Thermal, CA (February 21, 2015): Katherine Dinan and Nougat Du Vallet won the $50,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix CSI2*-W FEI World Cup Qualifier Saturday night, after a fast paced two-horse jump-off that pitted two young promising American riders against each other for the blue under the lights at HITS Desert Horse Park.
Dinan, 21, of Wellington, Florida, grabbed the lead in the second round, which consisted of eight obstacles and one combination, on Grand Road Partner’s Nougat Du Vallet, finishing with four faults in 44.91 seconds, besting reserve champion Hannah Heidegger, 17, on Monarch International’s Geledimar, who completed the round with eight faults in 49.64 seconds.
The course for Saturday’s class was tight and challenging to navigate, and time proved to be its own obstacle in the first round, which kept the third and fourth place winners — Elizabeth Gingras on Zilversprings, owned by B Gringras Equestrian, and Allyssa Hecht on Neaulani Farms’s Calero — out of the jump-off but still in the money with only time faults.
"I thought the course was challenging," said Dinan, who competed for the first time on the West Coast at HITS Thermal in Week IV, and continued this week. "The track was high enough and I didn't think it asked impossible questions. I went third in the order so I had to be sure I had a plan and stuck to it since I didn't get to watch those before me. I knew the time was a little tight so I kept that in mind…I wanted to do the two World Cup qualifiers, so I came to Thermal.”
In the World Cup Qualifier at Desert Circuit IV on, February 7, Dinan finished fifth, also with Nougat Du Vallet.
Heidegger said, "This was my first World Cup Qualifier (this year), and I just wanted to have a nice ride.” The Malibu, California, rider added, "I really didn't expect anything but to go in there and ride my best, and my horse ‘came to the party,' as they say. She was great. We are still trying to figure out jump-offs, so that gave me a little trouble. She is strong and in the jump-offs she gets stronger and stronger — we work on that. She usually takes me past the jumps, but today she wasn't doing that and it took a little getting used to. It was a different ride."
Dinan’s trainer, Beät Mandli, of Switzerland, said, "It was a nice course but you really had to ride it, too. Just the right size and it would have been nice to have double-clear rounds, but, okay, that didn't happen. Thermal has obviously been good to us. We needed to win and that's just what we did so that makes it worth the trip, too.”
Will Simpson, who trains Heidegger and has won seven Grand Prix so far at this year’s HITS Desert Circuit said, "I am just so proud of her, and watching her accomplish what she has is an inspiration to me. Her dedication to learning this sport and competing in these top classes is certainly impressive.”
The $50,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix is the last FEI World Cup Qualifier on the West Coast for the upcoming FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Las Vegas, Nevada, this April.
iJump Sports contributed to this report.