Aug. 14, 2016 - Week Five's feature event at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF), the $50,000 Grand Prix of Williamsburg CSI2*, went to Andrew Kocher (USA) and brand new mount Zantos II. With only having ridden and competed the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding for less than a month, the pair is already showing signs of a strong partnership with great potential for the future after Sunday's win.
Kocher owns Zantos II along with friends Bob and Robin Mulkey. The gelding was recently imported from England and was previously ridden by British international show jumpers Robert and Louise Whitaker as well as their father and two-time Olympian (including the 2016 Rio Olympic Games), John Whitaker.
"He's the grumpiest horse in the world in the stall," said Kocher. "Out of the stall, he's perfect - a 10-year-old kid could lead him around, he's the sweetest horse. To ride, he's got a lot of jump, he's ultra careful, he's really fast and he's really strong. He walk, trot, canters perfect, a little kid or anyone could ride him around, but then you aim him at a jump and he's totally electric. He's really strong, but I just kind of try to let him loose. If I want to make space, I just move him to the sides."
Although Kocher and Zantos II are still very new to each other, they've already claimed a few top placings including winning the $15,000 Modified Grand Prix CSI3* at International Bromont in July and, most recently, placing third in the $35,000 Open Welcome CSI2*at the Caledon Equestrian Park's Summer Festival CSI2* on Aug. 4.
Since then, the duo decided to travel to Traverse City to test their luck at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival and came out on top over a field of 20 in Sunday's grand prix.
"In this class today, I thought anyone could've won," said Kocher. "It wasn't too predictable. The course was built at a nice size. For a $50,000 FEI class, I thought it was pretty spot-on. The course walked perfectly. There weren't any dicey lines; I thought it was straightforward."
Only eight were invited to return to the jump-off after producing clear efforts around Michel Vaillancourt's first round course.
Samuel Parot (CHI) and his own Cous Cous Van Orti were the early double clear pathfinders in the jump-off, setting the time to beat at 34.760 seconds.
Three rounds later, Darragh Kerins (IRL) and Ilan, owned by Maarten Huygens, finished double clear, but were four seconds off the pace to put them behind Parot in 38.370 seconds.
Next up was Kocher and Zantos II. After watching the first few rounds of the jump-off, Kocher opted to take a sharp and risky inside turn to a vertical, shaving one tenth of a second off Parot's time in 34.680 seconds to take over the lead.
Michael Morrissey (USA) and QBS Equestrian LLC's Chance Ste Hermelle decided to take the same inside turn as Kocher in an attempt to catch his time but was just two seconds too slow in 36.210 seconds, putting him in third, behind Parot, in the standings.
Parot had one last shot to beat Kocher with his second mount of the jump-off, his own Dazzle White. The pair finished in the fastest time in 32.780 seconds, beating Kocher's time by two seconds, but collected an unfortunate 8 faults to place fifth overall with the 8-year-old grey Dutch Warmblood gelding, while also finishing in second place aboard Cous Cous Van Orti, a 14-year-old Belgium Warmblood gelding.
"[Dazzle White] is a special horse," said Parot. "He won the grand prix in Tryon in July. The first day during the big class, he had one down, but was very fast. The same happened today with him being very fast but having the last jump down. He is a super horse, but young. He doesn't have a lot of experience, but he's a good horse. [Cous Cous Van Orti] is a super horse also. He has more experience and is more of a veteran of the sport.
"The course today was difficult," continued Parot. "Michel does beautiful courses and he is a top designer. There were good riders, good competition, and seven or eight clear is not an easy jump-off. It was a very fast jump-off. It was a 2* course, but looked like a 3*. With Cous Cous, I wanted to go clear, but then when I was in second place and had my grey horse as the last to go in the jump-off, I wanted to win. I will go for it every time."
In the final standings, Morrissey remained in third, while Kerins claimed fourth place honors, respectively.
"Samuel, I thought, went really fast and I didn't think I was going to catch him," said Kocher. "My horse is small, he doesn't have as big of a stride, but he's really quick with his feet so I think foot speed is what outdid the others. I got lucky because Samuel had poles down with his last horse, otherwise he would've had me. I thought in the first round Zantos jumped really amazing. He's really hot and strong so the distances don't always come up perfect, but you just have to be comfortable in the chaos. I was coming to the last jump though and I thought, 'Wow, this jump-off's just coming up perfectly.' Everything was coming up the way I planned it, and I went to the last one and he moved a little bit right and I thought he was going to run out, but then he ducked back left and jumped over it!"
