Katie Laurie (AUS) and Django II. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Luckily for Katie Laurie (AUS), she knows Django II like the back of her hand. She had a couple advantages on her side Sunday of Desert Circuit VII, ultimately bringing home the win in the $145,100 CSI3* TALUS Grand Prix.

The first advantage was being last in the jump-off order. She had a lucky draw with Django II and managed to jump her other mount, McCaw MVNZ, owned by Carissa McCall, clear as well, comprising two of the six clear efforts over Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) course.

Katie Laurie (AUS) tops the podium in the winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Conor Swail (IRL) had set the time to catch early on and held onto it until Laurie’s second ride, but Laurie had the last word. She unseated Swail and Theo 160’s lead and claimed the victory as her own. Swail took second, while Marie Valdar Longem (NOR) claimed third with Echo De Virton, the third of only three double-clear efforts.

“I haven’t sped him that much,” Laurie reflected on her jump-off strategy. “He’s normally such a big jumper and a bit slower. When I try to make him go a little faster we get too fast. I jumped the 1.45m yesterday and when he jumped clear I thought for once I’m just going to practice the jump-off. I felt like we needed that, and today I felt like I could really have a go. I feel like we’re starting to understand each other, which is fun.”

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

The second advantage is that Django is part of the family. Laurie bred the now 12-year-old gelding (Lordano x Brilliant Invader) out of a Thoroughbred mare, Flower Power, ridden by her father, Jeff McVean (NZL). Because of the breeding, Django is not an easy keeper, but he’s proving well worth the effort, jumping the most recent FEI World Equestrian Games in 2022 and the 2020 Olympic Games.

“He’s really anxious; he’s half thoroughbred so all we have to do is keep him calm and if we do, he’s got such an enormous jump and he’s actually really nice once you get going on course to ride,” Laurie continued. “He eyes up the jump and he’s always backing off them. I start off slow and build it up to try to be within the time allowed. He looks so slow but he always gets one less without looking [fast].”

Marie Valdar Longem (NOR) and Echo De Virton. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Her masterful plan proved successful yet again, making it two FEI grand prixs in a row that the pair jumped double-clear for a podium finish. They also secured a second-place finish in the CSI3* 1.45m Classic the day prior, but she wisely opted out of the prizegiving early. “Yesterday I didn’t [victory gallop] because he was jumping the Grand Prix today and I felt like it would wind him up more. Today I felt like he needed to know that he won. He was so pleased with himself,” she shared.

As well as the pieces have come together, Laurie admits their partnership was not always written in the stars.

“To be totally honest he was really bad,” Laurie said of Django’s upbringing. “He always had a huge jump, but if you wanted to go one way he wanted to go another. It’s been a long road, but when he got it, he got it right. He works with you now and not against you. When he started enjoying the job is when he really turned a corner and started to be a pretty amazing horse.”


James Chawke Moves Up the Leaderboard with Gamble

James Chawke and Gamble. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

James Chawke is making a run for several of the enticing DIHP rider bonuses and prizes to be awarded just two weeks from now, at the close of Desert Circuit. With his own Gamble, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Campbell VDL x Quick Star), the Irishman has been on winning form the past few competition weeks, twice winner of the $10,000 1.35m Welcome Speed, and now twice winner of the Marshall & Sterling $30,000 1.40m Open Classic, thanks to a victory Sunday of Desert Circuit VII.

Chawke, prior to Desert Circuit VII, sat in third in the $50,000 1.40m Rider Bonus standings and fourth in the Open Jumper Rider standings. Winning this class will add valuable prize money towards his standings on both leaderboards.

“It’s incredible really; where else do you have that?” Chawke remarked on the added incentives for riders and horses competing at DIHP in the open divisions. “It’s fantastic that you can have that kind of prize money and prizes to celebrate being good and consistent throughout the circuit. On top of performing well, you get another prize to recognize your consistency. I’ll do the same thing moving forward to try to keep that consistency. I won’t do the 1.45m [with Gamble]; I’ll probably just do Wednesday and Sunday the next two weeks. They seem to be his preferred classes.”

On Sunday, Chawke and Gamble were one of 12 clear rounds in a field of 31 entries. Erin Davis-Heineking came in strong with a stellar time aboard Contan, owned by October Hill Farm Inc., and it appeared the class could be over. Chawke had something to say, however, as he blazed around the track and shaved over half a second off the leading time, holding the lead until the close of the class. Katie Laurie and Cera Caruso, as last to go, came close, ending up ever so slightly behind for third place.

