Last weekend's three-day season finale for the Orange County Horse Shows Assn. featured two unusual classes--both with unusually large rewards: the Toyota Hunter Classic, with a $22,000 Toyota Land Cruiser as top prize, and a $10,000 winner-take-all high-jump class.
Jamie Mann of Atlantis Farms in Costa Mesa won the Toyota class aboard Monet, a 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Mike Derderan of Newport Beach. Although the Toyota vehicle went to the horse's owner, Derderan surprised Mann by handing her a $2,500 check for a job well done.
"How do I feel? Well, winning is everything--that's how I feel," said a jubilant Mann after the class. Mann, an international grand prix winner, placed 10th in the 1981 World Cup finals and that year was an alternate for the U.S. Equestrian Team's show jumping squad at the World Championships.
After a successful career at Acres Wild Farm with trainer Paul Valliere in Newport, R.I., Mann returned to California four years ago and began her training operation at the Orange County Fairground Equestrian Center.
Larry Hollahan, a trainer who also bases his operation, Newport Farms, at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, won Sunday's $10,000 high-jump class aboard Rigoletto. Hollahan owns the 17.2-hand Dutch warmblood gelding with Eva Voronaeff of Honolulu.
Fifteen riders began the high-jump class by clearing a 4-foot-high triple bar, which was raised in 6-inch increments until only Rigoletto jumped it clean at 5-foot-6.
Rigoletto, a dark bay gelding, finished third last season at the International Jumping Festival in Los Angeles and made his grand prix debut this spring at Del Mar.
His win Sunday before a crowd of 2,500 was a special moment for Hollahan and his partner, who were saddened earlier this year by the death of Saturn's Blue Flame, their prize European stallion that was a hopeful for the '92 Olympics.
Mike Nielsen, a trainer in Huntington Beach who is president of OCHSA, said: "The high-jump is a unique class, and it takes a special kind of horse to excel at it."
Although some were surprised that several confirmed grand prix horses did not clear the top hurdle in the high-jump, Nielsen said that is often the case. "Some horses keep a better rhythm on a long grand prix course. . . ."
Two special awards--new jumping saddles--were given by Blue Ribbon Leather Co. to overall champions at the OCHSA show in two divisions: Richard Spooner of Huntington Beach received the junior champion award, and Janet Carlson of Huntington Beach was amateur champion.
The only thing missing last weekend was a grand prix jumping class, traditionally the featured event at past years' OCHSA season championship shows. Show chairman Mike Braun of Laguna Beach said: "We wanted to do something different this year to make the show exciting. People are almost getting bored with grands prix--there are so many of them now."
Owing to the size of the stakes, the competition was stiff throughout the weekend. With 230 horses qualifying for the fifth annual championship event, it has become the largest competition in the county. This year it was an official Orange County Centennial event.
The show, held jointly by OCHSA and the WestMed Gold Club, was a benefit for United Western Medical Centers. The $12,000 raised by the show will help purchase a neonatal intensive care center for the pediatrics department at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.