March 2018 - Winner's Circle
Written by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 21:42

HITS Coachella Desert Circuit Weeks I-III

Week I

The HITS Coachella Desert Circuit was near the half-way point at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal as we went to press, with the March 18 AIG $1 Million set for the big finale. That’s the first jewel in the HITS Triple Crown of Show Jumping, luring riders from around the globe. Here’s a recap of the first three weeks, and check out our photo page (page 62) from the Feb. 10 Longines FEI World Cup qualifier, in which Nayel Nassar, Beezie Madden and Mandy Porter, finished 1, 2 and 3.

Christian Heineking and NKH CALANGO jump to a first-place finish in the $30,000 SmartPak Open Prixin in Week I.

Michelle Parker and Vancouver 45 are all smiles after a win in the $70,000 Back on Track Grand Prix in Week I.

Week I in the jumpers, Christian Heineking and NKH Calango took home the top honors in the $30,000 SmartPak Open Prix. He completed the jump-off fault free in a time of 39.994. “I’d like to thank the owners and NKH, LLC for their support and SmartPak for sponsoring the class. I use SmartPak products in my barn,” said Heineking.

Winning the blue in the $70,000 Back on Track Grand Prix was Michelle Parker and Vancouver 45. She finished fault-free in 37.572. “It was a good course for Week I. The track was fair which is ideal to have the first week of a show,” said Parker. Of her 11-year-old Hanoverian she said, “He is the world’s friendliest horse and loves to have his face pat. He will stop eating to hang his head out of his stall and get attention.”
Both the SmartPak Open Prix and the Back on Track Grand Prix are qualifiers for the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix.

In the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix, John French and Soldier took home the blue ribbon with a combined score of 176.5. Amy Brubaker and Convaro took home the top honors in the $1,500 Platinum Performance Hunter Prix with a combined score of 166. The points French and Brubaker earned here go toward qualifying for the HITS Championships in Saugerties, NY, Sept. 5-9.

Week II

In the second week of competition, it was Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata that took home the blue ribbon in the $30,000 SmartPak Open Prix with a jump-off time of 40.283.

Taking home the win in the $10,000 Electronic Vet 1.35m Classic Friday afternoon out of a field of 46 horses was Susan Hutchison and SIG Fire Cracker. She rode to a first-place finish with a jump-off time of 39.870.

John French and Soldier after a successful ride in the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix in Week I.

Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and AKUNA MATATA are all smiles after finishing first in the $30,000 SmartPak Open Prix in Week II.

In the $70,000 GoRentals Grand Prix, Tina Yates and Zelote VDL took home the blue ribbon with a fault-free jump-off in 39.304. In an interview with The Chronicle of the Horse, Yates said, “I knew when I went in there I had to be quick and tidy but not crazy. So that was my plan, and it all just fell together today.”

A competitive field of 38 exhibitors went to work in the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix. Taking home top honors and moving up from a second place finish in Week I was Hope Glynn and King Of Hearts. Glynn scored an 88 in both rounds.

Week III

Taking home the blue in the $30,000 SmartPak Open Prix, presented by Pacific Sotheby’s, was Shawn Casady aboard Valinski S. He finished double clean in a time of 44.196. “[Valinski S] is naturally fast, so I knew that I just had to neaten it up. I needed to be quick and smooth without getting too greedy on course,” said Casady when talking about his jump-off. He plans to show Valinski S in the Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping Thermal division in week IV and aims for the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix at the end of the circuit.

Of the 34 who competed in the $70,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix just four made it back to jump off. Nayel Nassar jumped to the first-place finish aboard DeeJee in a fault-free time of 39.884. “The course walked big enough, but it was not overly complicated. Bernardo put some delicate jumps in delicate places and that’s where people made mistakes,” he explained. “I knew that I would be able to cover the same amount of ground faster than [second place finisher] Karl [Cook], who was efficient but not crazy, and there were a lot of places to gallop. I probably took more risks than I needed to.” Nassar plans to compete in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix at the end of the circuit.

Reports excerpted from press releases from HITS, Inc. Photography courtesy of ESI Photography.

Tina Yates and Zelote VDL pose for a win shot with the GoRentals representatives after winning the $70,000 GoRentals Grand Prix in Week II.

Shawn Casady and Valinski S presented with the blue ribbon in the $30,000 SmartPak Open Prix, presented by Pacific Sotheby’s, in Week III.

Hot Start At Hansen Dam Horse Park

Michelle Morris and Ka-Ching started the New Year off with a big win. A trainer at the Hansen Dam Horse Park in Lake View Terrace, Michelle clinched the win in the USHJA National Hunter Derby aboard Melissa Skelnar’s Ka-Ching. She was also second place on Tierney Smith’s Caravaggio 12 and fourth place on Ashley Brien’s Stand And Deliver. The class was held during the Verdugo Hills January Opener at the Horse Park.

Michelle is now eligible for a 2018 LEGIS Hunter Rider Bonus. If she wins another derby aboard Ka-Ching, she will in fact be saying “Ka-Ching” as she cashes in a $750 check.

Other big winners from that weekend were Diana Simonds (Rainie Rose, trainer) and Winandus (Tara Ardalan, owner) earning the Junior Hunters Championship. Gabby Kammins (Cha Cha Jago, trainer) and her Cleopatra won the $250 1.00m LEG Jumper Championship Qualifying Class.

In the jumper ring, Gabrielle P. Applegate (Joe Thorpe, trainer) and Baraka (Nayel Nassar, owner) were the ones to beat in the $750 LEG 1.20 Jumper Championship Qualifying Class. And, Rollin Sykes (Nicole Husky, trainer) kicked off what looks to be another super year in the equitation ring, winning both the CPHA Junior Medal Class as well as the Dover/US Hunter Seat Medal Class on her horse, Privilege.

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