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“We’re E3!” shouted Eduardo Menezes as he trotted down the ramp into the Del Mar Arena, the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Del Mar third place ribbon streaming from the big bay mare Catalina’s bridle.
The fact that all three rider’s first names begin with “E,” is the first of several things this trio has in common. They all represent foreign countries, Menezes, Brazil; Navet, France; and Gonzalez, Mexico—but happily call Southern California home and live, work and play in the same San Diego neighborhood.
All three are Olympians and all three led the class riding 9-year-old horses, two of them—Chacna and Catalina—by the same sire, Chacco-Blue. (Who is also the daddy of Canadian rider Christopher Surbey’s mount in the class, Carnaval.)
Above all, “we’re really close friends,” said Gonzalez when he emerged from the hug-fest that followed his victorious finish in the three-way jump-off.
Gonzalez and Menezes are especially close. In January, they’ll celebrate three years as business partners of the E2 Stables, a globally focused sales enterprise based barely a mile away from the Del Mar Fairgrounds, where the Saturday, Oct. 22 competition took place.
When Chacna came into their program as a 6-year-old, Menezes was campaigning in Europe for several months. “I was home in San Diego and had the time to stick with her,” Gonzalez explains. “She was quite a character; I was able to keep riding her and to build that bond. When you have a horse with her character and quality, that’s what you do.”
Like any horse in E2’s program, Chacna is for sale, Menezes acknowledged with a sadness-tinged smile. “That’s hard because we bond with our horses, but that is our business.”
Gonzalez and Eduardo weren’t the only two to share a common bond. Eric Navet and course designer Frank Rothenberger of Germany had fun reminiscing about each other’s recollections of the Del Mar Arena when it hosted the 1992 FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final. It was Navet’s first trip to the States and while he couldn’t quite remember if he finished ninth or 11th that year, he remembers never imagining that he would wind up living in San Diego. “And here I am,” he grinned.
...who finished fifth Saturday night with Tembla and leads the Longines FEI World Cup™ Western League after Del Mar. “I am very proud of our horses and to have us both in the top five,” Navet noted.
Rothenberger’s recollection of the ’92 FEI World Cup™ Final, which he watched on TV from Germany, were triggered by his admission that the arena’s large size gave him some pause in designing its tracks for Saturday’s qualifier. “I was changing things up until the last minute,” he said. Up until the night’s warm-up act, the Charity Woof Cup, commenced, Rothenberger was making adjustments the World Cup’s trademark triple element.
When riders cleared that imposing mid-course combination, the crowd erupted in appreciation—that is until they came to realize that “the trick” of the course lay ahead in a challenging line that followed, which had riders choosing between four or five strides.
The three Es were the first to solve it, then treated the full-house crowd to an exciting jump-off and enjoyed a night full of celebrations among friends.
Text by Kim F. Miller
Images by Kim F. Miller & Bret St Clair