A week of thrilling show jumping competition culminating in the $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, brought HITS Desert Circuit III to wrap Sunday, concluding the first half of the 2013 winter circuit.
The grace note grand prix of Desert Circuit III was a show closer, with a tight contest that had spectators on the edge of their seats as 52 battled it out for the blue. Testing their skill over another scopey, technical course by Mexico's Florencio Hernandez, five made it to the jump-off, but it was Del Mar's Josephina Nor-Lantzman, riding her own Chello Z that took the top prize.
The 12-obstacle round one course was as much a test of mental concentration as physical agility and stamina, with some very technical questions. There were 15 jumping efforts, including three doubles and two very tight turns, with a tough line from an oxer at 10 to an oxer-vertical in-and-out at 11 a-b.
Nor-Lantzman was the only one to deliver double clear rounds. "During round one, when they first adjusted the time allowed, I thought it was too generous," said Nor-Lantzman of the adjustment from 84 to 91 seconds. "I expected there to be 10 or 12 clear, but there were only five."
It was the twenty-third entry in the ring, Stanford, California's Saer Coulter on her own stallion Don VHP Z, that produced the first clear round. That performance was matched four tries later by Eduardo Menezes of Carlsbad, California, and his own Tomba Mercedes Benz. Menezes and Tomba would ultimately drive into second and Coulter third, each with a rail in the jump-off.
Canadian rider John Pearce was the next to go clear, riding Forest View Farm's Chianto. Then came Nor-Lantzman's ride as the fourth clear. The second to last on the field, Liz Ashton of Victoria, British Columbia, and her own Serafina also went clean, making it five for the jump-off.
As the second to last to go in the jump off, Nor-Lantzman saw the three before her spill rails, and had the luxury of knowing that speed would be less of an issue than precision. "I took my time and ultimately went for the clean round. It was a definite advantage going late in the jump-off," she said.
When Ashton and Serafina dropped a pole, Nor-Lantzman's win was secured, with Ashton fourth and Pearce fifth.
"It was a very good course – technical and challenging enough, without being too much," said Nor-Lantzman, who will be taking the next few weeks off for some trail riding and relaxation, she said. With plans to return for Desert Circuit VI and VII, she hopes to compete with Chello Z in the AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, for which this class was a qualifier.
"We might come back for week V. We'll see how we feel. We absolutely want to qualify for the AIG Million, and have been moving up the rankings. Hopefully this will move us up a bit," said Nor-Lantzman.
For his part, Menezes, who has had a great first half of the Desert Circuit, also winning the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix presented by Zoetis, during week I, aboard his Caruschka, said it was a great competition. "This was Florencio's best course of the week. It was very physically challenging. It offered plenty of options with the turns, and really made you think."
Now riders, trainers, owners and show attendees get to relax with a week off before heading back for more of the West Coast's best hunter-jumper action, beginning February 19 with Desert Circuit IV. The excitement continues through Desert Circuit VII, which culminates with the AIG Thermal Million March 17 in a weekend build-up that heats up with the $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge March 16.
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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