The $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, won’t be easily forgotten. Fifty-five top horse-and-rider combinations took to Brazilian course designer Marina Azevedo’s course Sunday afternoon and 10 of the most competitive made it to one of the most exciting jump-offs yet this season, with the top four having less than a second to differentiate their time. It was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany who could not be stopped in her quest to be the best. Riding Octavia Farms’ Malou, Michaels-Beerbaum blazed to victory with two clear rounds and a jump-off time of 39.23 seconds.
The win was all the more sweet in that last week, the pair came within striking distance of blue, placing second in the $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Susan Artes of South Pasadena, California, came in second with Zamiro, owned by Alix Fargo, with a time of 39.46 seconds and Oregin’s Rich Fellers’ posted a time of 39.62 seconds on Flexible for third. Fourth-placed Ashlee Bond of Hidden Hills, California, had a time of 39.93 seconds with Cadett 7, and Saer Coulter and Don VHP Z finished fifth with no faults in a time of 45.82 seconds.
“I was pleased to have my young horse beat a fast horse like Flexible in the jump-off, it was a very big step up for her,” Michaels-Beerbaum said of Malou, the nine-year-old KWPN mare.
Malou has a long stride, “and there was a really short rollback turn and those are always hard on big-strided horses,” but the mare rose to the occasion. “I think she’s going to be a top grand prix horse. She’s very careful and learning to be fast in the jump-offs, too,” Michaels-Beerbaum said.
Rails were scattered evenly throughout the main course, with jump six – an oxer leading into a rollback to the Liverpool – and jump nine – a narrow vertical right before the triple combination – winnowing out a fair share of the first round hopefuls. The only starter who made it to the jump-off with two horses, Michaels-Beerbaum was the first in on Bella Donna, owned by Michaels-Beerbaum and EOS Sport, but the duo had two rails down and ultimately landed seventh.
Second in, Simon Nizri of Mexico, and Club Hipico La Silla’s Chela L-S also scattered rails and had one time fault, placing tenth. It was the third pair in for the jump-off, Bond and Cadett 7, that were the first to go clear, setting the Great American Time to Beat. Lane Clarke of Laguna Niguel, California, riding Granville Equine’s Casseur de Prix, went next, and also had a rail, riding to sixth.
Up next, Michaels-Beerbaum on her second ride, Malou, raised the bar for the four to follow. With Egypt’s Nayel Nassar collecting eight faults on the next ride, it looked like she might remain at the top.
Then came Artes, followed by Fellers, with two very fast trips that thrilled the audience, but left Michaels-Beerbaum’s lead intact. “The course was not super big, but it was technical enough,” said Artes. “Going toward the middle of the class I got to watch some of the horses go. Zamiro has such a big stride, I decided to leave strides out in the first and the last line, and that worked for me.” Artes has been riding the nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood since he was five and scored second in a Level 8 class earlier in the week. “We won a Level 8 last year, but this is his first grand prix win on the Desert Circuit,” Artes noted.
Heading into week VI of the Desert Circuit, the riders’ top grand prix placings are having an impact on the AIG Thermal $1 Million Preliminary Rider Standings and the big event that will cap the Desert Circuit on the last day of Week VII, March 17, is tantalizingly within sight.
Source:press release from HITS, Inc.
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