Bjorn Ikast handily outrode eight other entries in an action packed jump off to win the $25,000 Equine Insurance Grand Prix on the evening of Saturday, May 7 at Sonoma Horse Park's Horse & Hound
Spring Show, helping to kick off the popular venue's
Aboard Colorado, Ikast left out strides and skimmed over fences in the jump off, putting more than a second between himself and second placed finisher Lindsay Ramar with Dance and Jump. Sarah Ballou and Querelle Du Champ De Leyde were third.
Michael Roy Curtis designed an inviting course that asked a few technical questions without creating any insurmountable challenges. Of the 23 entries, nine pairs were able to complete the first round course without fault and move on to the
"It actually surprised me that there were so many clean," commented Ikast. "But it was a nice course, and the footing was very good, and there was nothing too killing out there."
Ikast, who has had the ride on the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding Colorado for two years, was lucky enough to go last in the jump off, and knew exactly how fast he needed to go to beat Ramar's time.
He took shorter tracks to the fences, leaving out a stride between fence 11 and 12, and his extra effort paid off.
"He's maybe not the fastest horse, but he's very consistent and last night I didn't have to race full speed, I just took shorter times," Ikast explained.
Based in Parker, CO, Ikast is in the midst of a Northern California tour, having competed at the Starr Vaughn Spectacular at Leone Equestrians in nearby Sacramento two weeks ago. While there, he won the $20,000 Spectacular at LEI Grand Prix with Royal Flush.
Both classes are part of the GGT Leading Rider Bonus Series, and Ikast is excited to be in contention for the bonus this early in the season. He planned to compete in the following week's HMI Equestrian Challenge at Sonoma Horse Park, and finish out his time in Northern California back at Leone Equestrians for the Golden State Horse Show at the end of May.
For her part, Ramar was extremely pleased to finish second, especially considering that she hadn't ridden at all in the past two weeks. Ramar works full time in finance in nearby San Francisco and depends on her trainers, Nina and Mariano Alario of Estancia Farm, to keep Dance and Jump, or "Lucas" legged up for her.
"I attribute my double clean to Mariano's efforts," the amateur rider smiled. "The reason why I am able to be successful riding as little as I do is because of Mariano. We joke that I own Lucas, but he's really Mariano's horse."
Ramar has owned Lucas, a 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding, for six years. He's been a consistent partner with a talent for jumping at the Grand Prix level. His penchant for bananas and his surprising background as a school horse make him a character in the barn, and a favorite of his trainers.
Ramar went third in the jump off, and with six horses coming after her, she nervously stood at the rail and watched the others try to beat her time. When she saw Ikast take a stride less between 11 and 12, she knew that she'd have to settle for second place, but then again, "Bjorn is an amazing rider. As an amateur I'll take second to that!" she exclaimed.
All of the riders were extremely pleased with the Martin Collins Equine Surfaces footing in the Grand Prix ring, as well as improved jumps in the warm
Sonoma Horse Park pulled out all the stops for spectators as well, serving dinner to all and pouring wine from Russian River Valley Winegrowers in the Voltaire Design VIP berm.
"We feel welcome here, the people are so nice, there's great prize money and service, and the horses like it here," Ikast added. "And you have to go where your horses like!"
The Horse & Hound Spring show was the first week of competition on Sonoma Horse Park's 2013 schedule. Next up in the beautiful venue's seven-show season is the HMI June Classic June 12-16. The Giant Steps Charity Classic, July 31-Aug. 4 is a highlight of the summer and it all wraps up with a new show, the SHP Season Finale Sept 18-22.
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