Day two of FEI competition took place Friday at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) and Desert Circuit has yet to see a day of international competition not won by Gregory Wathelet (BEL). The European Championship team gold medalist topped yet another international class aboard a different mount, Argentina De La Marchete, in the $38,700 Morning Star Sporthorses CSI3* 1.50m Speed.

“She is more special for us. I bred her; she was born at home,” Wathelet said of the 11-year-old Selle Francais mare (Acajou De La Marchete x Del Piero PB). “It’s a family story. She did some very good things. She was the Belgian champion as a 7-year-old. She has super quality, she has blood, and I wouldn’t say she has attitude but she’s sensitive. You need to know her to manage and ride her well. But when [you get it right] then she is a super jumper.”

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Argentina De La Marchete. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wathelet’s super jumper had a big task ahead since Conor Swail (IRL) and Theo 160 had set the time to beat around the halfway mark of the class. Chasing Swail’s time of 60.81 seconds, Wathelet didn’t think he’d get the job done, but the mare had other plans.

“I saw Conor; he was fast,” Wathelet explained. “I know he’s a very fast rider but I also know my mare can be very fast. I was not sure if I [could] catch him because she’s quite hot and if I go too much it’s not the best [for Sunday]. I stuck to my plan quite well. I didn’t expect to be faster to be honest; I was thinking I’d be third or so. But she’s naturally very fast.”

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Argentina De La Marchete in their winning presentation, pictured with Karrie Rufer of Morning Star Sporthorses. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wathelet sped Argentina De La Marchete around Colm Quinn’s (IRL) course in 60.62 seconds, claiming the lead and holding it as the final few rounds played out. Swail ended up second and Ali Ramsay (CAN) claimed third with Ramsay Equestrian Inc.’s Bonita VH Keizershof Z.

The Belgian superstar has begun producing homebreds more recently, however Argentina De La Marchete was among his earlier homebreds before it became more of an operation. “It was luck,” he remarked on how Argentina De La Marchete came to be. “I bred her before I started really breeding. It was a normal mare and a local stallion and this mare came out. Sometimes it’s a nice story like that.”

Conor Swail (IRL) and Theo 160. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wathelet has now claimed three major victories in the Grand Prix Arena in just two days. When asked about the strength of the particular string he brought out to the West Coast of the United States, he responded, “That’s the sport. Maybe by tomorrow I will have one down every day and the streak is done. We need to enjoy when it’s coming, when it’s getting done, and when we are winning, but for sure my horses are fit, good, fresh, and I hope it continues like that.”

The $50,000 Kask Grand Prix takes center stage Saturday afternoon in the Grand Prix Arena before Sunday’s $145,100 Whittier Trust CSI3* Grand Prix.

Ali Ramsay (CAN) and Bonita VH Keizershof Z. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Final Results: $38,700 Morning Star Sporthorses CSI3* 1.50m Speed

1. ARGENTINA DE LA MARCHETE: 2012 SCSL mare (Acajou De La Marchete x Del Piero PB)
GREGORY WATHELET (BEL), Gregory Wathelet: 0/60.62

2. THEO 160: 2012 HOLST gelding by Christian 25 x Calando IV
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Team Philippaerts: 0/60.81

3. BONITA VH KEIZERSHOF Z: 2011 ZANG mare by Bustique x For Pleasure
ALI RAMSAY (CAN), Ramsay Equestrian Inc.: 0/62.87

4. VAILLANT DE BELLE VUE: 2009 AA gelding by Calin Du Plessis x Peeping Tom A
TALI DEJONG (USA), Tali Dejong: 0/64.98

5. CARISSIMO 25: 2013 HOLST gelding by Cascadello x Clinton
MAVIS SPENCER (USA), Georgy Maskrey-Segesman: 0/66.11

6. ALGORHYTHEM: 2005 KWPN gelding by Eurocommerce Tampa x Calvados
MARIE VALDAR LONGEM (NOR), Marie Valdar Longem: 0/73.53

7. RMF CHACCO TOP: 2009 HANN stallion by Chacco Blue x Graf Top
JAKE ENDICOTT (USA), Ashland Farms: 4/62.50

8. SIG CHIARI: 2012 OS gelding by Cristallo II x Landadel
KYLE KING (USA), SIG International: 4/63.69

9. JAVAS MISS JORDAN: 2009 ISH mare by Luidam x Obos Quality
NICKY GALLIGAN (IRL), Nicky Galligan: 4/65.25

10. NADALE VAN DORPERHEIDE: 2013 BWP gelding by Zilverstar T x Winningmood
CASSIO RIVETTI (BRA), Ilan Ferder: 4/66.06

11. TASHMIR Z: 2012 ZANG gelding by Toulon x Kashmir Van Schuttershof
ALEXANDRA BIEDERMAN (USA), Alexandra Biederman: 4/68.08

12. LAVALLINO TER KLOMP: 2011 BWP stallion by Clearway x Coriano
JENNIFER WAXMAN (USA), Lost Lake Farm LLC: 4/72.51

Sky-Hi Equestrian manufactures and sells a wide array of equestrian products. From customized Grand Prix and Schooling standards to jump accessories, barn hardware, fencing and equestrian horse van conversions, Sky-Hi does it all. With a proven record in the residential and commercial scaffolding industry, Sky-Hi has translated those skills into offering cost effective solutions to the equine industry. Owner and manager Kevin Lottis is constantly updating Sky-Hi’s inventory to meet the needs of the equestrian world.

