All eyes turned to Saturday night’s Desert Circuit IV Grand Prix Arena as top show jumping athletes competed for honors at the $40,000 Adequan Grand Prix. Under the lights and in front of an impressive crowd at the Desert International Horse Park, the rider-horse pairs tried one by one to complete the course flawlessly in order to secure a place in the next jump-off. At the end of the prestigious event, it was Canadian Ben Asselin who won aboard the Veyron, owned by Attaché Stables.
German course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. laid out the course for the 35 competitors to conquer. His course for the evening presented various challenges, including a triple bar oxer, a double vertical-oxer combination, a triple oxer-vertical-oxer combination and a tight time allowed of 83 seconds. Rails fell all over the course as the class progressed, but the time limit proved to play a significant role as six combinations jumped over the fences but committed one or more fouls against the clock .
Continuing her incredible clear streak, Karrie Rufer (USA) was the first to clear the course, and she did so in a time of 80.541 seconds aboard the Morning Star Sporthorses Stern Dei Folletti entry, with which she won the $25,000 FarmVet Grand Prize just a week before. In the process, the Irishman James Chawke secured a jump-off immediately after Rufer with a clear round aboard Vanessa Mannix’s Catinka 25. Kaitlin Campbell (USA) and Asselin also secured places in the coveted jump-off. The four clear rounds came early in order, with no extra pairs clearly jumping around the track and in time after the mid-drag break.
First to jump, Rufer and 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Stern Dei Folletti cleared the short course in 41.761 seconds, putting pressure on the three remaining competitors to hold the rails in place and increase speed even further to dethrone her. . Chawke’s time was not far off with the fast 13-year-old Oldenburg mare Catinka 25, but made 4 faults in 42.214 seconds. Campbell nailed a tricky inside turn, but it wasn’t quite enough as she cleared the stopwatches in 43.412 seconds, ultimately placing third. Last to take to the course, Asselin and the 17-year-old Oldenburg stallion raced around the track and lapped a tight time of 41.530 seconds, narrowly edging Rufer, who took second place, and took the honors.
Earlier in the day, in the Grand Prix Arena, athletes took their young mounts to the Interaction Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity series, which quickly became a favorite class among riders at Desert International Horse Park. Always a competitive class, this week was no exception, with the top three clear and within a second of each other. Leading the 20 entries on the 1.35m track set by Olaf Petersen, Jr. was Tracey Wade with Happynes, owned by Big Bay City LLC. Lindsay Linford and Two Smoking took second place, and Matt Williams and Interactive Mortgage Tolero 3, owned by DeLong Equestrian Ventures LLC, rounded out the top three.
“He’s just an amazing horse, and he gave it his all tonight and it was actually the only competition we jumped all week. I took it out of the box just for this class, and it really rose to the occasion tonight. So it’s a pleasure to ride it. I’ve been riding him now for about eight and a half years. I know him like the back of my hand. He has always been a very, very popular horse for me in the past, and with his experience and his age – he is 17 – I like to choose the competitions to jump with him. And I knew he would be right up to the occasion tonight. He’s not a horse that really needs warm-up laps or anything like that. He felt the vibe tonight and we had a lot of fun.
“To be honest, I really didn’t see myself really capable of winning this category. He’s a fantastic jumper and he has a monstrous stride, but he has such a great lopey stride that it’s pretty hard to win his time. So we really had to push for the first lap to win the time. We didn’t take a break anywhere. And then I saw Karrie [Rufer] go, and she was very successful on all the circuits. He is an incredibly fast and careful horse. So we tried to leave everything on the table. I think the inside turn to the last double saved us a lot of time. Mark Kinsella was in the warm-up ring to help me, and he told me I had to do nine strides until the last jump. He said, ‘You have to move for seven hours and just pray that he’s there,’ and that’s exactly what we did. It seemed like it was really far when we galloped towards him, but he covered the ground and was able to balance himself for the final fence and jumped it clean. It was a great feeling.