Michelle Spadone seems to have some great chemistry with Alejandro Rodal’s Uitteraard. After just seven shows together, the pair won their first Grand Prix as a team in Saturday’s $53,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix CSI2*-W, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, before a sold-out crowd in the indoor arena at the HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California. Just two weeks ago during Desert Circuit III, Spadone and Uitteraard finished ninth in the $53,000 HITS Grand Prix CSI2*W, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
Canadian Course Designer Danny Foster set an exciting 1.60 meter course with lots of twists and turns. Riders faced an early combination (3a-b) at the third fence, a liverpool that caught some by surprise mid-way through the course and a triple (12a-b-c) on the last line towards the finish.
After sitting out of Thursday’s $32,000 HITS Desert Classic due to illness, Great Britain’s Helen McNaught and her own Caballo were the first on course and laid down a clean ride immediately to the delight of the of the massive, standing-room-only crowd that packed the indoor arena. Three trips later, Oregon’s Rich Fellers and Harry & Mollie Chapman’s Flexible dropped the very first rail on course to keep them from joining McNaught in the jump-off. Two trips later, Thursday’s winners New Zealand’s Duncan McFarlane and Simone Coxe’s Mr. Whoopy seemed to be on their way to the second round, but had a fault at the liverpool which kept them out of the running.
Stefanie Saperstein of Los Angeles, California and El Sueno De Amistad’s El Sueno’s Quanto VL were eighth to go and managed to leave all the fences up to join McNaught in the second round. Spadone and Uitteraard were the next team to advance to the jump-off with just five pairs left to show. The next four riders failed to go clean, with the majority of them earning faults at the liverpool. Just when it seemed that it was going to be an all-female jump-off, Karl Cook of Woodside, California entered the ring on his second ride of the night. Earlier in the round he and Signe Ostby’s Uno de Laubry had two rails down on the course, one mid-way through at the number six fence and another on the first fence of the final triple combination. On his second attempt, this time aboard Signe Ostby’s Jonkheer Z, Cook left all the fences up and made it an even four for the jump-off.
Foster’s shortened course featured eight efforts, including a new fence at the start of the route, the a-b elements of the triple and just 48 seconds on the clock. McNaught, now of San Ramon, California, and Caballo were first to go and went flying through the course at a lightning-fast pace; however, disappointment came when the very last fence came down just feet before the finish. At the end of the class, their time of 39.99 seconds was by far the fastest but with four faults they had to settle for a second-place finish.
Despite having the rail down, McNaught was pleased with her performance. “We were first to come back in the jump-off and I really wanted to go fast to put the pressure on. We had a rail down but were still quick enough to make the others think about going fast," she said. "I am delighted with our second-place finish. Duncan [McFarlane] and I have put up tremendous results at HITS so far this year. We are just delighted to be here. Whether it’s showing inside or outside, the classes for Grand Prix riders have been just superb.” Saperstein followed McNaught in the jump-off and took a different approach, but her plan didn’t work. With a jumping fault at fence number 14 and seven time faults, she and El Sueno’s Quanto VL finished fourth with 11 faults in 54.55 seconds.
Spadone and Uitteraard were third to go in the jump-off and managed to leave all the fences up in 48.86 seconds to finish with just one time fault, which left the door open for Cook to go for the blue. Unfortunately for Cook, instead of stealing the lead away from Spadone, he and Jonkheer Z finished with eight jumping faults in 42.99 seconds for a third-place finish. Cook also finished seventh aboard Uno de Laubry. After the class Spadone reflected on the win with pride. “It’s only our seventh horse show together. He is only 11-years-old and this is his second season competing in the Grand Prix," she said. "I am thankful for the entire team that helps with the care of this horse. We have a special horse on our hands and I can’t wait until he reaches his full potential.” Rounding out the top five in the class were Francie Steinwedell-Carvin of La Canada, California and Prentiss Partners’ Taunus, who were the fastest of the four-fault rides from the first round. Fellers and McFarlane finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
Source: Press release from HitsShows.com.
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