Kristen VanderVeen and Bull Run’s Jireh Top the $50,000 Grand Prix of Sarasota,Hosted by TerraNova Equestrian Center
A beautiful but brisk day set the scene for the Sarasota Winter Classic, hosted at TerraNova Equestrian Center. The day’s feature class was the $50,000 Grand Prix of Sarasota. Spectators gathered in the TerraNova Pavilion for a Grand Prix Brunch. An even 20 top horse-and-rider combinations took to the track, set by Mauricio Garcia (PUR), but it was Ocala resident Kristen VanderVeen and Bull Run’s Jireh who earned the victory gallop.
The starting lineup of international grand prix riders included Olympians Scott Keach (AUS) and Sharn Wordley (NZL). VanderVeen, one of the highest-ranked U.S. riders, trekked from Ocala with three top mounts, including the crowd favorite, Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili, and her most promising new jumper, Bull Run’s Jireh. The class also hosted a variety of rising grand prix competitors such as Haley Gassel (USA), Amy Schafmaster (USA), and last week’s second-place competitor, Brooks Hull (USA). Wednesday’s $10,000 Welcome Stake winners Marylisa Leffler (USA) and ZaZa Z rejoined the ranks but fell out of contention to one unfortunate knock-down.
VanderVeen was the first under the archway aboard Jireh, the Bull Run Jumpers-owned gelding (Uriko x Conella), and put down a flawless performance and the first clean round. After that, only three more pairs emerged fault-free. Ocala-based Keach added his name to the shortlist with last week’s winner Wild Thing (Caracas x Wild Oats). Wordley threw his name in the hat twice with Mick Jagger (Chacco-Blue x Acentora) and Gatsby (Simba x Daisy Cruise).
VanderVeen and Jireh were the first to tackle Garcia’s short course. She said they were going for a medium tempo but ended up with a blazingly fast, clear round in 35.702 seconds. With the gauntlet thrown, Wordley was next aboard his longtime partner, Gatsby, but would settle for third on a clean round of 40.853 seconds. Keach and Wild Thing crossed the timers with no jumping penalties on 42.104 seconds, taking home the fourth-place ribbon. Returning with the last qualified mount, Wordley and Mick Jagger gave a great effort but couldn’t outpace VanderVeen and Jireh, settling for second place on 40.104.