his wife, equine veterinarian Jennifer Reese Clarke, are expecting their first child, a daughter, this October.
Want more Menlo? Check out a blog and huge photo gallery of Menlo Charity Horse Show’s tackroom contest. We've got the story of Thursday night's USHJA International Hunter Derby, and these photos from the open hunter divisions and the horse and hound class.
For an in-depth report from the show, pick up the Aug. 25 issue of The Chronicle.