Thermal, Calif.—March 15
Heading into the jump-off aboard Un Diamant Des Forets Jim Ifko didn’t feel too much pressure. After all, he was already leading the class after a blazing round on his first mount, Celine La Silla. So Ifko let Un Diamant Des Forets loose, and the stallion didn’t disappoint, outrunning his barnmate to finish the day on top with Celine La Silla in second.
“He’s such a competitor; he loves to win,” said Ifko, Foothills, Alberta. “I just let him do his thing, and he’s such a fast horse we ended up where we ended up. I couldn’t change his plan. He lives for jump-offs.
“He’s fast, and he’s careful,” he continued. “You have to try to keep up with him then stay out of his way when he gets to the jumps. If anything at the beginning of the week he can be a little overzealous.”
Ifko has been riding the 11-year-old Selle Français (Diamant De Semilly—Grace Des Forets, Papillon Rouge) for Rachel Cornacchia for five years. Cornacchia, who also owns Celine La Silla, rode her own Valkyrie De Talma in the class as well, finishing ninth.
Though she finished second, it’s possible Cornacchia and Ifko were even more proud of Celine La Silla as it was that mare’s first grand prix with Ifko. They moved up in the order to jump off second.
“I didn’t mind moving up because it wasn’t gong to change our plan anyway,” said Ifko. “I didn’t know what to expect, so I figured we’d test the waters a little bit, and as it turns out she’s fast!”
The wins tasted especially sweet as it’s just the horses’ second week showing this season as they showed through November in Calgary, Alberta.
“All three horses are getting their feet wet in the [Fédération Equestre Internationale] divisions, and we’re trying to advance our way up the FEI levels,” said Ifko. “This was a good start.”
Because of their late start this season Ifko and Cornacchia are opting out of this Sunday’s AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, the feature class of the HITS Coachella circuit, instead setting their sights on the Blenheim Spring Classic II (California) where they will contest the FEI divisions.
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