Guy Thomas and Peterbilt Use Speed and Agility to Win $40,000 Bentley Los Gatos and San Francisco Grand Prix at Menlo

[Atherton, CA] The crown jewel of the Menlo Charity Horse Show is always the Saturday evening Grand Prix. And last night’s event, in its 43rd year, was no different, with a standing-room only crowd packed in along the rail to watch the 16 horse-and-rider combinations tackle Michael Roy Curtis’s 1.50m course at the Menlo Circus Club.

Moments before the first round, Curtis described the course of 13 jumps as “straightforward but with a few tricks” that could lead to a pulled rail or a few seconds on the clock. Seven of the jumps were singles joined by two triple combinations (the first, a one stride to a four stride and the second, a one stride to a two stride). Known as the “go-to designer” for the Menlo Charity Horse Show (with 30+ years of designing for the show), Curtis relied on his reputation as fair and honest to draw a field of both veterans and newcomers.

“I don’t design courses full of traps,” he explained. “I would rather give the inexperienced horse or rider an opportunity to build confidence than for either to leave the ring feeling discouraged.”

After last year’s failed attempt at using GGT footing for the Grand Prix, this year saw the return of the grass. With footing issues resolved and an inviting course set, riders were enticed to make a bid for a piece of the $40,000 purse. Melodic Farms’ Carol Wright entered the class with her Conejito, an 11-year-old, American-bred Holsteiner, and interpreted the course as “fairly soft but with a few possibilities to easily knock a rail.” Wright’s careful ride cost her one-third of a second and penalized one time fault. Peter Breakwell also fell to the same fate aboard No Drama’s Lucas.

Riders quickly realized the clock was as much a foe as the rails. Colombia-native Juan Pablo Gnecco expressed concern ahead of his round for the tricky, back-to-back triple combinations, Curtis’s signature trouble spots. Following his four-time-faults ride, Gnecco pinpointed the extra three seconds to the three extra strides in between the combinations. “I second guessed my line and that cost me a slot in the jump off,” Gnecco mused. “My horse jumped great, but I made the mistake.”

Only five jumped clear in the first round to make it to the jump off. A course that twisted and turned over seven, individual obstacles served to reward the quick and the agile. Crowd favorite Kristin Hardin suffered an unlucky rail aboard Emily Cohodes’s Bert. And Chelsea Jones, in the midst of a GP hot streak (she was first and second at June’s $15,000 Stübben Grand Prix at Sonoma Horse Park) dropped in standings to the same fate.

The show’s “Best Amateur Owner Rider” Karrie Rufer rode an impressive, clean round, further cementing the well-deserved title. But it was Guy Thomas, piloting his homebred Peterbilt, who shaved nearly four seconds off Rufer’s time to clinch the win.

Guy Thomas and Peterbilt. Photo ©Christina Gray

Last year’s champions, Thomas and Peterbilt, a 13-year-old Holsteiner/Dutch Warmblood stallion, repeated the winning performance by delivering a precise ride at a blistering pace.

“I’ve known this horse since the moment he dropped -- from day one -- and no one else has ever shown him, which is huge, because I’ve never had to ‘fix’ him,” explained Thomas following his victory. “I have so much faith in Peterbilt -- to run him at a jump and to know he’ll jump it accurately and cleanly.”

Thomas’s mother and groundsperson Lu Thomas enthused that training and watching her son ride “is a great joy” although she feels some nerves when he’s in the ring. She underlined Thomas’s major goals on the season’s agenda: to earn an International certificate for the 1.50m and to qualify for the New Zealand team. The next stop for Thomas and his Willow Tree Farm is Showpark All Seasons Summer Tournament, August 28-September 1, for the World Cup Qualifier, an important show for meeting his goals.

Last night’s win was especially enjoyable for Thomas, with a hometown crowd supporting him and his three mounts. “It’s always so nice to enjoy a successful show here at Menlo,” Thomas remarked. “The grounds and jumps are always beautiful, and the energy is fun. I really liked the footing this year, with the GGT in the warm up and the grass in the ring. The horses and the clients are happy, and the show sets us up for a strong dash to the season’s finish.”

Top Ten - $40,000 Bentley Los Gatos and San Francisco Grand Prix

Rider | Horse | Round 1 Faults | Round 2 Faults | Round 2 Time

1. Guy Thomas | Peterbilt | 0 | 0 | 34.844
2. Karrie Rufer | Courtown | 0 | 0 | 38.073
3. Chelsea Jones | Nickel | 0 | 4 | 36.869
4. Kristin Hardin | Bert | 0 | 4 | 38.521
5. Guy Thomas | Acomulado | 0 | 8 | 36.862
6. Carol Wright | Conejito | 1
7. Peter Breakwell | Lucas | 1
8. Juan Pablo Gnecco | User ID | 4
9. Chelsea Jones | Charmeur Van De Begijnakker | 5
10. Guy Thomas | S & L Elite | 8

Courtown and Karrie Rufer. Photo ©Christina Gray

Chelsea Jones and Nickel. Photo ©Christina Gray