Thermal, CA : A big week of high-caliber, FEI competition commenced at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California, for the Longines FEI World Cup - Jumping Thermal. International and domestic riders descended on Grand Prix Stadium to contend for the money, but only one rider took home the glory in both the $36,400 Desert Welcome Stake and the $36,400 Desert Classic.
$36,400 Desert Welcome Stake
The first day of the FEI CSI-W 4* at Desert Circuit IV began with Thursday’s $36,400 Desert Welcome Stake at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. Competitors took to the 15-effort course designed by Martin Otto of Germany, to prove who could master the class and garner a win.
German rider Christian Heineking, now riding from Weatherford, Texas, and NKH Selena, owned by NKH LLC, took home the blue in the well-represented class. Second-place went to Egypt’s Nayel Nassar, and his own Lordan and Calgary equestrian Tamie Phillips claimed third-place with her own Cat Balou.
An impressive field of 12 horses and riders earned clear first rounds to advance to the jump-off. The course rode quickly and all exhibitors produced speedy rounds to contend for the blue-ribbon, but the key to success was a clean ride.
First to return to the ring to test the shortened course was Phillips and Cat Balou. They traversed through the ring with confidence, setting the tone for the jump-off as they crossed the timers in a fault-free 36.29 seconds.
Alberta equestrian Lisa Carlsen, also a speedy rider, and her own Parette followed Phillips with another clear round, but unfortunately they weren’t fast enough to steal the lead, coming in at 38.37 as they galloped through the marker.
Eight trips passed before a clear round would be seen again in the jump-off, including French equestrian Eric Navet and Catypso, owned by Signe Ostby. They would ultimately garner the fifth-place title as the fastest of the four-faulters in 36.17. Kasey Ament and Arthos R would also earn four jumping faults in 36.99 for sixth-place, and Mandy Porter and Agro Star would earn seventh, after a heartbreaking rail at the last fence for a total of four faults in 37.24.
As the crowd beckoned for a clear round, Nassar and Lordan entered the ring to claim the long standing lead away from Phillips and Cat Balou. They moved through the course with precision and haste, clocking in with a clear, speedy 36.17, the same time as fifth-place Navet.
The lead was not sealed as last, but certainly not least, Christian Heineking and NKH Selena returned to the jump-off. Heineking knew he would have to not only beat Nassar’s swift time, but he must also leave the rails up. The atmosphere was electric as they zoomed through the course, the crowd urging them with cheers to the last fence, where they jumped to the victory with a lightning-fast round in 34.43 seconds for the win.
$36,400 Desert Classic
FEI competition continued at Desert Circuit IV on Friday with the $36,400 Desert Classic at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. The second FEI class of the week. Martin Otto of Muenster, Germany, aimed to be sure horses and riders were well prepared for aturday’s Longines FEI World Cup Jumping qualifier by designing the long and tricky 16-effort, 1.50-meter course in HITS Grand Prix Stadium. Four were clean to move on to the jump-off.
First to return for the jump-off was Kristen Hardin of New Cuyama, California, riding Firestone, owned by Nicole Teague. With the jump-off containing many twists and turns, Hardin knew she had to take advantage of quick, ground-saving turns to contend in the competitive jump-off field. Hardin and Firestone laid down a fast round, but an unfortunate rail at the second fence earned them four faults as they crossed the timers in 36.60 seconds.
Rich Fellers, of Sherwood, Oregon, riding Lux Lady, a beautiful 11-year-old mare, owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman, returned to the jump-off next. Fellers galloped to the first fence with his eye on the prize, and his time of 35.26 overtook Hardin, and even with a rail at A of the mid-course combination, Fellers had the temporary lead.
The course had yet to be conquered until Christian Heineking, riding from Weatherford, Texas, aboard NKH Selena owned by NKH LLC, entered the ring for the jump-off Heineking knew a clear round would move into first, but kept up tha pace as well, gallopingg through the markers in an astonishing, time of 34.24 seconds, moving him into first-place.
Following Heineking was San Diego Native, Mandy Porter, aboard Ace of Hearts, owned by Little Valley Farms. Porter and the bay gelding rose to the occasion as they flew through the shortened course. The crowd cheered as they galloped to the last fence in a race against the clock; they crossed the markers in 35.40, less than a second behind Heineking for second-place, putting Fellers in third and Hardin in fourth.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com.