BEECH ISLAND--A smaller class can sometimes serve as the ideal warm-up.

Victor Segovia and The Romeo Group’s Romeo did the $8,000 Half Million Jumper Classic on June 12 at the Kentucky Horse Park. However, the class served as the perfect tune-up for what was to come later in the week.

Segovia and Romeo were in the process of enjoying an eventful spring having won the $25,000 The Carolina Real Estate Grand Prix in April at the Aiken Spring Classic at Highfields Event Center.

“He jumped nice and clean to prepare for the next two big classes,” said Segovia. “I ended up fifth, double clear, but slow.”

The rider/horse combination returned two days later in the $25,000 Grand Prix, and would again qualify for the jump-off, with a fault-free first round. But, they would accrue four faults while negotiating the short course.

“I turned a bit too tight,” said Segovia. “He doesn’t turn that well. So, I was going fast, and turning very tight toward the one tall vertical, and while making the turn, he just kept going toward the left. I had to circle and jump right around the back, and jump everything clear.”

Those experiences earlier in the week provided Segovia and Romeo, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, with exactly what they needed. Their performances served as the harbinger of what was to come in the $60,000 Country Heir II Grand Prix on June 16. The duo would have a flawless, fault-free first round effort.

“I jumped clear, and I was the first one to go clear,” said Segovia. “Our plan, Andrea’s (King), Angel’s (Karolyi) and mine, was not to go crazy fast, make wide turns, and not go so tight, that’s what I did, and hopefully it would be good enough. So, I followed the game plan, and it worked out.”

There was a great deal of anxiety for Segovia as he waited for the other riders to complete their rounds over the short course track.

“I stayed on Romeo, staying back, and checking the huge Rolex scoreboard,” said Segovia. “Andrea said to me, ‘Victor go out by the grass and relax. Don’t look. I know you’re going to win this.’ She was right. I stopped looking, and then I saw Angel jumping up and down, coming right toward me. You have to believe in Andrea and trust what she has to say.”

Juan Ortiz and Accordance were the only other rider/horse combination to go double clear.

“I know Shane Sweetnam had one down,” said Segovia. “He was the last to go. I can’t remember what David Beisel did. He had won the week before.”

Segovia jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the Hollow Creek team, recognizing the benefit of working with Andrea King.

“She’s been in the business for a long time, and has an impressive resume,” said Segovia. “She had great success with racehorses, then success with Aaron Vale, and with Angel the past several years. He’s been very successful. So, I told myself I’m just going to follow their steps, rules and system. She knows exactly what she’s doing. It’s been great.”

It’s been advantageous for both horse and rider as they’ve improved since becoming a part of the Hollow Creek Farm team. “The two of us are more connected than we’ve ever been,” said Segovia. “Romeo is a super special horse. Most days, I have to get on him in the stall. But, sometimes there’s not a stall around. I’ll get on him when I’m four or three out in each class. I don’t get to spend too much time with him in the warm-up. The more I stay on him, the more excited he gets and the hotter he gets.”

The rider’s and horse’s personalities mesh well, and it’s that chemistry between the team that makes them formidable when they enter the grand prix ring.

“A lot of people who’ve known me for a long time think it’s a good thing for me too,” said Segovia. “The way I am, my personality, it allows me to get on four out, three out, do a couple of jumps and then go. It’s been great. Romeo has changed a lot thanks to Angel, Andrea, the vet, the blacksmith, the guys that are always around him and the whole Hollow Creek team.”