DEVON, Pa.--Nicole Shahinian-Simpson on Akuna Mattata returned to Devon from California to win the $50,000 Jet Run Devon Welcome Stake CSI4* .
The Welcome Stake, scheduled to start at 7 p.m., was delayed 45 minutes due to a severe thunderstorm, but, despite the rain, Devon's footing remained excellent.
As a junior living in Pennsylvania, Shahinian-Simpson was both Best Child Rider on a Pony and Best Child Rider on a Horse, and she showed Akuna Mattata at Devon for the first time last year, getting a number of ribbons but no wins.
Brazil’s Guilherme Jorge set a very interesting course that caught out 18 of the 25 competitors.
Two long lines, fence one to two and fence three to four, could be ridden with different number of strides, but many of the riders who chose the larger number of strides ended up with time faults, and a tight turn to fence three saw that fence come down five times.
SEVEN competitors returned to compete in the jump-off, and of the seven, only two were able to produce double-clear efforts.
The first to go clean in the jump-off was 25-year-old Catherine Tyree on Bokai, second in the jump-off order-of-go. who finished in in 38.16 seconds.
Shahinian-Simpson, who has been competing at Devon since 1985, was fifth to tackle the jump-off , and she went clean, just one second faster in 37.74 seconds.
Lillie Keenan on Fasther rounded out the top three as the fastest of the 4-faulters in 36.34 seconds.
In 2018, tShahinian-Simpson rode Akuna Mattata to a fourth in the $50,000 Jet Run Devon Welcome Stake CSI4* and a second in the $70,000 Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake CSI4*.
Akuna Mattata was famously born as a triplet via embryo transfer in 2008 out of SRF Dragonfly.
Known as “Nahla” in the barn, Shahinian-Simpson quickly realized the mare’s potential ,taking her up through the ranks until she is now competing at the CSI5* level and representing the USA on Nations Cup teams, including during the CSIO5* Coapexpan in Mexico earlier this month, where the U.S. Show Jumping Team won the silver medal.
“I’ve always loved it here," said Shahinian-Simpson. "It’s just a great atmosphere and a great ring to ride in. My first year here was in 1985, and I have been Best Child Rider here on ponies and horses. Last year was Nahla’s first year here, and it was her first big season on the international circuit. She got a ribbon in every class so it was fun to come back. She thrives on the energy here."
“I knew the show wouldn’t run it if it wasn’t Okay," she said of the rain delay. "I knew if they ran it, it would be fine. The footing was fantastic!”
“She’s very animated, she’s not a kicker or anything luckily, but she is difficult to contain," she said of the mare. "She was eager to compete tonight. She loves to go fast. Even in the first round with the time being tight, I thought, ‘Just ride it like a speed class.’ That’s sort of her gear. I’ve started using her stride to do the leave-outs, and it’s all just sort of come together. She responds great and her rideability doesn’t change.”
“No one had done the seven from one to two and I thought, ‘If I catch that vertical, I can get right in there,’" said Shahinian-Simpson. "The hardest line actually was after the double, that six. We had all planned seven, and then Lillie Keenan did the six, and that was actually quite long. She’s really game and she turns well so it’s been fun to challenge her a little bit and see where we are. It felt great.”
“We’ll do Upperville next and hopefully some more Nations Cups, we’ll carry on" she said. "She’s been awesome, and we just want to keep her happy and healthy. I want to keep exposing her to the scene and hopefully they use me where they want to use me.”