Atherton, Calif.—Aug. 12-13
With nine of the 31 horses in the field for the $40,000 Bentley Los Gatos and Bentley San Francisco Grand Prix coming back to jump off, the race was on at the Menlo Charity Horse Show on Aug. 13.
Kristen Hardin was first back on the field with Bert to set the pace at 43 seconds, but had an unfortunate rail. Then Guy Thomas and Jonkeer Z became the first pair to make it around in under 41seconds, setting the pace for the rest of the field. At the end of the day, although others really put the pedal down, no one could beat this pair’s time, giving Thomas his third win in the last five years at Menlo.
Guy Thomas thanking Jonkheer Z for their $40,000 Bentley Los Gatos and Bentley San Francisco Grand Prix win. Photo by Alden Corrigan
“I am so fortunate to have a horse like this to ride,” Thomas said. “A week ago in Sonoma he was brilliant. We were first in the ring and first to jump off and he won it. Every time we go into the ring I feel more connected, more and more of a team. [When we] jumped the first fence, I thought, ‘Best stay out of his way, he’s going to jump clean again if you don’t screw it up.’
“He was brilliant in the first round and I knew I had to put enough pressure on [the riders later in the jump-off]. I did not want to be that tight back to the second fence—I turned back to the second fence and I thought, ‘You just gave it away.’ There was either the really long one or it was a mess and thank God my horse said, ‘Sit still, I got this covered you just hang on.’
Then it was just try to be smooth as possible from there and he was brilliant again,” said Thomas. “When he bailed me out at the second fence I thought just be smart. He landed and he just turned back under me like a small horse; he likes to win and luckily I can stay out of his way.”
Guy Thomas and Jonkheer Z. Photo by Alden Corrigan
Guy’s next goal is qualifying for the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Omaha, Neb., next March. There are two qualifiers coming up, and Jonkeer Z has been to two World Cup Finals with former rider Karl Cook.
The Menlo Charity Horse Show is Guy’s home show, on home turf, He was born at Stanford University Hospital, only 2 miles down the road, and he now works out of Stanford’s Red Barn. Guy, along with his parents Butch and Lu Thomas, are original supporters of the event from day 1, attending the show for 38 years.
“It always fun to win but Menlo makes it a little bit more special as even today I had past students coming to the grand prix that I hadn’t seen in a year and people you don’t see all the time, so it’s really nice,” explained Thomas.
Daniel Zilla rode Venice B into second in the $40,000 Bentley Los Gatos and Bentley San Francisco Grand Prix. Photo by Alden Corrigan
Hugh Mutch rode Alamit to third in the $40,000 Bentley Los Gatos and Bentley San Francisco Grand Prix. Photo by Alden Corrigan
Earlier in the week, John French claimed top spot in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Menlo aboard Center Court. “In the first round he was good, but he was not quite awake at the beginning of the course,” French said.
“But then all of a sudden he realized we were jumping bigger jumps. He hasn’t been showing for a while so we have not done much with him. We showed him at HITS Thermal where he was circuit champion in the winter. He has had some time off now, so we were debating whether to bring him here.”
John French on Center Court. Photo by Alden Corrigan
French showed Center Court in just one class before the derby to get him in gear. “He’s not afraid of anything. He seemed like he was fine to me and I wanted to save him for this class today and not tire him out,” French said. “The more impressive it is the better it is for him that’s why you save him.”
French and Center Court were in second after the classic round with Tara Metzner leading on Cy Young. “I like coming in second or third after the classic round because there isn’t as much pressure on you going into the handy round when you have to move up,” he said. “Center Court was super smooth in the handy. I think they rewarded him because he can turn really tight to the jumps and does it effortlessly. You’re not trying to create the jump or legging him to get him over. He can do it in his sleep—that’s how scopey he is.”
John French and Center Court galloped to victory in Menlo’s $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Photo by Alden Corrigan
Center Court’s owner Kristen Hiller was also delighted with her 7-year-old horse in only his second Menlo Derby outing. “Last year we just missed by a lead change, but this year he was awesome,” said Hiller. “I live two blocks away, so Menlo is the horse show that I grew up going to and was always hoping that I would have a champion like Billy [Billy the Kid aka Center Court]. He’s made Menlo very special very quickly.”
John Bragg rode Early August into second in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Menlo. Photo by Alden Corrigan
Tara Metzner and Cy Young led the field after the classic round but ended up fourth overall in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Menlo. Photo by Alden Corrigan