In a thrilling a contest that came down to the final seconds of the jump-off, the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer ANimal Health, brought the first week of competition at HITS Desert Horse Park to a heart-pounding conclusion as Encinitas, California rider Mandy Porter on My Equine Ventures’ Con Capilot snatched victory from Mexico’s Enrique Gonzales on his own Quilebo Du Tillard.
Gonzales sat comfortably in first, but in a dramatic turn of events, Porter advanced to first. She was next-to-last in the ring among 32 starters and last to go in a jump-off that saw 12 advance fault-free past round one of Canadian designer Danny Foster’s course of 13 jumping efforts that included lots of tight turns and combinations.
First up in the jump-off was Gonzalez riding Criptonite, laying down an early Great American time to beat of 41.22 seconds. The next two – Helen McNaught of San Ramon, California and her own Caballo, and Tammie Phillips of Stratmore, Alberta and her own Lerche 37 – both upped the ante until Gonzalez returned with a redeeming ride on Quilebo Du Tillard. They ended in second in a time of 40.64 seconds. Only Canadian rider John Pearce of Bermuda Dunes, California and Forest View Farms’ Chianto were faster, at a blazing 39.68 seconds, but a rail put them out of contention. There would be no clear riders under 42 seconds for the remaining rounds until Porter and the Plum Creek Hollow stallion shaved .3 seconds off Gonzalez’s time.
“They went really fast in the jump-off, I felt, and I have to admit, I was really nervous because I haven’t done many big tracks for speed recently,” said Porter. “I was developing this horse, so while I’d go fast, I rated it to what I thought the horse was ready for. Today, I felt he was ready.”
Porter has ridden Con Capilot for Plum Valley’s Barbara Gooding since he was seven. The horse took its eighth year off due to injury. “But he matured that year too. He just turned 10 and he is really coming into his own. He is super careful, so I know I can push him to be quick. Every time I challenge him he tries really hard to answer the question and answer correctly,” said Porter. She admitted that the mantra she played in her head through the jump off round was, “Be like Rich Fellers! Be like Rich Fellers! Just keep galloping!”
For his part, Gonzalez said he does not plan to campaign the nine-year-old Selle Francais for World Cup Points but instead hopes to make the 2014 World Equestrian Games team. “I think this is going to be a very important grand prix horse, and I don’t want to rush.”
The $50,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, was the second opportunity Desert Circuit I participants had to qualify for the AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini Newport Beach. There are 13 additional qualifiers during Desert Circuit weeks II-VI. A Wildcard Grand Prix during week VII presents the only possible way to earn a spot without qualifying, when the AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix takes place March 17. Riders need to compete in a grand prix at no less than four shows during Desert Circuit weeks I-VI to be eligible for that mega class.
Source: Press release from HITS
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