Irish FEI course designer Alan Wade set a track befitting of the $50,000 Griffis Residential Grand Prix, the finale grand prix of the Summer in the Rockies circuit at the beautiful Colorado Horse Park in Parker on July 19. It was huge, technical and asked that horse and rider perform their best.
A tricky triple to a four-stride cost many riders rails. A huge triple bar and some intimidating oxers required plenty of scope.
"The course was bigger than the Welcome, and I think our course designer knew he had to set that," said Karen Cudmore. "I think for a finale grand prix at the Colorado Horse Park it was perfect."
Out of 28 entries only five would get around the course clean and progress to the jump-off. Second to go in the order, John Pearce of Bermuda Dunes, Calif., and Johnny B Good, owned by Forest View Farm, produced the first fault-free round.
"It was bigger than what we've been jumping," said Pearce. "[Wade] did a wonderful job. It was careful. I like some size; for me it's an advantage because my horses seem to get more careful and scopier when the jumps get bigger."
Seven rounds later, junior rider extraordinaire, Hunter Holloway from Topeka, Kan., and the incredible I Love Lucy, owned by Hays Investment Corporation, made it two to return for the short track. Holloway has had a successful circuit, cleaning up in the hunters, equitation and the jumpers. She was the only junior to go clean around Wade's course.
Holloway and I Love Lucy were immediately followed by Kristen VanderVeen from St. Charles, Ill., and Bull Run's Eternal to make it three. This horse-and-rider combination won the Summer in the Rockies finale grand prix last year plus two other grand prix classes during the 2013 circuit.
"For Eternal it was perfect," said VanderVeen. "There were quite a few lines on a forward step and scopey jumps. That's great for him. He has all the scope and a big step."
Two rounds later Cudmore and Blair Cudmore's Southern Pride completed the course leaving all the rails in their cups. Southern Pride is a Holsteiner stallion by the American-bred South Pacific. Cudmore has represented Canada in international competition and trains and competes with her family out of Heartland Farm in Omaha, Neb., where they raise Holsteiners.
Pearce returned on a crowd favorite, Chianto, and produced a clean round to complete the group of five for the short track. Pearce and Chianto, now 18 years young, represented Canada at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.).
Pearce was the first back on Johnny B Good but had two down. Then, Holloway returned on I Love Lucy and also had 8faults. VanderVeen and Eternal were blazing fast, with a time of 38.552 but took a rail.
Then, Cudmore and Southern Pride were the first to complete both tracks without fault. Pearce and Chianto had one rail and a time just a hair slower than VanderVeen. Cudmore emerged as the only double clear and victor of the $50,000 Griffis Residential Grand Prix.
"I really enjoyed the jump-off," said Cudmore. "It had a little bit of everything, and it worked great for me. I honestly don't have the fastest horse but with a little bit of strategy and keeping cool it worked out great. This horse is a better horse over a bigger course. I can't run with the kindergarteners all day long. They just go so fast. He's a seasoned horse. He's 16 now. The bigger the course, the more I like it."
Cudmore said that after the first fence of the jump-off, where they were doing eights and nines in the first round, it was a bit of a slice in a seven, so they left a stride out there. They also left a stride out after the rollback to the combination up the other line.
"The thing is when you're in that ring, it's a little bit of a hill so you're kicking going up and pulling going down," said Cudmore. "And then a super careful jump right in the middle of everything and a gallop again to the last line. It had some good riding tricks in there. I have a careful horse, so that helped today."
"I was super happy for Karen,” VanderVeen said. “I love her. Maybe I should have added that step to the last jump, but it is the way I ride. I like to be fast and win, and when you go at the beginning you might as well take a chance."
"I've been coming to the Colorado Horse Park for 20 years," said Cudmore. "It was a great way for me to end my circuit here today. I am super happy.
"I think the staff at the Colorado Horse Park and the management have been super professional," she continued. "It is an excellent facility. I just enjoy Colorado people in general. It's a great place to show."