Ten-year-old Oldenburg mare Elisa BJX has plenty of experience going against the clock. After all, she and rider Matthew Sampson (GBR) topped the Maui Jim Grand Prix 1.40m at the Summer Fort Welcome by nearly three seconds.

The mare is less experienced jumping the 1.50m height, but when Sampson entered the Fort Grand Prix Arena for the jump-off of the CSI3* ATCO Cup Grand Prix 1.50m, Sampson had a decision to make about how much he would chase the then-leading pace of Robert Blanchette (IRL) and Chardonnay.

He went for it, and the mare answered the call for an emphatic victory, crossing the timers of Anderson Lima’s (BRA) short course in 40.13 seconds. They kept a late charge from Karrie Rufer (USA) and Stern dei Foletti (41.18 seconds) at bay, ultimately relegating Blanchette and Chardonnay to third (42.15).

“I thought, ‘It’s not very often you get to be in a Grand Prix at a show like this in the jump-off,’” Sampson said. “She’s 10 years old, so she’s old enough to give it a go, and she just rose to it. That’s what good horses do.”

Elisa has proven to be a quick study. The mare jumped her first 1.50m track just two days ago in tbird’s CSI3* Uryadi’s Village Cup. Sunday, Elisa and Sampson were one of nine first round clears, with eight electing to return for the jump-off.

“She [jumped] 1.50m on Friday, and we had two mistakes, but she just learns. She’s clever,” Sampson said. “In the first round, she felt really good but a little inexperienced in places. In the jump-off, she felt amazing.”

Sampson first rode Elisa in Mexico—the home of owner Salvador Onate—before the mare joined his string in June at Spruce Meadows. Sampson credits a lot of their success to the month in between that circuit and his trip to tbird.

“It’s difficult to get to know the horses at the show when you’re trying to compete with them, because you don’t really get that time for them to get to know you and vice versa—to create that bond where she trusts me,” he said. “I think we’ve really got that now.”

$100,000 CSI3* ATCO Cup Grand Prix 1.50m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Elisa BJX / Matthew Sampson / GBR / Matthew Sampson / 0/0 40.13
2. Stern dei Foletti / Karrie Rufer / USA / Morning Star Sporthorses / 0/0 41.18
3. Chardonnay / Robert Blanchette / IRL / RTS LLC / 0/0 42.15
4. Howard du Seigneur / James Chawke / IRL / Ramsay Equestrian / 0/0 42.69
5. Uccello de Will / Joie Gatlin / USA / Oakland Ventures / 0/0 44.78
6. Deejay / Braden James / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch and Cattle Co. / 0/0 45.37
7. Vittorio 12 / Capt. Brian Cournane / IRL / Capt. Brian Cournane / 0/0 47.96
8. Chic D Emma Z / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / CAN / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / 0/8 44.91
9. Castlefield Dream / Jules Cournane / IRL / Capt Brian Cournane / 0/WD
10. Cunningham 4 / Christopher Lowe / CAN / Christopher Lowe / 3 88.50


Emily Fitzgerald (CAN) and Pasquinelle stand for the winner’s presentation with tbird CEO Jane Tidball and tbird President Chris Pack. (tbird/Quinn Saunders photo)

Fitzgerald Wins Again in MarBill Hill U25 Grand Prix

A day after topping the MarBill Hill U25 1.40m speed class with Pasquinelle, Emily Fitzgerald (CAN) led the victory lap again the MarBill Hill U25 Grand Prix 1.40m, this time with Coco du Houlbec Z.

Jumping double-clear over Anderson Lima’s (BRA) tracks, Fitzgerald came away a comfortable winner over Stella Chernoff (CAN), who finished both second and third aboard Connador (44.33 seconds) and Fay (8/41.66), respectively.

“This [week] has been crazy,” Fitzgerald exclaimed. “I didn’t ride the first round very well, but [trainer Lisa Carlsen] said that’s where [Coco and I’s] relationship came into play. She’s willing to do anything for me. She saved my butt, and I saved her butt [on course].”

In the jump-off, things went more smoothly, and the ride became more confident as the round unfolded. Coming around the turn to the final line, Fitzgerald could hear Carlsen shouting from the ingate, and she increased her pace another notch. It ultimately put her ahead.

“I saw the nice, flowing distance, and I just sat behind her, and she loves that. She knew it was a jump-off,” Fitzgerald said. “She was like, ‘Finally!’ I just love her so much.”

Fitzgerald and Coco have been partnered for the last three years, but their partnership took time to develop after importing the mare from France.

“We really struggled at the begging, and then I just accepted her for what she is, and she accepted me. And here we are.”

$15,000 MarBill Hill U25 Grand Prix 1.40m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Coco du Houlbec Z / Emily Fitzgerald / CAN / Emily Fitzgerald / 0/0 43.05
2. Connador / Stella Chernoff / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co Ltd / 0/0 44.33
3. Fay / Stella Chernoff / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co Ltd / 0/8 41.66
4. Ittolo / Jarne Francken / USA / Kerri Volek / 0/8 46.72
5. Houdini / Alexis Goetz / CAN / Alexis Goetz / 3 85.69

International competition resumes at Thunderbird Show Park with the CSI2* Summer Fort Festival, Aug. 23-28, 2022.