Ahead of a six-horse jump-off for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Sacramento (USA), Robert Blanchette (IRL) strategized with his peers. While his fellow riders began to formulate complex plans, he decided to keep things a bit simpler.
“I said, ‘I’m going to run like [heck] and see what happens,'” Blanchette said.
He and his longtime partner Chardonnay flew to an uncatchable victory Saturday night at the Murieta Equestrian Center, crossing the timers of Marina Azevedo’s (BRA) short course in 38.42 seconds. Sophia Siegel (USA) finished second with A-Girl (45.63 seconds), with Cassio Rivetti (BRA) and Edesa’s Vidal 8 third (4/39.46).
The win marked the first in World Cup competition for Blanchette, whose name has become synonymous with speed. His partner shares his affinity for jumping with pace. The pair positively tore around the short course. While other riders protected a final vertical that came at the end of a lengthy gallop lane, Blanchette instead shook the reins at his mare and put full trust in her ability to judge the fence.
“She’s basically perfect. She can go full speed, and then I can walk on a loose rein. She knows when it’s time to jump and run, and she knows when it’s time to relax,” said Blanchette.
Like a fine wine, Chardonnay has gotten better with age, and at 12 years old, the fiery chestnut mare has found her best stride. Blanchette said a turning point came over the summer when Chardonnay built up strength and stamina jumping some challenging tracks in Calgary (CAN). Saturday night, the pair dared others to catch them, and when they did, rails fell. Siegel secured second by opting for a more conservative clear.
“[Chardonnay] is physically stronger… and I think she’s getting more confident. I think she’s got more scope than I thought she had,” said Blanchette.
Blanchette claimed an early lead in the North American League standings with 20 points, followed by Siegel with 17 points and Rivetti with 15 points.
The NAL continues at Washington (USA) on 28 October 2023.
by Catie Staszak