[Del Mar, CA] The crowd had been waiting all night long for a clear round in the $54,500 Rancho Valencia Grand Prix CSI2*-W at the Del Mar International Horse Show. But through nearly the entire order of 38 combinations, time faults and rails on the ground kept clear rounds away, and rider after rider left the ring in disappointment.
However, when the 37th horse and rider in the order cantered down the ramp and into the main arena, that all changed.
Vinton Karrasch tends to fly under the radar. The veteran rider who trains privately for Coral Reef Ranch in Rancho Santa Fe, CA keeps up a steady record of top five and top ten finishes at the international grand prix level, but he’s the kind of low key guy who doesn’t seek the spotlight.
But when he and Coral Reef Baloufino crossed the timers clean and under the time allowed of 74 seconds, everyone was suddenly shouting his name. An ear-splitting grin crossed Karrasch’s face before Baloufino’s front hooves touched the ground on the other side of the final fence, and he hasn’t stopped smiling since.
Course designer Marina Azevedo of Brazil crafted quite the challenge for riders, who agreed that the track’s technicality was heightened by the very tight time allowed. Karrasch and Baloufino managed the only clear round of the night, giving them the win without having to return for a jumpoff.
“The whole thing was careful and technical, from beginning to end,” Karrasch said.
Throughout the track, options to add or leave out a stride gave riders the kind of options where it was as easy to err as it was to make the right choice. A triple bar on the first line rode in five strides, but for horses that tend to flatten out, adding for six was the better choice. And a sweeping line that bent right from a vertical, over a wide red oxer, and then left to another vertical was difficult to find correctly.
But even as rider after rider before him failed to start a jumpoff roster, Karrasch stayed relaxed, and didn’t change the plan he’d laid out for himself during the coursewalk. He’s been riding Baloufino for the last three years, and he had confidence in the 14-year-old Oldenburg stallion by Baloubet Du Rouet.
“I just wanted to make sure I kept on going,” he detailed. “My plan with this horse is usually to leave out strides, so that was going to work with the tight time allowed. I just made sure I kept going in the end.”
Karrasch was elated to claim such a significant win with Baloufino, and shared that the result was his horse’s first grand prix win, as well as the best personal finish he’s had with the chestnut gelding.
The finish was a big boost to Karrasch’s World Cup standing; while he’s picked up points here and there, he’s deep in the competitive list of West Coast riders vying for points. Del Mar is the halfway point on the FEI’s North American West League fall calandar, Karrasch will next point Baloufino at the final qualifier of the year, at the Las Vegas National in November. After that, we’ll next see him competing in Florida for the winter.
A Matter of Time
West Coast stars Duncan McFarlane and Mr. Whoopy thrilled the crowd when they became the first pair to leave all the rails in the cups over the first round course. But with a glance at the clock, McFarlane dropped his head; a tiny but significant 0.06 of a second over the time allowed meant a single time fault and no chance at returning for a round 2.
All photos copyright Selena Frederick/Cheval Photos.
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