Ashlee Bond Clarke of Hidden Hills, California rode to an “icing on the cake” win aboard Little Valley Farms’ Chela LS today at HITS Thermal. The $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, was the first grand prix back from an injury for Bond Clarke. A concussion at the Los Angeles National sidelined her in early November, and she admits that just being back in the show ring was enough. “I was going to be happy today no matter what the results were,” she said. “Considering what happened to me, today was just a positive day.”
After retiring the partner of a lifetime, Cadett 7, this year, Bond Clarke admits that she and Chela LS are developing a similar partnership. “It’s hard to say that she is the most game horse I have ever ridden because she has big shoes to fill, but she is beyond careful, naturally fast and super smart,” said Bond Clarke of the mare she purchased from Simon Nizri in July. Chela LS will be coming ten this year. “If I get her focused and keep myself in check, she is game for anything.”
While a new ride for Bond Clarke, the pair has 14 grand prix starts and already three wins under their belt. The goal, says Bond Clarke, is the World Cup Qualifiers offered at HITS Thermal during the winter circuit.
Martin Otto of Muenster, Germany set the course for the first grand prix of the HITS Desert Circuit and welcomed 42 starters to the track. The course wasn’t shy with a tight time allowed and height that begged for scope, offering 12 obstacles and 15 jumping efforts with three double combinations. The heartbreak fence, however, was the final jump of the first round, delivering faults to eights pairs, and keeping two from the jump-off altogether.
A total of seven finished clear to advance to the jump-off. “This designer has done a great job all week building to the specs, but being fair and just tough enough,” said Bond Clarke. Canadian John Anderson of Calgary, Alberta, while seeing his first big grand prix since August, agreed that the track rode fair – the perfect grand prix to lead off the season. He piloted his 14-year old gelding Terrific. “He loves it here and he always tries hard on this circuit,” said Anderson. “He jumped around like a nine-year-old with all the scope in the world. I was proud of my old man.”
It was fractions of a second that separated first and second, which was attributed to one stride. Both Anderson and Bond Clarke landed from the sixth fence at 33 seconds, but it was Bond Clarke who cut the left turn to seven and left a stride behind in the process. “I am a counter of strides and I saw the line, but I was already clear and so happy with this effort,” concluded Anderson.
Bond Clarke was the fifth of seven to jump off and posted a time of 46.72 seconds, more than two full seconds faster than Eduardo Menezes of Carlsbad, California, who held the lead until then on Sarita Hank’s Quintol Mercedes Benz. Anderson’s 47.02-second jump-off time bumped Menezes again to third. Fourth was awarded to Alec Lawler of Atherton, California in the irons of his own Agamemnon. They traversed the jump-off in 52.46 seconds. Erin Davis-Heineking of Aledo, Texas capped the top five with October Hill’s Concho in a time of 53.43 seconds.
Grand prix action continues on Sunday with the $50,000 TuffRider/Equine Couture Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Momentum builds this week for next week’s $54,000 Strongid® C 2X™ CSI-W2*, which is a qualifier for the 2014 FEI World Cup Final in Lyons, France this April. Upcoming grand prix events will also welcome HITS Thermal riders to qualify for the first offering of the HITS Triple Crown of Show Jumping – a shot at $1 million in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix on March 16.
Source: Press release from the HITS Media Team
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