Gregory Wathelet (BEL) got the last word of Desert Circuit III. To conclude FEI jumping in the Grand Prix Arena Sunday afternoon, the Belgian Olympian jumped double-clear and took the win with Clarity in the $145,100 Gillibrand Sand CSI3* Grand Prix.

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Clarity. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wathelet was the final of four pairs to jump clear over Manuel Esparza’s (MEX) first-round track. The course was fair, but presented challenges to many competitors, with even Conor Swail (IRL) just falling short of qualifying for the jump-off. As last to go, Wathelet knew he was up against only one double-clear round, put in by Ali Ramsay (CAN) and Bonita VH Keizershof Z. The time to beat, 42.59 seconds, was efficient but certainly achievable for a rider of his caliber.

“I was the last one, a lucky place, so I could see [others go] and knew what I had to do,” Wathelet said of his strategy in the jump-off. “I haven’t done that many jump-offs with that horse; it’s quite new for me. It’s not the fastest one to take some risks. Maybe I took too many risks.”

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) topped the podium in the $145,100 Gillibrand Sand CSI3* Grand Prix, pictured with Caroline Hollosy from Gillibrand Sand. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The risks paid off, however, for the duo, who had taken multiple top four results but had yet to see a victory here in the desert. Their time of 39.47 seconds awarded them the win by over three seconds.

“We’ve had him for a while, maybe two or three years,” Wathelet said of Clarity, a 2009 Holsteiner gelding (Clarimo x Ephebe For Ever). “He was with a student of mine, [Marie Valdar Longem (NOR)]. I decided to take the reins in September. I knew him for a long time, but he’s only been with me for a few months.”

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

Wathelet believes the future is bright for this horse with him aboard, and results are already coming in. “He’s done some nice things at the end of the winter in Europe and has done well here. He’s quite consistent and safe, jumping big grand prixs easily enough. I’m really happy with him and I hope it keeps up,” he shared.

The season in California is off to a swinging start for Wathelet, with six FEI wins and national victories on top of that as well. The Belgian is looking forward to future wins back in the Grand Prix Arena after the first off-week. 

Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) and Copycat. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I’m for sure very happy,” he said. “The horses jumped great. Argentina [De La Marchete] won yesterday. I had a good feeling compared to last week, but I didn’t ride well. When something goes wrong with her she can have a few fences down because she’s nervous. That’s completely my fault. I’m happier with her today than I was last week. In general they all jumped well. This weekend I had only two and I won yesterday and won today.

“I hope [the success] keeps going but we know it won’t be like that every week. We have to be quick to win here as we saw yesterday. It was a proper Grand Prix this week. I hope the horses stay fit, good, fresh, and they still have enough for the next few weeks.”

Final Results: $145,100 Gillibrand Sand CSI3* Grand Prix

1. CLARITY: 2009 HOLST gelding by Clarimo x Ephebe For Ever
GREGORY WATHELET (BEL), An Breeding: 0/0/39.47

2. BONITA VH KEIZERSHOF Z: 2011 ZANG mare by Bustique x For Pleasure
ALI RAMSAY (CAN), Ramsay Equestrian Inc.: 0/0/42.59

3. COPYCAT: 2013 WESTF gelding by Comme Il Faut x Wogenbrecher
LORCAN GALLAGHER (IRL), Lost Lake Farm LLC: 0/4/42.17

4. CARISSIMO 25: 2013 HOLST gelding by Cascadello x Clinton
MAVIS SPENCER (USA), Georgy Maskrey-Segesman: 0/4/42.92

5. CACTUS DE COSNIERE: 2012 SF gelding by Padock Du Plessis x Flipper D’Elle
ERIC KRAWITT (CAN), Eric Krawitt: 4/77.48

6. THEO 160: 2012 HOLST gelding by Christian 25 x Calando IV
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Team Philippaerts: 4/77.69

7. KARDENTA VAN’T MEERHOF: 2010 BWP mare by Cardento x Concorde
ELISA BROZ (USA), Hidalgo LLC: 4/78.16

8. SIG CHIARI: 2012 OS gelding by Cristallo II x Landadel
KYLE KING (USA), SIG International: 4/78.48

9. NADALE VAN DORPERHEIDE: 2013 BWP gelding by Zilverstar T x Winningmood
CASSIO RIVETTI (BRA), Ilan Ferder: 4/80.40

10. VITAL CHANCE DE LA ROQUE: 2009 SF gelding by Diamant de Semilly x Rivage du Poncel
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Conor Swail: 4/81.53

11. ECHO DE VIRTON: 2010 SBS gelding by Vagabond De La Pomme x Grignoteur De La Fontaine
MARIE VALDAR LONGEM (NOR), Marie Valdar Longem: 5/84.34

12. LAVALLINO TER KLOMP: 2011 BWP stallion by Clearway x Coriano
JENNIFER WAXMAN (USA), Lost Lake Farm LLC: 8/79.62

Nicky Galligan Gets the Win in $30,000 1.40m Open Classic

After several podium finishes here in the desert, Nicky Galligan finally got his win Sunday morning in the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic. Of his two mounts qualified for the second course, it was Eames MZ, owned by Santa Rosa Group, who topped the competitive 13-horse jump-off. 

