March 2, 2016 – Desert Circuit V at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California, concluded with Sunday’s $50,000 Grand Prix sponsored by OSPHOS. Thirty-Six elite competitors battled it out for the chance to wear the long blue ribbon in the victory gallop and a share of the $50,000 purse.
Anderson Lima, of Brazil, designed a demanding 16-effort course. Only six would jump the course fault-free to progress to the jump-off and compete for the OSPHOS cooler, the blue ribbon, and the winner’s share of the prize money.
First to return for the jump-off was Chacna owed and ridden by Mexico native, Enrique Gonzalez. With the shortened jump-off course of 9 jumping efforts, Gonzalez knew he had to take full advantage of quick ground-saving turns to contend in the competitive jump-off field. Gonzalez and Chacna laid down a well-executed round, but an unfortunate rail at the first fence earned them four faults as they crossed the timers in 49.551 seconds and an eventual fifth-place finish.
Susan Hutchison, of Temecula, California, riding Brisbane, owned by Barbara Phillips, returned to the jump-off next. Hutchison galloped to the first fence with her eye on the win. As Brisbane galloped to the last fence, it looked like the lead would be theirs, but a heartbreaking rail resulted in a four-fault round in a time of 50.188 and the eventual sixth-place finish.
Waiting at the in-gate for his turn to compete for the $50,000 purse was Chris Pratt riding Edesas Basantos owed by Edesa Horse Promotions Inc. A tight roll-back turn to the second to last jump gave them the time advantage as they raced through the finish markers fault-free in a time of 47.656 seconds and took over the lead temporarily.
Next up was Kristin Hardin aboard Firestone owned by Nicole Teague. Hardin and Firestone were ready to claim the first-place prize after placing second in Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix. The pair laid down a beautiful clear round, but took the safe route, ultimately taking the fourth-place prize in a time of 51.545 seconds.
With only two clear in the jump-off so far, John Anderson of Calgary, Alberta was up for the challenge riding his own Terrific. Anderson galloped the length of the arena, trying to beat Pratt’s fast time, but finished with a time of 48.812 to take home the third-place prize.
Last, but certainly not least was Rich Fellers, riding the one and only Flexible owed by Harry and Mollie Chapman. Coming off their win in Friday’s SmartPak Grand Prix, Fellers felt confident in Flexible’s ability to win the $50,000 OSPHOS Grand Prix. They raced through the jump-off with ease, taking a fast roll-back turn to the large peacock oxer Shaving three whole seconds off Pratt’s time, racing through the timers in 44.805 seconds for the win.
Pleased with his horse’s effort, Fellers said, “Flexible felt great. This was a test to see if he was ready for Sweden for the FEI World Cup Finals, and he proved himself yet again with today’s win. I could not be more happy with him.”