Thermal, CA – In a sold-out Week V at the HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California, Mexico’s Enrique Gonzalez made a stellar return to the circuit when he finished first and fourth in Thursday’s $32,000 HITS Desert Classic (FEI), presented by Pfizer Animal Health, which took place under the lights in the Strongid® C2 X Stadium. He was the first to go clean in Marina Azevedo’s first round track and the only rider of the 39 starters to advance to the jump-off with both of his rides. Gonzalez’s victory came aboard his own Criptonite.
“This is my first time showing in Thermal,” said Gonzalez. “We used to show in Indio years ago, so it’s nice to be back in the Desert and I’m enjoying the circuit here at the new facility. It’s been a fantastic week. It’s a great place to develop horses and I’m using my time in Thermal as the first stage of my preparations to qualify for the Olympics.”
In October of 2011, Gonzalez and Criptonite had the honor of representing their country in the Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico where they helped to earn the bronze medal in the team competitions. On Thursday in Thermal, the duo put up the only double-clear effort to take home the blue and a first-place check for $10,560.
Azevedo’s first round course was technical and featured 15 efforts with three combinations and a time allowed of 79 seconds. Out of the 39 starters, 10 managed to go clear in the first round, but four of those suffered time faults which kept them from advancing to the jump-off.
Karl Cook of Woodside, California was up first with Signe Ostby’s Jonkheer Z but dropped a rail mid-way through the course. Second to go, Francie Snedegar of Laguna Beach, California aboard her own Union seemed to be en route to a clear round but dropped a rail at the very last fence to keep her on the sidelines for the rest of the class. Great Britain’s Helen McNaught followed and suffered the same fate when she and her own Caballo dropped the very same rail.
Seven trips later, Gonzalez riding his Obelix 148 proved the course could be beat when they left all the fences up. Two trips later, Cook returned aboard his second mount Signe Ostby’s Asb Conquistador and laid down a clean round to ensure the crowd a jump-off.
After the next four pairs failed to advance, McNaught returned to the ring to give it another try. Riding Allison Heafey’s Lariccello she was able to leave all the fences up, but had a single time fault which once again kept her out of the jump-off. Antonio Mauer, another member of Mexico’s 2011 Pan-American Team Bronze, followed McNaught riding his own Callao and, like McNaught, they kept all the fences up but a time fault kept them from moving on.
Gonzalez and Criptonite were the next pair to advance to the jump-off, followed by Puerto Rico’s Mark Watring riding Horseworks etc. Inc.’s Green Sleeps Vioco and Francie Steinwedell-Carvin riding Prentiss Partners’ Taunus. With just four trips left, Mexico’s John Perez was the sixth and final rider to advance to the jump-off after he piloted David Vaine’s Arezzo to a clean round.
Gonzalez and Obelix 148 were first to challenge Azevedo’s jump-off route, which featured eight efforts, including the 11a-b combination from the first round that proved troublesome for many. They earned four jumping faults at the number four fence and finished in 47.76 seconds to take fourth place.
Cook and Asb Conquistador followed and earned eight jumping faults in 46.62 seconds, which placed them fifth at the end of the class. Watring and Green Sleeps Vioco also had eight jumping faults and finished behind Cook in sixth place.
Gonzalez wasted no time on his second chance at Azevedo’s track. He and Criptonite navigated the course to perfection in 47.44 seconds to take the lead and set the Great American Time to Beat, with just two more trips remaining.
“I thought the course was great, and perhaps a little harder than normal under the lights,” said Gonzalez after his win. “Some of the greener horses seemed challenged by shadows, but it was great experience for them. My horses are very seasoned and they jumped really well. Criptonite and I have a good time together, he’s my friend and I’m hoping we can take this all the way to the Olympics. I’ll be showing some younger horses in the futures on Saturday, and then on Sunday we’ll be back at it. Next week, we’ll be looking forward to the $200,000 [Lamborghini] Grand Prix.”
Steinwedell-Carvin and Taunus were next to ride. The pair has really formed a great connection and has the consistency to show for it with seven top-12 Grand Prix finishes so far this season, including an exciting victory in the first half of the Circuit when they won the $53,000 Strongid C 2X CSI2*-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Their luck wasn’t quite as good on Thursday afternoon, as they earned four jumping faults in 46.43 seconds to finish second.
“He’s a fantastic horse that’s really coming into his own,” said Steinwedell-Carvin of the horse her husband Dick Carvin found while shopping for clients and encouraged her to “trust him” over the phone. “He called to tell me this was a great opportunity and even though the horse was a little bigger than I like, he thought we’d be really great together. The first nine months were a little tough as we got to know one another, but we’ve really formed a great connection and our chemistry is getting better and better. I’m really happy with our finish today and we’re looking forward to Saturday night. The crowds in the World Cup classes have been fantastic. The energy in that ring is great and we’ve been having a lot of fun showing together.”
Perez and Arezzo were last to go but lost hope of taking the lead when the very first fence came down. They finished in 47.05 seconds to take the number three spot.
After the class Azevedo was pleased with the results. “This was my fourth time building in Thermal but the first time building here for a night class. I tried to prepare a nice track that was light with a little scope. The last line in the first round seemed to be where a few riders got caught. The combination there had a triple bar and then the last fence was a little wide with a short line between the final oxer. I expected between six and eight clear rides, so it was perfect to have six come back. Enrique [Gonzalez] has great horses and has been jumping well, so he was a deserving winner. I’m looking forward to building for the World Cup on Saturday night and then again for Sunday.”
Saturday night’s $53,000 Chartis CSI2*-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, will be the fourth and final World Cup Qualifier offered this season in Thermal, while Sunday’s $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, will be the first of three remaining opportunities for West Coast riders to qualify for this year’s Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix.
$32,000 HITS Desert Classic (FEI), presented by Pfizer Animal Health
Place Horse Owner Rider Prize $ Rd 1 Faults JO Faults JO Time
1 Criptonite Enrique Gonzalez Enrique Gonzalez $10,560 0 0 47.44
2 Taunus Prentiss Partners Francie Steinwedell-Carvin $6,400 0 4 46.43
3 Arezzo David Vaine John Perez $3,200 0 4 47.05
4 Obelix 148 Enrique Gonzalez Enrique Gonzalez $1,920 0 4 47.76
5 Asb Conquistador Signe Ostby Karl Cook $1,440 0 8 46.62
6 Green Sleeps Vioco Horseworks etc Inc. Mark Watring $960 0 8 47.52
7 Lariccello Alison Heafey Helen McNaught $800 1 - -
8 Callao Antonio Mauer Antonio Mauer $640 1 - -
9 Avensis Elizabeth Gingras Elizabeth Gingras $640 2 - -
10 Connery Andrea Beattie Lynne Stephenson $640 2 - -
11 Bristol Grey Fox Farm Rusty Stewart $320 4 - -
12 IV Ever Brian Gingras Jill Henselwood $320 4 - -
Photos: Enrique Gonzalez and his own Criptonite were the only pair to go double clear in Thursday's $32,000 HITS Desert Classic (FEI), presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California; Tony Hitchcock and Bobby Drennan of HITS present Enrique Gonzalez with a SmartPak gift bag and a bottle of wine courtesy of Sonoma Cutrer, HITS' Official Wine Sponsor. ©Flying Horse Photography.