Blenheim Sports Classic A-List

By July 8, 2011

The Blenheim EquiSports June Classic series got off to a high-flying start, with Lane Clarke and Granville’s Casseur de Prix soaring to victory in the $30,000 Blenheim Classic Grand Prix presented by the Orange County Register. That was on June 12. The following three grand prix proved a trifecta for international riders visiting from Mexico, with Agustin Aguayo, Antonio Maurer and Salvador Onate all topping the leaderboard in the June Classic series at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano.

Agustin Aguayo and ProStar de la Nutrin win the June Classic II (Photo by Michael J. Marten)

At the Classic I, nine horse and rider teams made the jump off but it was Clarke who delivered the only double clear. “This is only the fourth grand prix he and I have done together, so to come out with a win this early in our partnership is pretty amazing,” Clarke said of the 11-year-old gelding, owned by the Spicer family.


The 25-year-old Australian did well throughout the four week Blenheim June series, finishing in the money three times in three subsequent $30,000 contests. On June 19, he was eleventh on McLord’s First John; on July 2 he was seventh on Casseur, and eleventh on McLord’s, owned by Clarke’s trainer Mickey Hayden, with whom the rider shared his success. “He has been an amazing coach. When you win one of these things, it’s nice to get the spotlight for 15 minutes, but nobody gets here alone,” said Clarke, himself a trainer at Hayden Show Jumping, where he has been riding professionally for the past 10 years.

Lane Clarke and Casseur de Prix
(Flying Horse Photography)

Clarke was the second rider on the jump-off course, and improvised a tight inside turn that was copied by several riders. “There are certain risks you have to take, and since I practice a lot of tight turns at home I decided this would be one of them,” Clarke said. “It was tricky, but I have a very flexible and nimble horse so I trusted him and my eye.”

“I was a little surprised that some riders took the inside turn to the last fence. I didn’t plan it that way,” course designer Linda Allen said. “I figured they would land and turn right, not left, and have a nice strong gallop to the final fence. Lane chose the inside option along with a few others and he really put down a slick ride.”

In subsequent weeks, the grand prix winner’s circle was a South of the Border tour de force! Piloting Pro Star de la Nutrin, Aguayo triumphed in a field of 40 riders June 19 at the Blenheim June Classic II sponsored by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. Via an interpreter, Aguayo explained that he bought Pro Star as a three-year-old. Now eight, this was only their second grand prix together; the first was in Jalapa. The duo plans to return to Mexico for the Pan Am Trials later this summer.

Seventeen riders went clear through Scott Starnes’ course, which fielded talent ranging from developing to Olympic-caliber. “I didn’t want to over-face the young ones, yet (wanted to) challenge the field,” Starnes said. Azcarraga, made it to the jump-off on two horses. He set the pace riding Celsius, holding the lead until Susan Hutchison and El Dorado 29’s Cantano galloped in eight entries later with a blazingly fast clean ride. On his second mount, Gangster, Azcarraga tried to catch Cantano and steal back the leading spot, and beat his first time, but not Hutchison’s ending the day third and fifth.

Susan Hutchison and Cantano were second in the June Classic II
(Photo by Michael J. Marten)

At the $30,000 June Classic III Grand Prix presented by St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort on June 26, it was Maurer that took the victory gallop. “I’m working my horse back up and this is only his second grand prix after being off for a year,” Maurer said following the win. “He was double clear in last week’s grand prix; I couldn’t be happier.”

In addition to being pleased with his mount, Maurer complimented Pierre Jolicouer’s course. “Pierre built a fair track,” noted Maurer. “There were technical questions and elements of rideability but it was designed very fair and very smart. The time was a bit of a factor for some but the field was actually very balanced.”

A total of 38 horse and rider teams representing five nations competed, eight of them contesting to the finish. Riding Paldatus, Salvador Onante took second, Harley Brown and his World Cup horse Cassiato third. Nineteen-year-old Tina DiLandri was the only American to advance to the second round. Riding Avargo, she laid down a stellar performance, earning fourth as the only other rider to go double-clear.

Tina di Landri and Avargo (Photo by Michael J. Marten)

July Fourth weekend, Salvador Onate and Charro topped the field of 34 hopefuls in the $30,000 Red, White & Blue Grand Prix. Charro was Maurer’s World Cup mount last year, and the horse’s former rider was hot on his tail, but he and Callao had to settle for second, following by less than a second over Brazilan Anderson Lima’s extremely technical track.

“When I was walking the course, I thought it would be a difficult run to make a clear round,” Onate said. “I had to focus on the strides, because there were many options. I had the opportunity of watching a couple of riders do it, and then I took my options.

“I figured I had to go as fast as I could, and that’s what I did,” Onate said, adding of Charro, who he’s been riding since October, “The horse jumped great, so it worked out.” DiLandri and Avargo finished third.

“We’ve had four good weeks of competition,” Blenheim EquiSports’ Suzanne Ansari said, noting that the EVH-1 scare had completely died down. “Our last week is historically a smaller show, but the stall counts were way up, so we were very happy to see that.”

“Blenheim always puts on a beautiful show,” Clarke said. “They took really great care of the field: watered it every night and aerated it every week. If the ground gets too hard, or the grass gets too slippery, can really make a difference. There is a lot of maintenance involved. The ring crew builds the course every night, and then about five more courses throughout the day. It’s a lot of work!”

June Classic III winner Antonio Maurer and Callao, with Jaime Azcarraga and Celcius (left) and Tina DiLandri and Avargo (Flying Horse Photography)


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