Thermal, CA: Friday's $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix featured an impressive Order of Go as riders and horses competed for the blue-ribbon victory.
Friday’s $25,000 Smartpak Grand Prix at HITS Thermal boasted 46 rider-horse combinations who tested their skills over the 1.50m, 13 jumping effort course set by Anderson de Moura Lima of Brazil. The line-up included well-known riders such as Rich Fellers, Will Simpson, and Susie Hutchison. Twelve of the 46 returned for the second-round jump off, including crowd favorite Flexible, the 20-year old former FEI World Cup Champion. The jump-off had the crowd on their feet as horses had to gallop and make a big run to the last fence to win.
It was Rich Fellers of Sherwood, Oregon, and Flexible, owned by Harry & Mollie Chapman, who surpassed Kristin Hardin of New Cuyama, California, riding Nicole Teague’s Firestone, by two seconds for the win. With many valiant efforts in the books, only seven of the twelve returning were able to conquer the shortened jump-off course fault-free, under the time allowed of 49 seconds.
First to test the shortened course was Revenge, owned and ridden by Shelley Fellers of Sherwood, Oregon. Revenge jumped in beautiful form and took no risks, but had an unfortunate rail at the FarmVet vertical resulting in a four-fault score in 41.642 seconds, leaving the pair out of the top six ribbons.
Next up was Chris Pratt riding Edesas Basantos owned by Edesa Horse Promotions Inc. Pratt navigated the big-strided Bay through a tight turn from the first to the second fence, and an inside turn to the Smartpak fence, crossing the markers in a fast time of 40.635 seconds, placing him in the lead momentarily. In the end, it was good enough for a fourth-place finish.
Mexico's Enrique Gonzalez aboard his own mount Chacna were next to test the jump-off, crossing the timers with no faults in a time of 40.471, taking over the lead from Pratt. Gonzalez ended up third in the final class standings.
Following Gonzalez was Will Simpson riding The Dude, owed by Monarch International of Los Angeles, California. Simpson galloped the length of the stadium as he tried to gather another Grand Prix win in the second half of the circuit. The Dude jumped fault-free, but in a time of 41.350 seconds, landing Simpson the eventual sixth-place prize.
Rich Fellers and Flexible were up next, and they trotted into the HITS Grand Prix Stadium with fire in their bellies for the win. Flexible jumped the shortened course with ease as he beat the Great American Time to Beat, galloping through the timers in 37.782 seconds to take the lead and ultimately winning the $25,000 Smartpak Grand Prix. “Flexible felt great today. I knew it was his day today to win, and he is feeling better than ever. It is definitely a good feeling to win the first Grand Prix of the second half of the circuit” Fellers said.
With only a few riders left to try to beat Fellers’ time, the Northern California rider Kristin Hardin riding Firestone gave a valiant effort that proved to be second best of the day. Hardin knew she needed to be fast and clear, and gave it her all, executing a tight roll-back to the last line, which landed her the second-place prize in a time of 39.932.
John Pearce riding Chantico owned by Forest View Farm & Karen Ball finished up the top five placings jumping the shortened course fault-free in a time of 40.710 seconds, slipping in to fifth place.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com.