Francie Steinwedell-Carvin admits that her goal for the 2014 HITS Desert Circuit is to qualify and excel in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix on March 16 with her 14-year old gelding Taunus. They got one step closer to the highlighted class with a win in Friday's $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, at HITS Thermal – a qualifier for the big-money event.
Florencio Hernandez, hailing from Mexico City, designed Friday's course, and while he didn't build big, he made up ground with technicality. "When I walked it, I thought the size was appropriate for $25,000, but after seeing the first line, I knew it would ride very technical," said Steinwedell-Carvin before admitting that Taunus thrives over technical courses. "He came out with his jumping shoes on today and I have never seen this horse so happy."
Steinwedell-Carvin, a Just World International rider, plans to save some jump for the AIG Million and will show Taunus sparingly over the coming weeks. With 12 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts, Hernandez made use of every square inch of the expansive Strongid® C 2X™ Grand Prix Stadium, giving riders many opportunities to leave out or add strides. "I think, unlike some of the other courses we've seen this circuit, it was better to leave [strides] out – the majority of the people who left out did better."
Hap Hansen of Encinitas, California, chasing his 100th grand prix victory, was first to best the track and was eventually joined by 11 to set the stage for a 12-horse jump-off from an original order of 43. The lead changed three times after Hansen and Linda Smith's Archie Bunker set an immediate Great American Time to Beat at 45.95 seconds.
Thanks to the likes of John Pearce, Ashlee Bond Clarke and Rusty Stewart, the time to beat got increasingly faster as the jump-off progressed. Bond Clarke of Hidden Hills, California and Little Valley Farm's Agro Star were the next to jump clean in 43.29 seconds to take the lead, before Stewart of Camarillo, California bested her time in 42.40 seconds aboard Bristol for Grey Fox Farm. Pearce of Bermuda Dunes, California and Son of a Gun finished crossed the timers in 42.31 seconds for Forest View Farm and Allison Moore.
Steinwedell-Carvin rode next and felt the pressure. "I didn't think I was going to be able to be as fast as some of those riders, but I just went as fast as I felt comfortable," she said. "We had a rub in the middle, but I heard someone scream 'go' from the sidelines and I went for it."
She and Taunus posted a time of 41.68 seconds for the win. Susan Hutchinson of Temecula, California jumped to second in the irons of SIG Zuleika, owned by SIG International, Inc. in a time of 42.20 seconds. Pearce and Son of a Gun finished third, Stewart was fourth on Bristol, and Bond Clarke landed fifth with Agro Star. Hansen and Archie bunker capped the top six.
As the off-week at HITS Thermal approaches, riders will have one more opportunity for early-circuit qualifying for the AIG Million as grand prix competition continues Sunday with the $50,000 GoRentals Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Visit HitsShows.com to view current preliminary rider standings for the AIG Million. Also highlighting the weekend in the Strongid® C 2X™ Grand Prix Stadium is the SVS Sport Horse Auction taking place today at 4pm. Visit svshorsesales.com, for more information.
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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