Katy, TX – Nicolas Gamboa and NKH Mr. Darcy topped a field of 30 horse and rider combinations to win Thursday night’s $25,000 EPIC Sporthorses Grand Prix, marking the pair’s second grand prix victory at the 2022 Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in Katy, TX.
Of the 30 entries in the April 7 class, 10 combinations qualified for the jump-off, with nine opting to return to tackle Michel Vaillancourt’s seven fence jump-off course. As the second-to-last combination, Gamboa and NKH Mr. Darcy, owned by NKH LLC, turned in the winning time of 28.593 seconds.
Shawn Casady had all three of his mounts qualify for the jump-off, each besting the previous. However, with sharp turns and slices, Gamboa shaved more than two seconds from the leading time of 31.564 seconds previously set by Casady and Ekstra MF. As the last to go in the jump-off, Casady’s third and final mount, Sunny Boy 372, was the fastest of his rides, but the pair’s time of 31.483 seconds was not quite fast enough to catch Gamboa. Casady ultimately took home second aboard Rabbit Root Stables LLC’s Sunny Boy 372, third on Ekstra MF, and fourth with NKH Shiloh.
“I know the first horse Shawn went with in the jump-off,” said Gamboa, 21. “I thought he rode it quite quick and I knew I had to be on it to win it. I knew Shawn was behind me, and he’s a quick rider. I put the gas down and was quite happy with how my horse performed. I was pretty confident in my horse after walking out of that ring. I know he tried his heart out and I was happy either way.”
Gamboa and NKH Mr. Darcy, a 9-year-old Holsteiner stallion, are newly partnered and have had great success at the 76th-annual Pin Oak Charity Horse Show thus far. The pair claimed Gamboa’s first grand prix victory of his career during Week I’s $30,000 Third Coast Bank Pin Oak Charity Grand Prix as well as third in Week II’s $25,000 EPIC Sporthorses Grand Prix.
Now, the pair has amassed a second grand prix title under their belt at just their first show together. The combination has been nurtured well under great management and are thriving together.
“He was brought along by Christian Heineking; he’s owned by Neil Knox, and he’s just been a super good guy to me,” says Gamboa, 21, who acquired the ride on the gelding while Heineking is out of the saddle due to an injury. “All the horses have been jumping great these three weeks. It’s just a great venue. I’m just happy to be here.”
With his consistent record, Gamboa is in the running for the leading rider title as well as a good chance at taking home Saturday’s $100,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix victory.
“Overall, these past three weeks, my horses have been jumping great. It’s been going well,” concluded Gamboa, who was also presented as the winner of the U25 Grand Prix held simultaneously with the $25,000 Grand Prix. “I’m looking forward to Saturday night. I’m kind of neck and neck with Shawn Casady for leading rider. I have a good string of horses and a great team behind me with the Heineking family, our grooms, and staff. We want to end the show on a good note and to keep going strong.”
Don’t let Gamboa’s rapid success during Pin Oak fool you, he has not been showing here for long.
“Last year was my first year here at Pin Oak,” said Gamboa. “I was just here the final week. This year we started off Pin Oak strong. We want to keep going for Week III. I think it’s a great place. My mom, [Jennifer Gamboa] has been working in the show office here for a while, so it’s great to be in Texas and to see her.”
The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show is one of the oldest and most prestigious horse shows in the United States, and today features three weeks of top hunter, jumper, and American Saddlebred competition. Founded by J.S. Abercrombie in 1945, it’s also a unique social and fundraising event, supporting the healing of sick children through financial donations, outreach, and volunteer support for Texas Children’s Hospital. The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show was the first show in the country to be designated as a Heritage Competition by the United States Equestrian Federation.
This year’s 76th annual event continues through April 10. Week III’s highlights include the $25,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix, Thursday, April 7 at 4 p.m., Friday’s $30,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby and $15,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, as well as the $100,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix on Saturday, April 9.
General spectator admission is free for all events. Learn more about the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show by visiting www.PinOak.org, and find the horse show on Facebook and Instagram for the most recent updates. To purchase competition photos, visit www.AndrewRyback.com.