|© Flying Horse Photography.|
Mark Watring and Green Sleeps Vioco capture the $50,000 Purina Mills CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Thermal.
Last night’s triumph by Watring continued an impressive streak by the men competing at HITS Thermal as each Grand Prix has been won by a male Grand Prix rider thus far. The talented horse-and-rider combination was the top team out of the 31 starters to challenge International Course Designer Marina Azevedo’s (Sao Paulo, Brazil) first-round course and the four that advanced to the jump-off.
“He is a new horse for me,,” said Watring, of his horse. “We have been a great team so far. We are going to the Pan Am Games together and hopefully to the next Olympics in London.”
It took ten trips before the first round would produce a clear effort. Susan Hutchison (Temecula, California) broke the string when she made it all the way home without dropping any rails riding El Dorado 29’s Cantano. And for a time, it seemed like the enthusiastic crowd that watched the class, including the sold out Charles Owen VIP Club, would not get to see a jump-off. Watring (Thousand Oaks, California) and Green Sleeps Vioco quickly changed that outlook when they jumped clear in the 19th spot of the first round, bringing the crowd to its feet.
At the end of the first round, four horse-and-rider combinations would shoot it out for the blue ribbon and a first-place check for $15,000. “I thought four horses in the jump-off was a perfect number,” said Azevedo. “The course was challenging. I had some spots in there that needed to be ridden very steady and other places where the rider really needed to go for it.”
The jump-off featured two American riders, a Canadian and one from Puerto Rico giving the horse race over fences an International taste. First to go was Hutchison and Cantano 29 and they had a rail down in 36.38 seconds and finished the class in third place.
Watring was the next rider to attempt to go clean but failed to navigate the track successfully, crossing the timers with four faults in 35.32 seconds. Canada’s Michelle Vandal (Sanichton, British Columbia, Canada) and Divine Diva carefully tackled the course next, knowing a clear round would assure them no worse than a red ribbon. The talented team was clear heading to the last jump but dropped a rail in 40.77 seconds to eventually place fourth.
Rich Fellers and Harry and Mollie Chapman’s Flexible entered the ring in the last-to-ride spot as the clear-cut favorites to secure the blue ribbon. The pair already has three Grand Prix wins in their pocket this circuit, including a victory in Thursday’s $31,000 Strongid C 2X Welcome Classic, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, and are sitting in third place in the U.S. West Coast League’s Standings for the FEI World Cup. It looked like lighting would strike one more time as they had the time but pulled the very last rail in a time of 35.68 seconds to finish in second place.
With his victory, Watring earned some valuable points in the race for the Platinum Performance Leading World Cup Rider Award. The top rider in the combined four FEI World Cup Qualifiers at HITS Thermal will receive a one-year supply of product, courtesy of Platinum Performance.
Action for the High-Performance riders at HITS Thermal continues today with the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, to cap off Desert Circuit IV as Grand Prix riders continue to shoot it out for a spot in the second-annual Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix that will take place at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York on Sunday September 11.
"I would love to be there if I qualify," added Watring. "I think I have the perfect horse for it."