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Rich Fellers continues win streak at Sacramento International

Northern California show draws crowds and high-caliber riders

Special to the Horsetrader - December 3rd, 2009 - Show & Event News
Rich Fellers and Flexible win the $75,000 Grand Prix of Sacramento at the Sacramento International Horse Show on Nov. 7.

Todd Sutherland / Flying Horse Photography

Rich Fellers and Flexible win the $75,000 Grand Prix of Sacramento at the Sacramento International Horse Show on Nov. 7.

RANCHO MURIETA — World class show jumpers vying for $75,000 in prize money, thousands of fans packed into the stands, flags from many countries hanging overhead, and a JumboTron showing highlights and tracking the results were the scene at Murieta Equestrian Complex in Rancho Murieta, Calif., for the second annual Sacramento International Horse Show. The show was split between a welcome week Oct. 27-Nov. 1 and main week Nov. 4-8.

Hunter/Jumper trainer Rudy Leone, who was the show’s technical coordinator, and show manager Dale Harvey started the Sacramento International Horse Shows in 2008, wanting to bring international level riders to Northern California as part of the West Coast’s World Cup Qualifying circuit.

Leone, who has been involved in the industry for 35 years breeding, importing, training, and showing hunters and jumpers, lately has become more involved in horse show management. “I wanted to put on a better quality horse show, not just another cookie cutter show, but something special,” Leone said.

Their vision was to create a one-ring horse show, offering fewer classes and more prize money than the typical show. In order to cover the expenses of the show, including more than $100,000 in prize money, they obtained corporate sponsorships rather than raise the fees to the exhibitors.

They also promoted the show heavily in order to bring spectators into the stands. With 4,000 spectators last year, they doubled the promotion and estimated the stands held 6,000 fans this year. Those who were there for the World Cup-Qualifier Grand Prix on Saturday night, Nov. 7 would believe it as the covered arena was filled to the brim, with the stands and the VIP box seats filled.

“You have this dream and people tell you it can’t be done,” Leone said. “But when you have a night like that, it’s all worth it.”

The highlight of the show was the $75,000 Grand Prix of Sacramento, a World Cup Qualifier, and 34 horses and riders challenged Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios’ course Nov. 7. Only three riders found all the answers to the questions: an American, a Canadian, and a New Zealand rider.

Rich Fellers on Flexible wins the $75,000 Grand Prix of Sacramento, pictured with Miss California International 2008 Jan Humphrey and show managers Dale Harvey and Rudy Leone.

Todd Sutherland / Flying Horse Photography

Rich Fellers on Flexible wins the $75,000 Grand Prix of Sacramento, pictured with Miss California International 2008 Jan Humphrey and show managers Dale Harvey and Rudy Leone.

Rich Fellers of Wilsonville, Ore., riding Flexible wore the stars and stripes, John Pearce aboard Chianto represented Canada, and Guy Thomas on Carino enjoys dual citizenship with both the United States and New Zealand.

Palacio’s course included 13 elements crammed into an arena that was not large. As a result, there was a very tight corner before the fence No. 5, an intimidating wall, which was the site of several refusals and a couple of eliminations.

A shallow bending line from fence No. 10 provided little room for error to clear number 11, a narrow vertical, and the top rail fell several times as a result. The final element, a double combination headed toward the gate, was another spot for dropped rails.

“As a horseman, it was an absolutely fantastic course,” Leone said. “It kept the crowd going all night long. The electricity in the crowd was absolutely phenomenal.”

The rider-horse pair of Fellers and Flexible, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman, posted the only double clear round of the night to win the $75,000 Grand Prix of Sacramento. Just weeks earlier, they won the West Coast’s immediate-last World Cup Qualifier–the $50,000 Del Mar International Grand Prix Oct. 17.

“It was a tough course; it looked really big and technical and it’s a small ring with short corners,” Fellers said. “I was a little worried about it, but it turned out to be fun.”

After a brief break to change the course for the jump-off while the crowd enjoyed music videos on the JumboTron, Pearce was up first to try his hand at the course. He piloted Chianto around the course quickly, finishing in 35.72 seconds and well under the 47 allowed. However, his four faults left the door open for Fellers or Thomas to take the lead.

“I planned my strategy while sitting at the in gate, watching John Pearce,” Fellers said. “He was very quick, but having once fence down took the pressure off. I wanted enough speed to put some pressure on him (Guy Thomas) while still being cautious.”

After his blistering time of 33.62 seconds with no faults, Fellers concentrated on taking care of his horse while Thomas entered the arena. Fellers saw the first fence go down and that was all he needed to see–the win was his.

Flexible has been a winning mount for Fellers the past few years, and the horse stands at just 16 hands– smaller than many of the horses he competes against and beats. “He has a big heart and a lot of fight,” said Fellers, who came in second place at the 2008 FEI World Cup Jumping Finals in Goteborg, Sweden, riding Flexible.

Fellers competed in the Sacramento International Horse Show’s inaugural year in 2008 and plans to be back again next year. “It’s a really well run horse show,” Fellers said. “It has a great atmosphere and great crowds–it’s great for our sport. I like to support good competitions.”

For complete show results from Sacramento International Horse Show, visit the Web sites: http://bit.ly/si2009week1 and http://bit.ly/si2009week2

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