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Gregory Wathelet and Berline Du Maillet Z bring it home in $145,100 CSI4* 1.50m Welcome Prix

Saturday, 18 February 2023
CSI4* Desert International Horse Park 2023

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo Gregory Wathelet and Berline Du Maillet Z. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.


Press release from Desert International Horse Park



Gregory Wathelet (BEL) proved his dominance of the desert once again Friday of Desert Circuit VI, claiming another victory, this time in the $145,100 Pomponio Ranch CSI4* 1.50m Welcome Prix. With Berline Du Maillet Z, his first of two mounts to jump clear over Alan Wade’s (IRL) track, he sped to the win against perhaps the toughest jump-off field yet during Desert Circuit.

The competition wasn’t light, as 15 pairs jumped clear out of 43 international starters. Going early in the jump-off with Berline Du Maillet Z, a 12-year-old Zangersheide mare (Berlin x Action-Breaker), Wathelet left nothing to chance, securing a double-clear effort of 36.34 seconds.

“It was a good jump-off,” Wathelet reflected. “It was big, with many clears, and maybe the time allowed was a bit too easy. But it was not an easy class. With 15 riders we knew it was going to be fast.”

He had faith in his partner, however. “That mare is very fast,” he continued. “I saw Conor’s jump-off but I knew I could take him because [I did] the same amount of strides. I can push with my mare and go a bit faster. I took a big risk one to two. I chose the eight [strides] down the last line. I could have done the seven but I chose to play it safe.”

Conor Swail (IRL) had the lead at the time with Theo 160, and ended up second, with a time of 38.80 seconds. Tiffany Foster (CAN) came in blazing as the very last to go, just missing Swail’s time by three one-hundredths of a second, taking third with Brighton, owned by Artisan Farms, LLC.

The week of CSI4* action in Thermal has brought big North American names to the desert, including Kent Farrington (USA), Foster, and Erynn Ballard (CAN), among others who have been on the roster in weeks prior.

When asked if he had changed his preparation in anticipation of steeper competition, Wathelet coolly responded, “Not really. I’m used to it in Europe, where we compete every week at this level. The horses have gone well here, so I won’t change anything.”

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo Gregory Wathelet and Berline Du Maillet Z in their winning presentation. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.

His mare’s development through the California circuit has worked perfectly to plan, peaking just in time for this specific class he aimed her at. His top pick for Sunday’s CSI4* Grand Prix is Clarity, but could potentially jump Berline Du Maillet Z as well.

This class marks the first FEI class under the lights during Desert Circuit, and the first since the CSI5* Grand Prix in December. The atmosphere bodes well for Wathelet and his mounts. “For these late classes, there are crowds and a good atmosphere. It’s really good for us to ride. It’s nice to have people around, and it gives a good idea of the sport for people who come to watch. It can be a good time,” he shared.

Part of Wathelet’s jump-off strategy, and general strategy when starting his courses, is to pick up the canter and build the rhythm far enough away from fence one, sometimes gathering momentum from the other side of the Grand Prix Arena. “I’m the kind of rider who likes to ride with rhythm,” he explained. “The first round I always put them a bit forward, not pulling or waiting. After that I slow down.

“When it’s a jump-off, I start from far away to get the rhythm because I find that, depending on the horse, if you start too late they get a bit confused. If I start 50 meters before they’re awake and you can start with the rhythm and keep it,” he said.

Show jumping continues Saturday with the $38,700 Pomponio Ranch CSI4* 1.45m Classic and the $50,000 Whittier Trust National Grand Prix.

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