Temecula, California, USA – June 2, 2021 – World-class show jumping returned to Galway Downs for one final week of Nilforushan Equisport Events’ Temecula Valley National Series, presented by Interactive Mortgage. Competition kicked off in the Grand Prix Arena on Wednesday evening with the $5,000 1.35m Welcome Stake, sponsored by Train with Shelby. Twenty-three horse-and-rider pairs battled it out in hopes of taking home the lion’s share of the prize. It was ultimately Sophie Simpson-Leckie and A Picasso De Vie who bested the field of international competitors taking home the final welcome prize of the series.
Following the USEF Table II.2.b format, riders took to the ring hoping to go clear around Anderson Lima’s (BRA) and Maxime Goos’ (CAN) 14-effort first round and secure their chances at an immediate jump-off. Though time proved to be a non-issue having been dropped from 83 seconds to 80, riders struggled to trip the timers without dislodging a rail or two along the way. After several unsuccessful attempts to prompt a shortened track, it was Katie Murray who left all of the rails intact aboard Calgot Hero. The duo pioneered Lima and Goos’ 8-effort jump-off, taking an unlucky rail with them on their dash to the finish. As the only pair to make it to the jump-off round, the pair briefly sat at the top of the leaderboard.
Immediately following Murray’s ride, Week I 1.40m jumper class winner, Sophie Simpson-Leckie (USA), took to the ring with her speedy partner, A Picasso De Vie. Simpson-Leckie, eager to close out her time at Nilforushan Equispot Events’ three-week National series on a high note managed to produce a double clear ride. Clocking in at 36.808, she and Will Simpson Stables INC.’s 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding, bumped Murray to the second place podium taking over the first place position.
Simpson-Leckie proved to be on her A-game Wednesday evening, managing to become the only rider to turn in two clear rounds within the time allowed. Her lead was undisputed as the order of go wore on, and it proved to be a battle of the fastest four-faulters for the other two podium positions.
Alexis Sokolov was the only other rider to clear all the rails over the shortened track; her extreme caution cost her a precious time penalty, dropping her to 7th place, proving going clean was not as important as going fast. Craig Starr (USA) went into the ring battling the clock, turning in the fastest four-fault round in the jump-off aboard his own 8-year-old Warmblood gelding, Christian Dior. With a time of 37.42 and four jumping faults, the pair secured the second place position.
Audra Fleck-Snijders (USA) and Rainland WH Calisto turned in a clean first round and took to their second round with the same mentality. Speed in the jump-off was proving difficult as not one rider seemed to come close to Simpson-Leckie’s incredibly fast time. As riders either racked up rails or time faults, Fleck-Snijders strategized to find the middle ground, making it within the time allowed and only taking one rail with her on the way. She and her own 13-year-old Canadian Warmblood gelding’s efforts secured them a third place finish with a time of 43.485 and four faults.
Competition will continue at the Temecula Valley National III, presented by Interactive Mortgage, on Thursday, June 3 with the highly anticipated $22,500 NEEd for Speed Final in the Grand Prix Arena.
From The Winner’s Circle
Sophie Simpson-Leckie – $5,000 1.35m Welcome Stake, sponsored by Train with Shelby Winner
On A Picasso De Vie:
“We have had him for four of five years and I got him at the end of his 6-year-old year. My dad owns him, and he is just so fun. He is just one I don’t even have to think on. He knows his job and he is super game. You can point him at anything and he will always try his hardest for you. He is always looking for a cookie. He knows he is cute and knows he is a good boy in the ring so he is always looking for a cookie or trying to get some pets somewhere.”
On her success at Temecula Valley National Series:
“He won a 1.40m speed class in Week I. He won the first week here and then he went home, hung out for a bit and relaxed. We have an awesome team at home that kept him cruising. Normally I don’t start him this big. Typically I start him at 1.30m and try to kind of creep up. He can do it but I have to put my big girl pants on and just do it. I started him out at 1.35m this time and I actually thought he was really good and super solid. We will do the 1.40m on Friday.”
On the course:
“I thought the course was really nice! I liked the two verticals to start, and then you can kind of get up to pace. The plank for him, I know he is just so careful I can just ride up in the seven, and I knew he was going to back up. He jumped that awesome and we got a bit quick in some places with the shadows. He has not done a ton of night stuff, but I thought he handled it really well.”
On her plans for the rest of the year:
“I am just coming back from having a baby. So I am just trying to keep on jumping some bigger jumps and some bigger tracks. So hopefully try and get him up to a grand prix and a nice one here or somewhere else.”
Final Results – $5,000 Welcome Stake, sponsored by Train with Shelby
1) Sophie Simpson-Leckie (USA) & A Picasso De Vie – 0 / 0 – 36.808
2) Craig Starr (USA) & Christian Dior – 0 / 4 – 37.42
3) Audra Fleck-Snijders (USA) & Rainland WH Calisto – 0 / 4 – 43.485
Source: Press Release by Olivia Airhart from Phelps Sports
Photos: © Emma Miller