Desert Circuit 4, presented by Whittier Trust, welcomed a new winner as action kicked off Wednesday morning. Catherine Brentzel, of Irwin, PA, took the top position in the first National class of the week, the $10,000 IDA Development 1.35m Weelcome Speed, aboard Diva de Talma, a fiery chestnut mare.

“I’ve had her for about two years,” Brentzel, 20, said of “Diva”. “She’s incredible. The footspeed is unmatched and any speed class I enter with her if I do my job I know that she’ll get it done for me as well. I am riding with Uma O’Neill. I’ve been riding with her since the beginning of last summer and we’ve had a great time together.”

Catherine Brentzel and Diva de Talma. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Speed was the name of the game, as it always is on Wednesday mornings when this class takes place. Past winner of the class Savannah Jenkins came in second by a very small margin aboard Forastero 2, owned by Enrique Gonzales, while Simon Schroeder brought out a fabulous ride in Lady Gaga, owned by Hidden Ridge, taking third.

“One piece of advice I took going into the ring today, especially because it’s a speed class, was to relax and let go with my body and my hands and let Diva do her job,” Brentzel said of O’Neill’s words of wisdom as she was sent into the ring to do her thing. “I think I end up making up time because of Diva’s footspeed. I was pretty tidy around the turns but I think at the end of the day she covers the ground so quickly and that’s what helps me out the most.”

Brentzel and Diva have competed up to the CSI3* level this past summer, and there are certainly big things ahead as she’s learned how to let the mare do her thing and guarantee the best possible result.

“Diva is a speed demon and when I fight with her I never get the results I want because she knows what she needs to do and I just need to listen to her,” she explained of the mare’s tendencies. “She’s very much a chestnut mare. I had to remember to stay loose in my body.”

Catherine Brentzel in her winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Overall it was a stellar day and Brentzel was thrilled with the outcome. “She was jumping fantastic today, and I was super happy with her. She definitely helped me out with the luck side today because she’s always on her A-game. As she jumps through the competition she really sets herself back,” she explained.

Though she’s just an amateur and still just barely into her twenties, she topped a serious class of DIHP regulars, which was a thrill in and of itself. She didn’t let the quality of the class impact her, though, stepping into the ring right after speed veteran James Chawke and a few rounds behind worldwide phenom Gregory Wathelet.

“I went pretty early on and I knew it was going to be a competitive class so I made sure in all the turns I went for it as much as I could and I tried not to leave any margin for error,” she explained of her strategy, knowing the rider caliber to come. “I was almost caught; the competition was very very high.”

Vanessa Mannix Nabs Another FEI Win in CSI4* Two Phase

James Chawke (IRL) and One Edition. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wednesday was a day for the mares, and it was also a day for Vanessa Mannix. The Canadian took another Two Phase win Wednesday, making her record two for two in two-phase action so far this month. Not only was she the winner of the CSI4* Two Phase aboard Carmela Z, but her horse also won the CSI2* Two Phase with James Chawke (IRL) aboard.

In the first jumper class on the grass field of the 2023/2024 season, the blades were glorious and the footing was perfect, which carried One Edition to the win. A horse previously in the winner’s circle at a lower level, Chawke felt the mare, owned by Mannix, was ready to step into international action. He thinks very highly of her, still new to the barn, and felt confident heading into this first FEI challenge.

Chawke and One Edition ended up winning by a margin of over one second. Laura Hite (USA) and Aviator Z, owned by HF Farms, claimed second, while Alexis Sokolov (USA) and Fasole du Seigneur claimed third.

Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Carmela Z. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

As the CSI4* horses came out to the field, Mannix had the cards fall in her favor yet again, and this time she was the pilot and the owner. After coming in third to her trainer Conor Swail (IRL) last week in the CSI3* Grand Prix, Mannix topped the Irishman, riding Carmela Z to victory. Swail and Vital Chance de la Roque, a pair who won last season’s final CSI4* Grand Prix, took second place, while Mannix also rounded out third with a newer ride, Lehar.

Show jumping continues Thursday with the $32,000 Balmoral Farm CSI2* 1.45m and $32,000 100X Equine CSI4* 1.50m on the grass, plus the $15,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic in the Grand Prix Arena.