Each remaining week of Desert Circuit, DIHP will award a brand-new jump built by Sky-Hi Equestrian to the trainer of the winning horse in a selected weekly class. The class is subject to change each week but will begin with Saturday afternoon’s $50,000 Kask National Grand Prix. The award will rotate between a Hunter and Jumper feature class each week.

Trot Jumps and Taxes: Nick Haness Hunts and Goes to Victory with Gucci

Not many riders at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) were thinking about doing their taxes while on course Friday of Desert Circuit II, but for Nick Haness, it’s become a bit of a strategy, and it’s one that led him to the win in the $25,000 TALUS USHJA International Hunt & Go Derby.

The professional rider isn’t one to ever show weaknesses in the hunter ring, but he openly admitted the trot fence is not his strong suit, despite nailing it perfectly aboard Gucci Friday for the top score in the class.

Nick Haness and Gucci. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“Trot jumps are something in my career that have always posted a challenge,” Haness said. “It’s a different gait and you can’t find a distance to it; it’s more of a balance and feel. It’s also always been a mental thing for me. Luckily today on Gucci it worked out really well. I’ve learned to keep my rhythm, close my eyes, think about my taxes or something different from riding a horse, and hopefully it all works out.”

The trot fence, plus all other 14 fences, worked perfectly in Haness’ favor as he guided the Blackstone Farms, Ltd. entry Gucci around the combined classic and handy round course.

“I think he’s a winning horse,” Haness said of the 12-year-old Warmblood gelding. “He has a great presence about him, a great expression, and clearly his temperament is suitable for the job. Today he went in and was all business. He felt really solid in both phases. He thinks with you; when you ask him to do something he does what you ask of him, which is a nice quality.”

Nick Haness and Gucci. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The trot fence had Haness’ attention from the get go, but Gucci was up for the challenge and the cards fell into place the way they needed to. “The trot jump was pretty spooky, especially for me; I don’t like big trot jumps. I always worry about that when I walk the course, I tell myself that’s the one place I need to pay attention. Gucci was perfect and did it great,” Haness remarked.

Their two-round total of 174 put them in the lead by a significant margin, and they held onto that lead until the class drew to a close. Jamie Sailor and Lioness, owned by 3P Equine Partners, LLC, took second place and Haness followed behind in third aboard Estimated Prophet, owned by Roaring Fork Farms LLC. Djuna Lauder was the U25 winner aboard Radio City, earning sixth place overall.

Djuna Lauder and Radio City, pictured with Traci Brooks. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“Gucci is a brand new ride for me,” Haness continued. “I rode him for the first time two days ago. He is a really fun horse. He’s very brave and very fun to ride. He gave me a lot of positive vibes, a good feeling, and I believed in him. He’s very nifty to ride; he lands both leads, he’s got a big stride, he’s very pretty, and he has a nice jump. All of those things considered I had confidence to go in the ring and do well. We’ve had a really solid beginning with this horse.”

Karli Schroeder topped the second derby of the day, the $5,000 Platinum Performance USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby – Open aboard Rachel Adler’s Lighthouse. The pair rode to a score of 176 for the top call. Concluding derby action was Madison Nadolenco, winning the $5,000 Voltaire Design USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby – Junior/Amateur aboard Ingenium Farm’s Totoka Fuji.

Hunter competition continues through the weekend with Junior and Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions.

Final Results: $25,000 TALUS USHJA International Hunt & Go Derby

1. Gucci / Nick Haness / Blackstone Farms, Ltd / 174
2. Lioness / Jamie Sailor / 3P Equine Partners, LLC / 163
3. Estimated Prophet / Nick Haness / Roaring Fork Farms LLC / 161
4. Upside / Halie Robinson / Stable Assets LLC / 160
5. Gatsby / Alexis Taylor / Aleron LLC / m158
6. Radio City / Djuna Lauder / Roaring Fork Farms LLC / 156
7. Arvantos / Chelsea Brittner / Greenley Achuck / 155.5
8. Paperboy / Julia Greenspan / Brighton Farms / 153
9. Verdict / Alexis Meadows / Alexis Meadows / 149
10. Cambalache / Violet Tatum / Archibald Cox / 143
11. Zeren / Halie Robinson / Mackenzie Greer / 142
12. Ohlala Van’t Jonkersleen / Halie Robinson / Laila Klinsmann / 141