The weekly $10,000 1.35m Welcome Speed attracts riders of all levels every time it runs, and several riders have had their names at the top of the results list more than others. Perhaps the two winningest riders in the class since Desert Circuit began each took home wins in the class to open Desert Circuit 5, presented by IDA Development and Barnwalkers.

To start the day, the first half of the $10,000 IDA Development 1.35m Welcome Speed took to the grass field and James Chawke very convincingly took the win. Aboard a horse that’s still brand new to him, Daido Van’t Ruytershof Z, he beat the rest of the field by a margin of about six seconds, which was a hefty margin even for a speed rider of his caliber.

James Chawke and Daido Van’t Ruytershof Z. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“She was supposed to go third in the order, but we had to send her to the farrier,” Chawke said of his change-up in the order with his first of two rides in the first half of the class. “The course was very open, you could just run along. It was a little opposite from last week when it was all connected. There were big gaps between the jumps so it was footspeed, and she’s very quick.”

They came in at a blazing-fast time of 57.314 seconds, which was quite a bit ahead of second-place finisher Georgina Harvey with Crystal Clear North Star, who finished in 63.268 seconds. Kassidy Keith and Havana were just barely behind for third.

“I tried her at the end of November and got her here at the beginning of January,” Chawke said of the 10-year-old Zangersheide mare (Dieu Merci Van T&L x Bamako de Muze). “Last week was the first week we showed her. I really like her. She’s very fast, very careful. She’s jumped some 1.45m so she’s jumped a bit bigger, so hopefully I can start moving her up a little bit.”

James Chawke and Daido Van’t Ruytershof Z, pictured with Fabian Coulon of IDA Development. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Initially, Chawke didn’t envision himself on the horse, but he liked her so much he made it happen so he could build a partnership with her.

“I actually didn’t try her for myself, I tried her for a client,” he explained. “I liked her but we weren’t convinced she was the horse for the client. After I left I thought about it and decided she was a useful horse for me. She obviously is going to be a bit of a winner, so I went back and bought her with a friend of mine. Ideally I’d love to see if she could jump ranking classes, maybe jog her the last week [of Circuit].”

As for the change of scenery onto the field, it’s something Daido Van’t Ruytershof Z didn’t blink an eye at. “It’s lovely to jump on grass,” Chawke said. “I’m sure it’s nice for the horses as well to get a break. I looked up a lot of her videos and she’s jumped a lot on grass. I figured she would be fine out there.”

Benefiting the most from the split class on Wednesday morning was Savannah Jenkins, who scored another win with the incredibly fast Kainville VDS, a horse owned by Proper 12 LLC.

Savannah Jenkins and Kainville VDS. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“She is super brave and I was really excited she got to jump on the grass because any change of scenery is great for her because the scarier the spookier the better,” Jenkins said of her outing onto the field with the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Sainville x Numero Uno). “She’s mega brave; she’ll jump anything.”

The horse felt more comfortable as she went, which led Jenkins to increase the speed as the course went on. “This is my first time jumping her on grass but I’m sure in Europe she’s jumped on grass before,” she remarked. “The first few jumps I could feel her feeling out the footing, but when I hit jump five, I felt I could really go. But she’s really fast so I don’t have to push her.”

Similarly to Chawke’s ride, Kainville VDS goes best off a gallop, and this course, designed by Peter Holmes, invited precisely that ride.

“For her, turning is not a strong suit, galloping is,” Jenkins continued. “It was super open and there weren’t a lot of short turns, it was just a lot of long gallops. I think I walked three lines, everything else I rode off my eye. For us it really suited her because I can let her go a little bit and she’s hard to beat if I’m right on the day.”

Savannah Jenkins and Kainville VDS in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Jenkins’ time of 60.504 seconds would’ve put her second to Chawke had the class run all together, but was the second-fastest time of the day. Michelle Bion took second place with Madges Lane Gem, owned by Baie Investments, while Sean Leckie claimed third aboard Calypso de Blondel, owned by Ilan Ferder

While most horses may trot out and get a few light rides later in the week, Kainville VDS gets more of the “spa” approach to relaxation, and Jenkins believes it’s working so she doesn’t plan to change anything about the horse’s routine.

“She has a different program; I don’t ride her very much,” she explained. “She does a lot of turnout. She went into the spa directly after this and she goes in the turnout for the rest of the day. Then I won’t ride her again until she goes next. She longes a little bit and gets massages. She’s definitely on her own schedule.”

Just past the halfway point in the circuit, Jenkins is relieved to have a quiet week, with just a few horses of her own showing.

“This week I don’t have too many clients showing so it’s nice to take a breather,” she said. “It will be a lot of turnout for the horses. We’ve hit the halfway mark so it’s awesome for the hoses to reset out here on the grass. It’s super nice to wake up and focus on myself and my horses and let the other horses have a lovely week on the track and turnouts.”

Ali Ramsay Rides to Two-Phase Victory

Ali Ramsay (CAN) and Godfather B Belesbat. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Ali Ramsay (CAN) recently took over the reins for her client aboard Godfather B Belesbat, a horse owned by Britt Scheifele, and she’s already winning with the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Numero Uno x Damiro B HN). They took a CSI3* Speed win just a few weeks ago, and they came back strong to start Desert Circuit 6 win a win in the CSI3* Two Phase. In second was fellow Canadian Vanessa Mannix with Valentino D’Elte, and in third was Ingrid Gjelsten (NOR) with VDL Edgar M.