San Juan Capistrano, California, USA –June 19, 2021 – Laura Hite (USA) and Calypso vd Zuuthoeve cranked up the pace to win the $25,000 Markel Insurance 1.45m Grand Prix with less than two-tenths of a second to spare on Saturday, June 19, during the Blenheim June Classic II.
A starting field of 23 entries took to the Oaks International Grand Prix Field at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano, CA, with five horse and rider combinations ultimately advancing to jump-off over the Jack Robson-designed course.
From there, speed was the name of the game. The crowd was treated to an exciting race against the clock, as every rider to return jumped clear and each one proved to be just fractions faster than the rider before them.
When Hite (USA) entered the ring as the final rider to jump-off, the time to beat had been set at 39.094 seconds by Portugal’s Luis Sabino (POR) riding Argan de Beliard. In an exhilarating finish, Hite (USA) and “Calypso” stopped the clock in 38.929 seconds to clinch the win, relegating Sabino and Argan de Beliar, owned by Equivarandas II LDA, to second place. Third place with a time of 39.188 seconds went to Keri Potter (USA) and Fenna, owned by Hannah Loly.
With two horses apiece in the jump-off, Hite (USA) and Sabino (POR) also finished in fourth and fifth, respectively. Hite’s fourth-place finish with a time of 42.033 seconds came aboard Chattanooga, owned by HF Farms LLC, while Sabino and Camino Imperio Egipcio, owned by Equivarandas II LDA, rounded out the top five with on 43.072 seconds.
“There’s a little bit of sibling rivalry there with Calypso’s brother Chattanooga!” joked Hite. “I had a clear round with Chattanooga, and then there were some very, very fast rounds from riders that I really admire. I’m not really known for my speed, so I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to push myself.’ Luis and Keri are so fast, and my coach, Cassio Rivetti, was really pushing me to land and go. So, I pushed it. I had friends here watching, and my family’s here, so I was like, ‘I’m going for it,’ and I did!”
Saturday’s class marked Calypso’s first grand prix since February of 2020, but Hite has been partnered with the winning 13-year-old Warmblood, owned by HF Farms LLC, for four years and had full confidence in the gelding.
“He’s my Pegasus; he’s beyond a unicorn,” said Hite. “I’ve been blessed with some amazing horses and a great team behind me, so I had to just trust in that.”
For the win, Hite was presented with prizes from Shady Lady and Topline Design Ribbon Wreaths and 24 points toward the Markel Insurance Jumper Series standings.
With upward of $385,000 in prize money awarded across the series’ 15 qualifying events, riders contest the series all season long before the top 25 riders are invited to compete at the finals, to be held at the Las Vegas National Horse Show in November.
Saturday’s class marked the sixth event of the Markel Insurance Jumper Series, and as the series heads toward its halfway point, Nicole Haunert leads the standings on 46 points. Sitting in second place with 36 points is Sara Van Fleet, while Hite’s winning points put her in the ninth-place position
Final Results – $25,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix
1) Laura Hite (USA) & Calypso vd Zuuthoeve – 0 / 0 – 38.929
2) Luis Sabino (POR) & Argan de Beliard – 0 / 0 – 39.094
3) Keri Potter (USA) & Fenna – 0 / 0 – 39.188
Source: Press release from Blenheim EquiSports
Photo: © McCool Photography