Parker, CO-- Exciting young talents claimed the top three spots in the $30,000 Griffis Residential and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck Grand Prix at the Colorado Horse Park over the weekend. The highlighted class of the week's horse show was scheduled for Saturday, but faced a delay after much-needed torrential rains soaked the park. Horse and human athletes gamely accepted the weather challenge and an exciting afternoon of sport expanded into two days of fun competition, with the first nine rides taking place on Saturday and the remainder competing on Sunday.
Six horses and riders advanced to the jump-off round, but only two pairs were able to jump fault-free over the shortened course--Hector Florentino and Kristen VanderVeen. As the last rider to go, VanderVeen knew her task and shaved that valuable half second off the clock with tidy turns and a well-executed plan, leaving her with the victory.
This was the St. Charles, IL resident's first Grand Prix win aboard Bull Run's Alpha & Omega, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Accorado x Lord). "He's been second a lot of times and we finally got the win under my belt," VanderVeen said. The gelding, known as "Flight" around the barn, was imported from Germany as a five-year-old. "I've brought him up myself. He has a lot of personality and is the man of the barn," VanderVeen explained. She described Flight as easy to ride and the perfect partner. "He gives you that feeling that he's going to try his hardest."
VanderVeen has been coming to Colorado since she was a kid. "I love this show! We always make the trip," she commented.
In addition to her cash earnings, VanderVeen received a one-year lease on a luxury one-bedroom apartment courtesy of Griffis Residential. "Show jumping riders make huge sacrifices in other areas of their lives to be able to do this sport," explained Ian Griffis, Managing Director of Griffis Residential. "It takes years and years to acquire the skill to be able to navigate jump courses at the higher levels successfully. Sponsorship for these [Colorado Horse Park shows] makes it possible to draw top international quality riders to the Denver area."
Griffis believes that top level shows are a powerful economic engine and could be much larger, as has been demonstrated in other areas of the country. An economic impact study spearheaded by the Colorado Horse Park is underway that should indicate exactly how influential these shows are.
Finishing in second place was Hector Florentino riding Wauw, a horse that was purchased two short weeks ago. "He's a quick horse, very careful--a little sports car," Florentino explained of the nine-year-old gelding by Quick Star. Florentino rides for Stransky's Mission Farm in Wellington, FL and spotted the talented youngster several years ago. Although teamed with Wauw for a short time, their ride in the $15,000 Open Welcome Stakes convinced Florentino that they were ready for the Grand Prix. "He jumped really good and he felt good enough to do the big class right away," he explained.
Florentino's strategy was simple. "It was a very straight-forward course--there weren't many options. You couldn't get too creative. It was a good course for [Wauw]; it fit his stride and ride."
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Florentino's life was set on a new course when he met Step by Step Foundation's CEO Liliane Stransky at a benefit event during the Winter Equestrian Festival in 2010. The duo hit it off immediately, sharing a passion for charity work and horses. It just so happened that Stransky was looking for the right trainer/rider to take the reins at her farm.
Since then, Florentino has been riding and showing the stable's many upper-level jumpers, and training Stransky's daughter Daniela (15) and other Junior Jumper riders like Jose Fernando Bonetti (15). Florentino is a member of "Team Step by Step," a group of riders of different levels, ages, and countries, who compete on the Hunter & Jumper A-Circuit to help raise awareness and funds for Stransky's children's charity, Step by Step Foundation ( www.stepbystepfoundation.com). Stransky and Step by Step Foundation, along with Helen Krieble and The Colorado Horse Park Foundation, are organizing a Wildfire Relief Fundraising Auction to be held the last week of the Colorado Summer Circuit on July 21.
Littleton-resident Sarah Tredennick finished third in the Grand Prix. Riding her 10-year-old Belgian gelding Vigaro, Tredennick was first to go in the jump-off and was the fastest of the four-faulters. Tredennick, along with Kelsey Thatcher, who finished fourth, were the two riders who jumped clean on Saturday afternoon before the deluge occurred that halted the competition. While riding the Grand Prix over two days was less than ideal, "I was really happy that I did it," she said of the Grand Prix. "I need to keep going with what I'm doing." This show was a return to the ring for Tredennick after suffering an injury the last week of the Winter Equestrian Festival.
While the Grand Prix riders often get a lot of the attention, dozens of other classes are being held each day for horses and riders of all levels. Kelsie Brittan, age 16, is originally from Denver, but now calls Westlake, Texas home. She made the trip back to her home state worthwhile with a win in the $2,500 NAL Children's Jumper Classic on Sunday. She rode her own Split Second, a Dutch Warmblood gelding who lost an eye recently to glaucoma. "This was only his second show back without an eye, so we are very proud of him," she said. Brittan is passionately involved in charity works and rides for Step by Step Foundation, donating her winnings to various worthy causes. It was Brittan's idea to raise funds for the victims of the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Want to watch the winning rides? Visit the Colorado Horse Park Youtube channel. For more information, visit us at www.coloradhorsepark.com, visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.
We would like to thank our generous sponsors:
Parker Adventist Hospital, Parker Hospital Foundation, Littleton Equine Medical Center, Platinum Performance, Coors Family, Griffis Residential, Guaranty Bank, Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply, Friends of Walden Farm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Suzy Sweitzer, Gesco Nursery, Bessemer Trust, Holiday Inn, Super 8, Hampton Inn, Norstar Industries, Nutrena, Pfizer, Grand Meadows, A Bit of Tack, Horse Connection, Equine Comfort Products, Days Inn, Sidelines, Comfort Suites, Chronicle of the Horse, Jump 4 Joy, Equisure and the Wild Ranch.
Results $30,000 Griffis Residential and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck Grand Prix
1 Bull Run's Alpha & Omega Kristen VanderVeen
2 Wauw Hector Florentino
3 Vigaro Sarah Tredennick
4 Dulf Van Den Bisschop Kelsey Thatcher
5 Thomas Edison Maggie Jayne
6 Washington Allison Kroff