Thermal, CA (November 8, 2016): Riders and horses returned to the desert gem that is HITS Desert Horse Park for the first week of National Sunshine Series in Thermal, California. The Sunshine Series kicked off with supreme weather, top-notch competition and a plethora of property upgrades for exhibitors to enjoy.
$50,000 Sunshine Series Grand Prix
Eric Navet rode away with the win in the grand finale of Week I on Sunday aboard Catypso, owned by Signe Ostby.
“The course was very nice, Alan Wade is one of the best course designers in the world in my opinion,” said Navet. “The Grand Prix ring footing felt better, and it felt good in the schooling area, too. I am very proud of [Catypso]. I wanted to save him for the FEI week, so the horse only jumped once last week—it means a lot to me that this horse can only do the Grand Prix and do well.”
“I am pleased to hear that Eric feels that the Grand Prix Ring and schooling areas are improved. We changed that ground as well as other rings here in Thermal just last month,” said HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri. “HITS is constantly trying to improve our product at all of our facilities. I also agree that Alan is one of the finest course designers in the world, and he has become a regular fixture on the Desert Circuit tour”.
Navet squared off with Kevin Babington, who won the SmartPak Grand Prix and Johnson Horse Transportation Open Welcome last week, in a two-horse jump-off. With Navet scoring the only clear jump-off round, Babington would take home second with Mark Q.
Third place was Mavis Spencer riding Disco Lady, owned by Neil Jones Equestrian, Inc. Spencer nearly qualified for the jump-off, keeping all of the rails up, but two time faults kept them out of the second round as they crossed the finish.
Many riders in Sunday’s Grand Prix are returning veterans of showing at HITS Desert Horse Park, and the new location of the in-gate was a popular improvement.
“The new-in gate location is much safer, it keeps the horses and crowd separated when the crowd is moving to the stands to watch,” said Navet. “It is also very nice angle for everyone in the VIP to watch, too.”
1 Catypso Signe Ostby Eric Navet $15,000 0 0 39.731
2 Mark Q Kevin Babington Kevin Babington $11,000 0 4 38.574
3 Disco Lady Neil Jones Equestrian Inc Mavis Spencer $6,500 2 – –
4 Ramdam De Dry Mauricio Restrepo Linda Rojas $4,000 2 – –
5 Taxo de la Nutria Blue Tree Farms, LLC. Amy Hess $3,000 3 – –
6 Cornetiero Mavis Spencer Mavis Spencer $2,500 4 – –
7 Coolio Guido Klatte Sr Guido Klatte Jr $2,000 4 – –
8 Cafino Z Mauricio Restrepo Linda Rojas $1,500 4 – –
9 NKH Quanto NKH, LLC Christian Heineking $1,500 4 – –
10 Shorapur Shorapur LLC Kevin Babington $1,000 4 – –
11 Firestone S Nicolette Hirt Kristin Hardin $1,000 4 – –
12 Alamo October Hill Hunters and Jumpers Erin Davis-Heineking $1,000 4 – –
$5,000 Johnson Horse Transportation Grand Prix
Kevin Babington and Double O Seven 7 on their way to a $5,000 Johnson Horse Transportation Open Welcome win
The first feature class of the week was the Johnson Horse Transportation Open Welcome. The winner was Kevin Babington piloting Double O Seven 7. California equestrian, Kristin Hardin was second with Bert, and Christian Heineking was third with NKH Diazella, owned by NKH, LLC.
Babington was thrilled with his win aboard the striking grey gelding, saying he had high-hopes for the horse and was happy with his performance. Babington also gave praise to the grounds and the improvements.
“This is my first time out to this facility, I came out to the old facility for the winter circuit in ’95,” said Babington. “But as my first time in Thermal, I was very impressed. The weather is beautiful—there’s really not much you couldn’t like about it here.”
Wade’s course allowed three to advance to the immediate jump-off, where Babington would prevail with a fault-free round in 30.773. Hardin trailed Babington with another clear round, but just a hair slower in 31.168. Heineking garnered third with a speedy trip in 30.770, but eight faults kept him from topping the leaderboard.
Babington is looking forward to showing at HITS Desert Horse Park for the rest of the series, marking the Olympic equestrian’s first experience with HITS in the desert at the Thermal facility.
“We’re really happy to be here and to show here for the next few weeks,” said Babington. “Our stabling has been excellent, and the stalls were matted when we got here, so my groom was really happy about that! It’s lovely, we’re very glad to be here for the experience.”
1 Double O Seven 7 Kevin Babington Kevin Babington $1,500 0 0 30.773
2 Bert Kristin Hardin Kristin Hardin $1,000 0 0 31.168
3 NKH Diazella NKH, LLC Christian Heineking $700 0 8 30.770
4 For Fun Russell Morgan Russell Morgan $500 4 – –
5 VEX Cassandra Heineking Show Stables Christian Heineking $400 4 – –
6 Firestone S Nicolette Hirt Kristin Hardin $325 4 – –
7 Cloud Nine II Zeitgeist Equestrian Phoebe Lang $300 4 – –
8 Taxo de la Nutria Blue Tree Farms, LLC Amy Bissell Hess $275 4 – –
9 Ircos Everardo A Hedgewisch Everardo A Hegewisch – 8 – –
10 Aran Pamela Levin Kristin Hardin – 12 – –
11 NKH Calango NKH LLC Christian Heineking – 20 – –
$25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix
Kevin Babington and Shorapur on their way to a $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix win
After taking home the first-ever Johnson Horse Transportation Open Welcome victory earlier in the week, Kevin Babington returned to the Grand Prix to claim another win among a field of forty-six. This time, the blue came aboard Shorapur, owned by Shorapur, LLC.
“The footing in the Grand Prix ring was very nice, as well as the schooling area,” said Babington earlier in the week. “As riders, it’s important that we are not always jumping our horses on hard ground, the footing had a lot of cushion and is probably the best footing I’ve jumped on all year.”
Second place was Mavis Spencer riding Cornetiero and third place was Christian Heineking and NKH Calango, owned by NKH, LLC.
Eight advanced to the jump-off to contest the shortened course where five would go clear. Babington had the quickest time in 40.108. Spencer finished closely on his tail with a fault-free trip in 40.691. Heineking crossed the markers in just fractions of a second behind Spencer in 40.783.
1 Shorapur Shorapur, LLC Kevin Babington $7,500 0 0 40.108
2 Cornetiero Mavis Spencer Mavis Spencer $5,500 0 0 40.691
3 NKH Calango NKH, LLC Christian Heineking $3,250 0 0 40.783
4 Qinghai Guido Klatte Sr Guido klatte Jr $2,000 0 0 41.286
5 Basimodo Signe Ostby Eric Navet $1,500 0 0 41.323
6 Rallie Des Eoiles San Gabriel Mauricio Ortega Mauricio Ortega $1,250 0 4 46.317
7 Fast Flo Nicole Peterson Nicole Peterson $1,000 0 8 48.955
8 VEX Cassandra Heineking Show Stables Christian Heineking $750 0 / ELIM
9 Curtis 57 Alexandra Ozymy Brittany Albrecq $750 2 – –
10 Casseur De Prix Rebecca Reyes Hugh Mutch $500 2 – –
11 Topaze Blue Blue Tree Farms LLC Amy Hess $500 4 – –
12 McLord’s Othelo Mickey Hayden Kyle King $500 4 – –