Rusty Stewart, who hails from Camarillo, California, has rested his longtime grand prix mount Bristol since the end of last season, but returned to competition on the highest of notes this weekend at HITS Thermal. Stewart and the homebred 16-year-old gelding were the fastest double clear effort in an 11-horse jump-off to win the $50,000 Horze Equestrian Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, in front of a packed house in the Strongid® C 2X™ Grand Prix Stadium.
An original order of 37 showed over a course set by Danny Foster of Milton, Ontario. According to Stewart, there wasn't a stride on the course where one could take a break. "The course was very technical, plenty big enough and asked a question with every turn. All-in-all it produced an exciting jump-off," said Stewart.
Despite the recent hiatus from competition, it took Bristol no time to readjust to the show ring. "He was just Bristol," said Stewart in reaction to how his horse performed. "He's getting faster every day and he loves to jump in front of a crowd – the course designer could have built anything and I would have trusted him to do his job today."
Thirteen obstacles with 18 jumping efforts presented rollback after rollback to riders, but faults were consistent throughout the course. Stewart was one of only two to jump double clear and piloted Bristol to a time of 47.96 seconds to set the Great American Time to Beat as the fourth to go in the jump-off. Just one trip later, 16-year-old Hannah Von Heidegger, a newcomer to the grand prix level, jumped her mare Geledimar to a clear round in 51.42 seconds to eventually land second.
Geledimar was the first of Von Heidegger's two jump-off rides and she left the ring wide eyed and grinning after both. "I'm still hoping for my first grand prix win, but I could not have been happier with how this day went. I was so excited just to get my first horse clean – the second one was icing on the cake," said Von Heidegger.
Anyone watching as Von Heidegger landed off the last fence would have been convinced she was the winner as she dove onto the neck of Geledimar and wrapped her arms around the mare, planting kisses in her mane. "We have been having four faults week after week and I knew this was coming soon – I could feel it" said Von Heidegger. Von Heidegger was also eighth with Axl Rose for Monarch International.
The fastest of the four-faulters in the jump-off was Susan Artes of South Pasadena, California aboard Zamiro for Alix Fargo to finish in third, while Harley Brown of Redwood City, California and Oak Park Group, LLC's Cassiato collected fourth. With one of her two rides for the day, Jenni McAllister of Sun Valley, California jumped Legis Venice to cap the top five with eight faults for owners LEGISequine.com. McAllister was also ninth aboard Here I Come, also owned by LEGISequine.com.
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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