Keith Cruises to Victory in Maui Jim 1.40m Grand Prix

Kassidy Keith (CAN) doesn’t always win in the Grand Prix ring at Thunderbird Show Park, but when she does it’s usually with Havana.

The veteran pair started their 2024 season at tbird’s April Season Opener the same way they ended the previous one—with a victory. In September 2023, Keith and her speedy bay capped their U25 career with a pair of wins at tbird’s Harvest Celebration. This week, they’re back at tbird and back atop the podium as winners of the week’s feature event, the $10,000 Maui Jim 1.40m Grand Prix.

“Havana and I normally take a break [over the winter],” said Keith, who runs Keepsake Farm in Langley, BC with her mother Cheryl Keith. “I went to California at the start of February and ended up doing the four star the last week. I haven’t really jumped [Havana] since we got home.”

As it turned out, one 1.35m warm-up class on Friday was all they needed. Six pairs found a clear path around Chris Jones’ first round Grand Prix track to advance to the jump off—among them, Australian Olympian and known speed threat Katie Laurie on all three of her mounts.

Second to return for the short course, Keith and Havana set a speedy standard, using the mare’s turning ability and their well-established partnership to their advantage.

“[My strategy] was just to be smooth, but I had to take the risks that needed to be done because [Katie] rides really fast,” said Keith, noting that she has complete trust in Havana. “I turned super sharp [to the double], and I just pulled on the left rein and she was right there with me.”

An inside turn after the Maui Jim vertical gave Keith a straight shot to the penultimate oxer. The pair rolled back quickly to the final vertical to stop the clock in 44.87 seconds. Their time not only held up, it proved to be 2 and half seconds fastest.

Georgia Knight (CAN), who swept the U25 division this week, slotted into second on new mount Ero Del Pierire in 47.21 seconds as the only other double clear on the day. Laurie took third on Tuluar Zirensky with four faults in a time of 48.73.

Havana has been under Keith’s saddle since age four. Developed by the 26-year-old rider up to the 4* level, the 12-year-old mare is something of a 1.40m specialist. In 29 international starts at the height, the pair boasts a 59% clear round average and average just 1.5 faults, according to Jumpr App.

This year, Keith has her sights set on top sport with the mare.

“My goals for 2024 with Havana are to jump a five star Grand Prix, whether that’s at the start of the year or the end of the year, and just to be consistent with her. [We plan to] jump the three stars [at tbird], working towards some World Cup qualifiers again in the fall.”

National jumping continues next week at tbird with the Spring Festival, April 24–28. Catch all the action from the Thunderbird Arena live on tbird TV, powered by Horse & Country.