By Sydney Lowe
THERMAL, Calif. – February 28, 2021 – Top show jumping competition concluded Week V of Desert Circuit with the FEI $137,000 1.55m CSI3*, sponsored by Kubota. Riders hailing from nine nations challenged course designer Bernardo Cabral’s (POR) stout 1.55m course set in the picturesque Grand Prix Stadium. After a nail biting jump-off, Luis Sabino Gonçalves (POR) and Argan de Beliard (Mylord Carthago*HN x La Belle Normande) emerged victorious, taking home the blue ribbon.
Thirty-three riders contested the initial thirteen obstacle course. Featuring a triple combination, a triple bar oxer, and long bending lines Cabral’s preliminary course put today’s riders to the test. Fourth in the order of go, Tali de Jong (USA) aboard her own Vaillant de Belle Vue (Calin du Plessis x Foxane de Landronne) was the first to go clear and directly after Richard Spooner (USA) and Quirado RC (Quinar x Ursula) kept the course in tact giving way to a jump-off round. With Sabino Gonçalves adding his name to the roster of jump-off contenders, three more joined throughout the class; Michelle Parker (USA), Ben Asselin (CAN), and Lindsay Archer (USA) produced clear rounds advancing them onto the jump-off.
The six returning athletes tried their hand at the shortened, seven obstacle course. Riders were required to navigate with efficiency and accuracy, all while attempting to shave off precious seconds between fences. De Jong was the first to return and set the Roeckl Gloves Time to Beat at 40.63 seconds. Spooner stopped the clock at 38.15 seconds, stealing the first place position. After a big gallop to the final oxer, Sabino Gonçalves rang in a jump-off time of 37.32 seconds, taking over first.
Try as they might, but the final three riders following Sabino Gonçalves couldn’t beat his speedy time. Parker posted a fault free jump-off with her mount Easy Does It (Eurocommerce Dubai x Aida), a twelve year old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Cross Creek Farms Inc, with a time of 37.46 seconds, and claimed the second place title. Spooner and his twelve-year-old Holsteiner gelding, owned by Show Jumping Syndications LLC, clinched the third and final podium position for their efforts.
The Portaguese native took home the blue ribbon with his mount Argan de Beliard, an eleven-year-old Selle Francais gelding, owned by Equivarandas II, LDA. After purchasing him a little over a year ago, Sabino Gonçalves was confident his mount could leave a stride to the final fence in an effort to best Spooner.
“It was good to see Richard Spooner before me because he’s a very fast rider and a very experienced rider. He did a super jump-off, but I saw I could beat him to the last jump because he got ten strides. I thought I could go inside and get one less stride,” articulated Sabino Goncalves.
Normally Sabino Gonçalves spends his time in UAE but due to their limited 2* and 3* events, he made the leap to head to California for the first time. “The last three years I’ve flown to the UAE. For Portuguese riders are not used to flying like that; it’s expensive. This year at UAE, they have [FEI] 2*s and one or two 3*s. I sort of decided it wasn’t for the best. I have a really good friend here, Bruno Diniz Das Neves. He spent all last year pushing me ‘You should come, you should come!’. I got the courage to come and I’m very happy,” narrated Sabino Gonçalves. “I love to be here; the facilities are really good. I love the ground [footing] because you cannot hear the horses. It’s like cotton. The atmosphere, the mountains, the desert… it’s all wonderful! And the people; also very kind.”