James Chawke Steals the Spotlight in $50,000 Blenheim EquiSports Grand Prix of LA in May

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James Chawke and Daido van't Roytershof Z. Photo by McCool Photography

May 12, 2024 – Burbank, CA – James Chawke was the star of the show on Saturday, May 11, at the San Juan Capistrano International, as he piloted Daido van’t Ruytershof Z to victory in the $50,000 Blenheim EquiSports Grand Prix of LA in May.

The class was the highlight jumper event of the first week of Blenheim EquiSports competition at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, CA, where the staff has rolled out the red carpet for exhibitors – including the 18 entries in Saturday night’s grand prix.

From the starting field, five horses and riders navigated the first-round, Leopoldo Palacios-designed course without fault to advance to the jump-off in the Equidome Arena. When Chawke entered the ring as the penultimate entry, Michelle Parker and Easy Does It had laid down the time to beat at 36.678 seconds – and Parker had one additional entry still to come.

James Chawke and Daido van’t Roytershof Z were joined in their winning presentation by (from left to right) Robert Ridland, CEO of Blenheim EquiSports; Debbie Stone of the Blenheim EquiSports Awards Committee; Show Manager Alex Zulia; and Bradley Bowns, also of the Blenheim EquiSports Awards Committee. Photo by McCool Photography

While Daido van’t Ruytershof Z is a somewhat new ride for Chawke – with the Irish rider having purchased the horse just six months ago – they have already proved to be a winning partnership, and Chawke knew he had the mare’s natural speed on his side when it came to besting Parker’s time. 

“Knowing Michelle [Parker] was coming after me – she’s usually pretty fast – I figured I’d just go as fast as I could,” said Chawke. “[Daido van’t Ruytershof Z]’s very quick, and I kind of did all the steps that I wanted.”

As Chawke flew over the final oxer, the timers flashed 34.824 seconds, putting him just ahead of Parker and ultimately securing him the victory. With Parker’s final entry, Vivalunaika Blue, finishing in 40.585 seconds for fifth place, fourth place went to Jamie Sailor and Atlantic DVZ. Canada’s Vanessa Mannix and her own Kingston took third, and Parker and Easy Does It, owned by Cross Creek Farms Inc., held on to second place.

Of his winning mount, Chawke said, “I’ve been slowly getting to know her and producing her. I’m doing this tour a little bit with her to see what she is and what can she do.”

Second place in the $50,000 Blenheim EquiSports Grand Prix of LA in May went to Michelle Parker and Easy Does It. Photo by McCool Photography

The 10-year-old Zangersheide mare’s biggest test came last month during the Blenheim Spring Classic 2, where Chawke and Daido van’t Ruytershof Z finished fifth in the $117,000 CSI3* Blenheim Spring Classic 2 Grand Prix. 

“That was biggest that she’s jumped,” explained Chawke. “She’s won a ranking class and was second in ranking class. She’s done a bit. When I got her, I jumped the 1.30m [at the Desert International Horse Park]. It was a good place to get to know her and produce her a bit.” 

While Chawke had originally planned to compete Daido van’t Ruytershof Z at Blenheim EquiSports’ home base at the Rancho Mission Viejo Park in San Juan Capistrano, CA, he kept this week’s show on his schedule when it made the move to the LAEC, and he is glad that he did. 

“It’s a lovely facility,” concluded Chawke. “You would think there’s a lot of potential to have some bigger shows. I thought the surface was very good. They jumped really well on it.”

James Chawke rode Nacara van Berkenbroeck Z to the win in the $20,000 Markel 1.40m Open Speed Stake. Photo by McCool Photography

For Saturday’s win, in addition to awards from Blenheim EquiSports and the lion’s share of the prize money, Chawke was presented with a Mary’s Tack & Feed Nutrient Scoop Supplement – which marked the second time Chawke was presented with awards this week.

On Thursday, he also took the top call in the $20,000 Markel Open Speed Stake aboard Nacara van Berkenbroeck Z. He and the 11-year-old gelding, owned by Alison Locke, stopped the clock in 66.220 seconds, while second place again went to Parker and Easy Does It, this time with a time of 66.632 seconds. 

For full results of both classes, visit blenheim.showgroundslive.com.

In addition to the $50,000 Blenheim EquiSports Grand Prix of LA in May, Saturday’s line-up featured a Mother’s Day celebration, including a Mother’s Day Hat Contest, judged by Teddi Jo Mellencamp of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and with prizes donated by EQU Lifestyle Boutique, Mirasol Equestrian, Outdoor OutfittersEthos Equestrian and Horse on the Loose. All hat contest participants also received roses, donated by Shari Rose of Rose Hill Farm and Gail Ellis of West Coast Equine Partners.

Also having their turns in the spotlight were leadline riders – both young and old – and the champions and reserve champions from throughout the week at the San Juan Capistrano International, with the pre-grand prix festivities also featuring a Leadline class, sponsored by iJump Sports, and a parade of champions. 

Throughout the week, competitors have also enjoyed special hospitality offerings, thanks to the generous support of trainers and fellow exhibitors. On Saturday, this included a Candy Bar, sponsored by Rebecca Bruce Glynn, and a Hot Dog Bar, sponsored by Vanessa Mannix and Debbie Olson. The fun in Los Angeles continues next week with the Blenheim Surf & Turf Classic, to be held May 15-19. To learn more, visit ThePlaceToJump.com.

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