It was ten years ago that Kocher was last in Traverse City working for David Beisel, however this is his first time competing at GLEF and the Flintfields Horse Park.
"The footing in both rings is really nice," said Kocher. "It was perfect. We've had a lot of fun around the area too. We went kayaking in Lake Michigan and went to a bunch of different little restaurants. Tonight we're going to try to run up to Mackinac Island. My wife Jenny and I, we never do anything, we take care of the horses and that's it. It's been nice to have some time off and do some fun things."
Of the conclusion of his first week competing at GLEF, Parot said, "This is a very top show - the people, the ambiance, the management. Everyone is happy. I am so happy. I got second place today and third place the other day."
Prior to the grand prix action was the $7,500 Show Jumping Hall of Fame (SJHOF) High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. Of the eight horse and rider combinations competing, none were able to jump clear over the first round course except Texas native Taylor Reid. She was aboard her two Dutch Warmblood geldings Ugano and Boucanier, who she competes with through the grand prix level, thus automatically garnering her first and second place honors.
"Ugano is 15 and I've had him for three years," said Reid. "He actually rides more like a hunter. He's really lazy and really loose on the reins so he takes a lot of leg. He's a very sweet old guy; he knows his job. He's very handy.
"Boucanier is 10, I've had him for two years and he's fiery," continued Reid. "He's very quirky, he bucks and plays and he's got a lot of motor. They're two totally opposite rides. With Boucanier, you have to pull a lot and keep your legs off of him and with Ugano, you have to kick a lot."
Taking the blue with Ugano and the red ribbon with Boucanier, Reid credited her consistent, winning rounds to her simple, yet effective strategy. She said, "My plan was just simply to ride middle to middle, and keep everything smooth."
Leah DeMartini and Elm Rock LLC's Touchable rounded out the top three as the fastest 4-faulter of the first round to take home third place honors.
Reid attended last year's inaugural Great Lakes Equestrian Festival and has been competing at the Flintfields Horse Park for the past four years.
"I love the horse show facility, it's awesome," said Reid. "There's good footing and it's a great area with nice people. It's just a lovely place to be and I love the weather. We're from Texas so it's nice to be up North for the summer."
Week Six of GLEF runs through Aug. 17-21 at the Flintfields Horse Park and will continue to welcome riders and thrill spectators over the next three weeks throughout the second series of competition, which runs Aug. 10-28.
Results: $7,500 SJHOF High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic
1 422 UGANO TAYLOR REID 0 0.000 0 0.500
2 419 BOUCANIER TAYLOR REID 0 0.000 0 1.000
3 200 TOUCHABLE LEAH DE MARTINI 4 76.065
4 278 ZAMIRO 16 JULIA TOPS 8 71.910
5 427 MACH 5 DANA WILLE 12 68.879
6 305 DIVACE ALEX PARRISH 12 70.282
7 260 LAETITIA MARISSA RICE 20 88.864
8 265 ATLANTIS E ALISON RANDALL Refuse
Results: $50,000 Grand Prix of Williamsburg CSI2*
1 434 ZANTOS II ANDREW KOCHER 0 0.000 0 34.680
2 437 COUS COUS VAN ORTI SAMUEL PAROT 0 0.000 0 34.760
3 386 CHANCE STE HERMELLE MICHAEL MORRISSEY 0 0.000 0 36.210
4 411 ILAN DARRAGH KERINS 0 0.000 0 38.370
5 439 DAZZLE WHITE SAMUEL PAROT 0 0.000 8 32.780
6 243 LORO PIANA BALLYLECK ROYALE ALMA BJÖRKLUND 0 0.000 8 37.320
7 171 ARMANI SL Z EUGENIO GARZA 0 0.000 8 47.480
8 248 VICTORIO 5 ADAM PRUDENT 0 0.000 9 48.180
9 173 EMPIRE VAN WUITENSHOF EUGENIO GARZA 4 76.100
10 141 AVON MATTIAS TROMP 4 76.240
11 282 CONTIKI NICHOLAS DELLO JOIO 4 76.700
12 222 BUGATTI WILHELM GENN 4 77.730