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McNaught and Lariccello took top honors in this class for the second year in a row. Photo ©Stefan Parker
The HMI Equestrian Classic at the Sonoma Horse Park was sold out this year, and the Taylor Harris Insurance Services Grand Prix took place on Saturday night as the feature class of the show to a sold out crowd, with the VIP berm and surrounding bleachers both filled to the brim with show jumping fans.
32 horses made up the field that was to ride over a course designed by Michael Roy Curtis that at first glance, was seemingly non-imposing. However, only 7 of the 32 entries went clear to move onto the jump off. The twisting track proved difficult for many entrants as well as the questions posed by a water option and a big triple combination of oxer-vertical-oxer. The biggest bogey just happened to be the track between fence 5 and 6 - a skinny vertical coming out of the bright sun into a bending line to a large oxer in the shade of the berm.
A frontrunner with two of her mounts, McNaught was in good shape going into the jumpoff with Lariccello, a 13 year old Oldenburg gelding owned by Alison Heafey, and her own veteran chestnut, the 18 year old Holsteiner gelding Caballo.
Also in the top 7 were McNaught’s partner Duncan McFarlane and Mr. Whoopy, Peter Breakwell and Lucas, Susan Artes and Zamiro, Soehnke Theymann and Lamarque, and Mandy Porter with Lilly of the Valley.
The jump off was fast and for the most part clean. Artes and Zamiro were first out of the gate and laid down a clear round in a blazing time of 37.634 seconds. Following Artes was McNaught on her first mount Caballo, but the pair had two rails down.
Theymann on Lamarque set another fast time that was not quite quick enough to edge out Artes. Lucas and Breakwell had the fastest clear round time in round one, leaving the crowd at the edge of their seats as he piloted No Drama’s 15.3h Hessen gelding handily through the jump off. However, an unfortunate rail at the bogey 6th fence left he and the little horse in fourth place.
Following Breakwell, McFarlane and the boisterous stallion Mr. Whoopy came in it to win it by flying through the courses to set a time somewhere in the 35 second range, rousted the crowd to a roar.
However, McFarlane’s excitement was short lived as the clock kept ticking. He looked over his shoulder and realized that he had made the unfortunate mistake of not galloping through the finish flags after the final fence. He and Whoopy had to settle for an eventual 6th of the jump off field. With the door open for a win, McNaught and Lariccello neatly sealed the deal by leaving all the jumps in the cups and finishing on a fast 36.311 second track to win the day.
Post-event, McNaught was pleased with Outwoods Farm finishes, “All of our boys were fantastic, we love this show and I couldn’t be happier with [Lariccello’s] win. He won last year, so it was great to win it a second time. He hasn’t jumped since Spruce and just felt one hundred percent!”
A job well done. Photo ©Stefan Parker
HMI and the Sonoma Horse Park never fail to entertain the crowd, and this Saturday evening grand prix was no different, with a wonderful event and venue that is a fast growing favorite of Northern Californians.
Top Ten - $30,000 Taylor Harris Insurance Services Grand Prix
Rider | Horse | Owner
- Helen McNaught | Lariccello | Alison Heafey
- Susan Artes | Zamiro |Alix Fargo
- Soenhke Theymann | Lamarque | Wild Turkey Farm, LLC
- Peter Breakwell | Lucas | No Drama
- Helen McNaught | Caballo | Helen McNaught
- Duncan McFarlane | Mr. Whoopy | Simone Coxe
- Mandy Porter | Lilly of the Valley | Bridgestone Farms L.L.C.
- Susan Hutshison | SIG Excel | SIG International, Inc.
- Annie Laurie Cook | Banba | Signe Ostby
- Patrick Seaton | Good Guinness | Patrick Seaton
Photos ©Stefan Parker