Thermal, CA - Forty-three riders attacked the course in hopes of claiming the blue ribbon and the lion’s share in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at HITS Desert Horse Park in Week VI of the Desert Circuit. An impressive lineup of competitors filled the Order of Go including Olympians Will Simpson and Rich Fellers, but the victory would go home with Woodside, California, equestrian Karl Cook aboard Basimodo, owned by Signe Ostby, in an all-out battle with Chris Pratt of Lake View Terrace, California.
Both the time allowed and rails were factors in the first-round of Friday’s course set by Brazilian course designer Marina Azevedo as only three competitors jumped fault-free. Two others jumped clean with no rails down, but incurred time faults. Eighteenth in the order, Will Simpson of Westlake Village, California, and E-Unanime De La Haie, owned by Monarch International, was the first to leave all the rails up in the first round, but two heartbreaking time faults ultimately landed them in fifth-place.
The crowd watched in anticipation as round after round, riders failed to master the course. After twenty-two trips of what seemed to be an unconquerable 16-jumping efforts within a tight time allowed, Chris Pratt and Cruise, owned by Indigo Farms LLC, came in to prove that it could be done. The pair became the first to qualify for the eventual three-horse jump-off. Pratt was the winner of the $350 HITS Grand Prix during Desert Circuit III on another mount.
Peter Petschenig followed Pratt three trips later piloting Colour Your Life, co-owned with Pam-Bilek Petschenig, leaving all of the rails up, but a single time-fault by just fractions of a second earned them the eventual fourth-place for their efforts.
Another seven trips would pass, and a jump-off did not seem to be on the horizon until the victors themselves, Cook and Basimodo entered the ring. They made it through clean and quick to ensure a jump-off. Second-to-last in the order, Pratt returned on his second ride, Concorde, owned by the Epic Group. Pratt also qualified Concorde for the jump-off, ensuring himself two of the three jump-off spots. Pratt was the first to return to contest the shortened course aboard Cruise. They zipped through the course with no rails down, crossing the timers in a speedy 36.845 to set the jump-off tone.
Cook and Basimodo followed. The powerhouse equestrian navigated his mount through the 8-fence course, shaving off time as the talented bay Dutch Warmblood gelding covered the ground. The clock ticked by and the atmosphere was electric as cheers poured from the stands. They clocked in at 35.382 to take over the lead and eventual win.
The win was not sealed for Cook yet, however, as Pratt still had one more chance to claim the title with Concorde. An unfortunate rail at the second fence of the jump-off ensured the win for Cook and gave Pratt second and third place.
“Marina set a very technical track, with some very tricky elements. Chris has had a great circuit and I knew I needed to be on my game, but Basimodo makes that pretty easy. I guess Friday was my day. Big congratulations to Chris for having two of the three clear.” said Cook.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com.