Thermal, CA: The sun shined down on a beautiful day for show jumping during the final class of Week VI at HITS Desert Horse Park. Thirty eight competitors filled the order of go in Sunday’s $75,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix, but only one could take home the winning title.
The top five was stacked with winners from the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal event that took place during Week IV of the HITS Coachella Desert Circuit.
Mandy Porter of Encinitas, California, and Milano, owned by Abigail Weese took home the win. After a CSI3* Grand Prix win during Week IV at HITS Coachella, Porter returned to the top a few weeks later in a down to the wire battle with fellow Californian Ashlee Bond, who won the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Qualifier in Week IV.
Porter captured the blue-ribbon victory in a competitive 11-horse jump-off over a course designed by Catsy Cruz of Mexico City, Mexico—four would rake in clear rounds over the shortened course.
Zazou Hoffman of Santa Monica, California, was the first rider to return to the ring for the jump-off riding Samson II, owned by Dogwood Hill, LLC. Hoffman took home the blue ribbon in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix earlier in the week at HITS Coachella and would remain in the top ribbons to finish out the week.
Hoffman and Samson II flew through the course, laying down a clear round right out of the gate in 37.705, an impressive trip that would hold up through the remaining field for the eventual third-place prize.
Following Hoffman was Karl Cook of Woodside, California, riding Caillou 24, owned by Signe Ostby. Cook also performed well in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal qualifier at HITS Coachella, and scored himself a ticket to the Longines FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha, Nebraska, this April.
Cook and Caillou 24 also put in a clear round, but their time of 39.898 would not be enough to climb ahead of Hoffman’s, ultimately settling them in fourth place.
Four trips would pass before another clear round was seen, when Mandy Porter and Milano stepped into the ring. They zoomed through the course, stopping the clock in 36.269. The crowd cheered as they crossed the finish to step into the top spot, where they would remain.
Ashlee Bond and Chela LS, owned by Little Valley Farms, followed as the third-to-last in the order of challengers. Chela LS was the winning mount for Bond in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Qualifier. After a win in last week's $75,000 Osphos Grand Prix, Bond was hunting for another victory.
They flew to the finish, chasing Porter’s round with precision and skill. The crowd roared as they powered home, crossing the timers in 36.271, just one hundredth of a second behind Porter for the eventual second place prize.
Competition continues at HITS Desert Horse Park as the countdown to the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix on Sunday, March 19 continues.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com.