With 13 out of 30 entries in the Welcome Stake producing clear first rounds over the Hector Loyola designed course, the jump-off was quite competitive. The class was run in the Kathy and Brad Coors Family Grand Prix Arena under the Table II, Sec. 2 (a/b) format, allowing riders who jumped a clear first round to choose whether to immediately go on to their jump-off or return at the end of the class. Most chose to return at the end, and it came down to the wire to determine the winner, as Jordan was the last to jump off.
Armando Hassey and Taggert Enterprises LLC's Eminem went second to last in the original order and continued straight on to the short course, achieving the first double clear and setting a quick time to beat of 37.368 seconds. Jordan said she saw them go and wasn't sure she could match Eminem's time.
"I didn't think I could beat him because he had such a big step and the rider didn't ever pull anywhere," she said. "I didn't even know I won! But [Top Shelf] is a great horse."
As horses and riders began to return for the jump-off, several had rails and few could come close to Hassey's time - even Paul Rohrbach and Camerino, winners of last week's $25,000 Holiday Inn of Parker Grand Prix, were double clear but not quite quick enough with their time of 40.103 seconds. But Pearce and Forest View Farm's Johnny B Good stepped it up, zipping around the short course in 37.199 seconds to take over the lead by a narrow margin.
Double clears followed for Kristen Blomstrom on Zeros, John McConnell on La Bella Soiree, and Bjorn Ikast on Chestina Z. Ikast finished in 37.266 seconds to come the closest to the top, sitting in second behind Pearce. That left Jordan and Top Shelf to challenge Pearce for the lead.
"I knew I had to turn," Jordan said. "The landing and turning is one thing that we do very well. Big horses will take a minute to land and get back up, but my horse will sit down and come back."
Loyola's jump-off course gave Jordan several opportunities to make tight rollback turns, and she took advantage of each one. She was particularly quick from fence 13, the Parker Adventist Hospital vertical, to fence 10, the Griffis Residential oxer.
"He didn't waste any time there," she explained. "We turned back immediately, and I saw something coming so I was able to kind of run at that oxer. Then I ran down and was able to find the in-and-out off of a gallop."
From there, Jordan slowed down on the approach to fence 7, a vertical, and it worked in her favor coming into the final fence, an oxer in front of the crowd.
"It allowed us to land, turn right back and run with everything we had to the last one," she said. "I know he is careful, so I know I can run."
Jordan and Top Shelf raced through the timers in 36.816 seconds, edging out Pearce and earning the win. Top Shelf, a 17-year-old KWPN gelding by Goodtimes, is owned by Margie Gass, Jordan's mother.
Pearce said he had been gunning for first place, but was happy with how well Johnny B Good performed.
"I always try to win," he said. "Armando (Hassey) was really smooth and his horse has a big stride. He had a beautiful round, and I knew I had to be efficient. I think I didn't win the class because I just slowed up a little to the last jump in the jump-off, and Megan was really fast to the last jump."
"It was a good day, a nice class," he added. "The course rode great, and my horse jumped super today."
Course designer Loyola said he was pleased with the results, even if there were a few more clears than he had forecasted.
"The plan is always to be safe, to be fun and to be competitive," he explained. "Usually in the Welcome class, my goal is to get people comfortable with the course so they feel like they do want to do the Grand Prix. I think we fulfilled that purpose. I was expecting to have 10 instead of 13 clear - just a little too many, but then there are three more people happy. I think the course worked out well."
He said the jump-off course asked riders to both gallop and turn, ensuring a level playing field for horses with different strengths.
The win in the $15,000 Open Welcome Stake was an auspicious beginning to the circuit for Jordan, who is attending Weeks II and III of her first Summer in the Rockies. She trains out of Venture Farm in Oregon City, OR, and is back in the saddle after taking five months off over the fall and winter for back surgery, riding New Venture Investments' Atlantis and Laura Piccard's Scandalous in the Welcome Stake alongside Top Shelf. Both she and her family are having a good time at the Colorado Horse Park thus far.
"This is lovely, I have to say, I am really impressed with the show grounds," she commented. "I have kids and they are enjoying riding their bikes around the trails. As a trainer, you spend all your time training in the ring, but I took all the horses out on the trails one day and just galloped them. I felt like a little kid - it was so much fun! This is a really enjoyable place, and everyone has been incredibly friendly."
Jumper competition on Friday at Summer in the Rockies II features the $2,500 Open Jumper 1.30m, $2,500 Open Jumper 1.40m, and $1,000 Young Jumper Championship classes. Many of the horses and riders in the Welcome Stake will return Saturday for the $25,000 Littleton Equine Medical Center and Platinum Performance Grand Prix. Click here for full results from Thursday. Visit the Colorado Horse Park's website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout Summer in the Rockies.
Results: Summer in the Rockies II - Thursday, June 12
$15,000 Open Welcome Stake
1. 735/Top Shelf/Margie Gass/Megan Jordan/4500.00
2. 794/Johnny B Good/Forest View Farm/John Pearce/3250.00
3. 713/Chestina Z/Bjorn Ikast/Bjorn Ikast/1950.00
4. 870/Eminem/Taggert Enterprises LLC/Armando Hassey/1200.00
5. 836/Camerino/Wells Bridge Farm Inc/Paul Rohrbach/900.00
6. 567/Zeros/Farfetched Farm/Kristen Blomstrom/700.00
7. 766/La Bella Soiree/Molly Precourt/John Mc Connell/600.00
8. 957/Super Bad/Blair Cudmore/Brooke Cudmore/425.00
9. 838/Akkato/Wells Bridge Farm Inc/Paul Rohrbach/425.00
10. 816/Cooper/Erin Walker/Scott Lenkart/350.00
11. 609/Lochinvar/Matt Cyphert/Matt Cyphert/350.00
12. 958/Southern Pride/Blair Cudmore/Karen Cudmore/350.00