By Brenda Mueller
THERMAL, Calif. – March 21, 2021 – The Desert International Horse Park celebrated the end of the eight week Desert Circuit with a grand finale of the $250,000 FEI Grand Prix CSI4* 1.55m, drawing top grand prix riders for the event. It was Nicky Galligan (IRL) and Javas Miss Jordan, who’s luck of the Irish galloped them into the final victory of the circuit.
Thirty-two horse and rider combinations took a swing at the Marina Azevedo (BRA) designed track for a chance at a big payday. Richard Spooner aboard Quirado RC, was the first to go clean going eleventh in the order. Galligan went right after Spooner, laying down another clear round. The remainder of the class tried their best, leaving Spooner and Galligan with the only two clear rounds to head to the jump off.
Spooner returned first setting the pace with a tight track and clear round with a time of 45.70.
“With a top rider and a quick horse like that behind you, you just try to go out and stay in the yellow, don’t get into the red, and put a little pressure on him and hope that maybe he’ll make a mistake,” said Spooner about going first in the jump off.
Galligan put the pedal to the metal, stopping the clock at 41.15 with a fault free round for the win. For his victory, Galligan received a six month lease on an Stephex Van.
“I was thinking, have fun today, [it’s a] two horse jump off,” explained Galligan. “I have a friend that always says to me, I want to be proud of you and I want to see you win trying to win rather than to lose trying to win. So when you have that chance, you just go for it. Richard [Spooner] had an amazing track in front of me, his line was so tight on his track, but mine is quick across the ground, so once I could keep the rhythm and keep going, I trusted her to be quick enough.”
Nine four-faulters tried to be the fastest of the group with Olympian Will Simpson and Chacco P showing how it’s done, claiming third place as the fastest four faulter.
“I’m so glad I wasn’t in the jump off,” laughed Simpson. “I was third anyway! It was an honor to be here with this caliber of riders, the quality of the course was incredible, the feel, the footing, the whole atmosphere of the place has been phenomenal the whole eight weeks. My horse has just gotten better and better every week and that’s a testimony to the place and the management and I’d like to congratulate them on doing a great job.”
“This overall has been my first season to come to the West Coast and my first taste of showing out here. I have to say, fellow competitors, horse park staff, everybody from the ground up, it’s been absolutely a pleasure to be here. I’ve made some incredible friends, the human connection is incredible, but I have to say the management is second to none for trying to put the horses first and always improve themselves, the rings, the footings, the innovations like the hacking track around the whole facility so the horses don’t get ring sour, things like that really mean a lot to me and I’m really grateful that they are putting that thought into it,” said Galligan.
“I think that management has just done a fantastic job of stepping up the game out here and to have all these FEI competitions means a lot to us, starting out the year with difficult competition like that again, as Nicky [Galligan] stated, the footing is phenomenal and it’s the little things. We’re lucky to have footing of that caliber and space of that caliber so my hat’s off to management, thank you for everything,” added Spooner.
“There’s been so many fun things to do here at the horse park, and through all of this pandemic we’re going through, they’ve done an amazing job of keeping it under control while having a little bit of entertainment. I can hardly wait until next year when everything is up and going and people are really going to be able to come out here, enjoy themselves, and see some world class showjumping,” explained Simpson.
Steve Hankin, President and CEO of the Desert International Horse Park explained, “When the owners came together a couple years ago to buy the place, our goal was simply to build the sport and I think from our standpoint, we couldn’t be more excited about the progress we’ve made the past two years. The high performance jumping program was a real goal of ours, to help rebuild it on the West Coast. It’s really exciting to have two veterans here who have given us some confidence and been incredibly patient with us as we figure this out. I think for newcomers to be running a park of this size and for these guys to all have confidence in us has been really tremendous and it inspires us as owners. We go to work tonight to start on some big changes and we’re excited to have everyone back in the fall.”
The Desert International Horse Park is excited to begin new improvements during the off season with an exciting lineup of Major League Showjumping and CSI2*-CSI5* events next season. We’ll #seeyouinthedesert this fall for more exciting competition.
Keep up to date with the news by visiting Deserthorsepark.com.