Temecula, California, USA – June 03, 2021 – As the end of the Temecula Valley National Series, presented by Interactive Mortgage nears its final days and after nearly five weeks of anticipation, 31 of the fastest horse-and-rider combinations took to the Grand Prix Arena for the $22,500 Spruce Meadows 1.35m NEEd for Speed Final. Only those competitors who qualified during one of the NEEd for Speed classes over the five weeks of competition at Galway Downs were invited back for the nail-biting finale. Riders were encouraged to put the pedal to the metal in hopes of galloping off with a handsome chunk of the prize and a well-deserved blue ribbon. Of the speedy field, it was Jamie Taylor (USA) and Cocoliche Of Greenhill Z who hustled the hardest, capturing the championship title.
Olaf Petersen Jr. (GER) laid out an ambitious course that proved to reward riders who strategically navigated over the 15 fences with not only speed, but efficiency, and nimbleness. Featuring multiple bending lines and a triple bar, the correct track was left as an open-ended question, leaving it up to the riders to choose their striding.
Second in course, Delaney Batter (USA) became the first clear round of the evening. Though the class was run in a table III format, faults converted to added time, going clear and fast could be advantageous, although blisteringly fast speed with only a few baubles could also take the ribbon. Batter and her own 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Evolinus, set the pace for the rest of the pack, tripping the timers at 79.368.
The first to prove that a faulted round could be a leading round, was Nilforushan Equisport Events regular, Jamie Taylor (USA). The California native revved Cocoliche Of Greenhill Z’s engine racing around the course. Taylor sliced and diced the fences allowing her to shave off precious time and strides to the fences aboard Spyglass Hill’s 11-year-old Zangersheide gelding. The duo galloped through the timers with a remarkable base time of 70.942, just over 8 seconds faster than current clean leader, Batter. Though the pair took down one rail on their mad dash home, their final time of 74.942 would still hold a sizable gap to second place.
Eager to take home a top prize in the final week of competition in the Grand Prix Arena, Kaitlin Campbell (USA), cowgirled up aboard her notoriously speedy, 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, Cavalier Kate. Leaving nothing on the table, Campbell and Cavalier Kate flew around the track seemingly on time with Taylor’s ride. Though the pair was more careful on course, leaving all the rails intact, their slight conservativeness cost them the lead as they tripped the timers in a flat and clean 79.306.
The first pair to contend Taylor’s near uncatchable lead was that of Lane Clarke (AUS) and Venom. The wickedly quick duo knew that in order to put the pressure on Taylor’s time they would have to take a similar track. Clarke and the 8-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Horsemanship Unlimited capitalized on their tight turns and freakishly fast footspeed. Clarke and Venom stopped the timers at 73.547. In the haste to make it home, Clarke took down a rail in the final combination on course bringing his final time to 77.547. Though they were not quick enough to top Taylor, by the end of the order they proved to be the only pair who were within striking distance of the first place podium.
After having gone sixth in the order of go, Taylor managed an incredible feat of holding onto the lead for 24 trips. Though the rest of the pack tried their hardest to outdo Taylor and Cocoliche Of Greenhill Z, only one came close to shaking up the leaderboard, but in the end, the night turned out to be a battle for the second and third place podium positions.
From the Winner’s Circle
Jamie Taylor – $22,500 Spruce Meadows 1.35m NEEd for Speed Final Winner
On Cocoliche Of Greenhill Z:
“He is very fast. He won the first NEEd for Speed qualifier in April and was very, very alarmingly fast then too. He is fast, careful, and everything you want in a sport horse. He is a little difficult at times but when you really need him to do it he just does it. He is just so cool. He is 11-years-old and has all the scope in the world and somehow can still be a speed demon when you need him to.”
On qualifying for the $22,500 Spruce Meadows NEEd for Speed Final:
“He just did the first one [qualifier] and he won that one so we moved on. We were jumping the grand prixs instead, but the money in this class was just too much to turn down!”
On her strategy for the class:
“Go very fast! The faster you go on him the cattier and more careful he gets. So I knew I could keep going and take chances because he turns better than anything else I have ever sat on and you can stand him off or bring him close, he always works it out. So I just figured I would go fast and we had a very cheap rail so I figured I would just go faster and it worked!”
On her plans for the rest of the week:
“This is how we started the week, and he is going to jump the 1.40m speed tomorrow and then probably the grand prix on Sunday, but we will have to see.”
On Nilforushan Equisport Events:
“The courses are always excellent. It is always a good course designer here and you can count on that. The energy is fun. Last week was a very big week for the hunters and you could feel that and then this week you can tell there is a lot of money up for grabs, the young rider trials have a lot of energy around it and it just makes it super fun.”
Final Results – $22,500 Spruce Meadows NEEd for Speed
1) Jamie Taylor (USA) & Cocoliche Of Greenhill Z – 4 / 70.942
2) Lane Clarke (AUS) & Venom – 4 / 73.547
3) Kaitlin Campbell (USA) & Cavalier Kate – 0 / 79.306
Source: Press Release by Olivia Airhart from Phelps Sports
Photos: © Emma Miller