Last to go in a monstrous field of nearly 70 competitors, Andy Kocher (USA) rode Eye Candy Jumpers’ Squirt Gun straight to the top of the $75,000 Volvo Cup CSI4*-W in Thursday’s feature class at Thunderbird Show Park.

Kocher and the 8-year-old Oldenburg stallion crossed the timers of Peter Holmes’ (CAN) 1.50m speed track in 60.46 seconds, besting a field of 66. Ashlee Bond (ISR) and her talented 8-year-old Donatello finished second, clocking in at 60.53 seconds.

Kocher bookended Bond on the podium with Fashion V, clocking in at 61.14 seconds to finish third in the class. The top 40 athletes qualified for Sunday’s Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver, presented by Celebrity Cruises—the first leg of the 2019/2020 North American League season.

“I was already going to be second, so I was just going to go all out, and if I knocked one or two down, oh well,” Kocher said. “That was my strategy.”

Holmes’ course played fairly for the field, with rails falling throughout the 13-fence track. Kocher set the tone for his win with his third-place finisher, as Fashion V gave him a strong first look at the course. The mare’s performance took him into the lead momentarily, before Bond, who a week ago won three international classes at tbird’s CSI3* Summer Fort Classic, took command of the lead.

“I don’t think [Fashion V] could have tried any harder than that,” Kocher said. “If there’s a 200%, she gave me that. She’s one of my favorites.”

However, Kocher was determined to take the top spot back, and he pumped his fist in the air when he crossed the timers and looked up at the scoreboard. Kocher has been developing Squirt Gun for about a year after acquiring him from renowned horse dealer Paul Schockemöehle of Germany and thinks exceptionally highly of the athletic horse.

“[Squirt Gun] is really good,” he said. “I don’t think, I know he’s one of the best horses in the country, maybe the world. He’s only eight years old. He’s really green. Every venue we’ve been to, he’s got a big result—Kentucky, Spruce Meadows, [Rocky Mountain], here. He’s just naturally good.”

With his qualification for Sunday firmly cemented, Kocher, a veteran of the 2018 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Paris (FRA), plans to jump top grand prix mount Carollo in Sunday’s Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver, presented by Celebrity Cruises.

“The other advantage I had against a lot of people today was I wasn’t using my Grand Prix horse, so I could really go all out. Carollo jumped [Wednesday’s $75,000 tbird Challenge], and I’m just resting him, so I hope he has a full tank on Sunday.”

$75,000 Volvo Cup CSI4*-W
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Squirt Gun / Andy Kocher / USA / Eye Candy Jumpers / 0/60.46
2. Donatello / Ashlee Bond / ISR / Little Valley Farms / 0/60.53
3. Fashion V / Andy Kocher / USA / Eye Candy Jumpers / 0/61.14
4. Hocus Pocus de Muze / Harrie Smolders / NED / De Moerhoeve & De Brabander & Vervo / 0/61.96
5. Charleville / Eve Jobs / USA / Eve Jobs / 0/61.99
6. Vice Versa d’Ossau / Zazou Hoffman / USA / Patawag Stables, LLLC / 0/62.28
7. Koss van Heiste / Conor Swail / IRL / Eadaoin Collins / 0/62.52
8. Fecybelle / Karl Cook / USA / Signe Otsby / 0/62.69
9. Coach / Beezie Madden / USA / Abigail Wexner / 0/62.79
10. Pappa Ante Portas / Eugenio Garza Perez / MEX / 0/63.19

The third and final week of the tbird Summer Series culminates with the Summer Fort Festival CSI4*-W, featuring six international classes. Competition continues Saturday, Aug. 24 (2:00 p.m.) with the $15,000 CSI4*-W Maui Jim Winning Round.

The week concludes on a high note Sunday, Aug. 25 with the feature event, the $145,000 CSI4*-W Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver, presented by Celebrity Cruises. A field of 40 of the week’s best performing combinations will vie for both lucrative prize money and coveted qualifying points for the 2020 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final, which will take place in Las Vegas, NV, in April. The event is the first of 14 legs on the 2019/2020 North American League calendar.

Sunday’s competition gets underway at 2:00p.m. PT.