Nicky Galligan and Eames MZ. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Manuel Esparza’s jump-off track was primarily unrelated distances, with swooping rollback turns and long gallops between fences, which contrasted with a few of the recent tracks that have involved bending lines and allowed for leaving out strides.

When asked about his jump-off plan, Galligan responded, “My plan? Go as fast as I can go! It was a bit of an unusual jump-off, in the sense that we are so numerical in the sport at the moment. It’s nice to do something a little different in the jump-off.”

“[It was a] really, really competitive class this morning,” Galligan commented. “I’m delighted to finally get a win. I’ve been jumping these classes since the [National] Sunshine Series.” Just weeks ago, Galligan and long-time partner, Javas Miss Jordan, finished second in National grand prix action, among other podium finishes just short of victory. 

Nicky Galligan and Eames MZ in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Eames MZ is a newer mount for Galligan and was a seemingly unlikely partner to carry him into the winner’s circle. “He’s a little on the tricky side,” Galligan said of the 14-year old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Van Gogh x Faldo). “He’s a newer ride for me and one we are just getting to know a little bit. I have to say he’s had a really good two weeks here, and what a way to finish it off.” 

Karl Cook and Signe Otsby’s Caillou 24 claimed second-place honors, while Kaitlin Campbell and Armentos, owned by SWS Training & Sales, finished third.

After a recent relocation, Galligan is focused on building up his less experienced horses and training his students. “Paige [Jardine] and myself are developing some [horses] to see what they can turn into,” he reflected. With this win under his belt, Galligan looks forward to gearing up for the remaining six weeks of Desert Circuit. 

Show jumping takes a break in the desert while the USHJA Gold Star Clinic takes place January 25-29, and competition resumes Wednesday, February 1, with the start of Desert Circuit IV.

Lauren Mutch and Trending Top the Charts in 2’6”-2’9” Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby

It was a stellar derby Sunday for Lauren Mutch, finishing off her week strong with a win in the 2’6”-2’9” Sandhaven Farm Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby to conclude Desert Circuit III. Mutch piloted the 9-year-old Oldenburg gelding around an accurate hunt phase and a nifty handy phase. It’s safe to say she nailed it, as the judges displayed consistently high scores for her, totaling to 164. 

Lauren Mutch and Trending in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Spectators would have never guessed that the pair had been only together for a short while, already with a derby win under their belt. “I recently started leasing [Trending] about two months ago,” Mutch explained. “My trainer’s sister, Brandy Bemoll, owns him. I needed a move-up horse, and I didn’t really know what I wanted. He was already in the barn, so my trainer [paired] me with him.

“At first, we didn’t get along very well, because he was pretty green and I was pretty green,” she continued. “But this is only our second rated show together.” It wasn’t a match made in heaven from the get go, but if this win is indicative of anything, it’s a strong partnership with plenty of room for victory. Mutch plans to expand upon this success through her senior year of high school.

Mutch had a crystal clear plan in her head, but some quick last minute decisions proved fruitful. “For my hunt phase, I said I was going to go on the rail to the first jump, and get him in my hand to start the round,” Mutch explained. “He still is pretty green, but I decided when I got in the ring that I was going to use the quarter line and go to my oxer.”

As all of the jumps came up perfectly in stride, Mutch made the decision to let loose in the handy phase, opting for some tight turns and maneuvering around the handy phase. Landing her leads had come easy for the pair in the hunt phase, stylishly shown through Trending’s flashy changes. 

Mutch is grateful for opportunities to show in the variety of derby classes offered at DIHP. “It’s really nice to have a derby like this to hopefully better understand the National [Hunter Derby] level and what that’s like,” she reflected. 

As Mutch and Trending walked out of Hunter 3 on her way to the Amberway Equine Winner’s Circle, she received plenty of congratulations from well-wishing bystanders. “Everyone at Desert Horse Park is really supportive,” she concluded. “All the people around were great, wishing me congratulations.” 

Desert Circuit IV begins Wednesday, February 1, with professional hunter divisions.