Show jumping resumes Wednesday, March 8, for Desert Circuit VIII with the $10,000 Adequan® Welcome Speed and Open Jumpers on both the grass field and the Grand Prix Arena.

Final Results: $145,100 CSI3* Talus Grand Prix

1. DJANGO II: 2011 gelding by Lordano x Brilliant Invader
KATIE LAURIE (AUS), Katie Laurie: 0/0/40.89

2. THEO 160: 2012 HOLST gelding by Christian 25 x Calando IV
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Team Philippaerts: 0/0/41.27

3. ECHO DE VIRTON: 2010 SBS gelding by Vagabond De La Pomme x Grignoteur De La Fontaine
MARIE VALDAR LONGEM (NOR), Marie Valdar Longem: 0/0/47.53

4. MCCAW MVNZ: 2011 NZWB gelding by Corofino II x Cassini II
KATIE LAURIE (AUS), Carissa McCall: 0/4/44.62

5. CASIANO: 2014 Anglo European gelding by Casino Berlin x Iroko
CHANDLER MEADOWS (USA), Chandler Meadows: 0/4/47.66

6. COMRADO: 2011 DSP gelding by Como 25 x Coronado 3
SAVANNAH JENKINS (USA), Proper 12, LLC: 0/39/82.89

7. CARMELA Z: 2011 ZANG mare by Candillo 3 x Nissan Caretano Z
VANESSA MANNIX (CAN), Vanessa Mannix: 4/76.93

8. CLARITY: 2009 HOLST gelding by Clarimo x Ephebe For Ever
GREGORY WATHELET (BEL), An Breeding: 4/77.21

9. MR. EUROPE: 2009 KWPN gelding by Mr. Blue x Cassini
KARRIE RUFER (USA), Morning Star Sporthorses, LLC: 4/79.29

10. CONRADO 12: 2013 ZANG gelding by Cardento x Diarado
ALI RAMSAY (CAN), Ramsay Equestrian Inc.: 4/79.36

11. FEYON: 2010 KWPN gelding by Zazou R x Hamilton
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), SWS Training & Sales: 4/79.62

12. VAILLANT DE BELLE VUE: 2009 AA gelding by Calin Du Plessis x Peeping Tom A
TALI DEJONG (USA), Tali Dejong: 8/78.85

Allegra Greco and Quanta Capture Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby

Allegra Greco and Quanta in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Derby mania kicked things off in the hunter rings Sunday as the less-experienced hunter derby competitors had their chance at a Hunt & Go format. The Amberway Equine Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby 2’6”-2’9” welcomed 32 entries to Hunter 3 and it was Allegra Greco and Quanta, owned by Chloe Tobias, who took home the win.

The 16-year-old Los Angeles, CA, native earned back-to-back scores of 86 for a combined total of 172, securing top honors by four points. Still a newer partnership, Greco is checking off bucket-list items with the 13-year-old Holsteiner mare since their partnership began in June of 2022.

“This is the third derby we’ve done and the first class we’ve won with her,” Greco shared. “We’re really starting to build a good bond. She’s really sweet. She loves treats, because they all do. She’s just amazing.”

Previously riding mainly ponies, this is Greco’s first step up to a horse, but her riding years are extensive now at 16 years old. “I’ve competed at Thermal many times,” she continued. “I like that there are a lot of people and that it’s a big show. I like how many options there are for classes to do. I really love the property.”

Mojave and Asa Caditz finished second after holding the lead for quite some time, while Payton Fuller finished third with So Fun.

Gracie McKay and Cappuchino Van T Heike in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Over in Hunter 4, riders challenged the Ritz Carlton Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby 2’-2’3”. Gracie McKay emerged victorious aboard Cappuchino Van T Heike, owned by David Bustillos, with double scores of 80 for a combined 160. Elle Novosel and CR Velaris finished in second while Alexandra McMicking placed third with Campeche Z, owned by Roaring Fork Farms LLC.

Hunter action resumes Wednesday, March 8, with the first day of professional divisions for Desert Circuit VIII. Desert Circuit IV welcomes back WCHR competition, along with the $100,000 WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular.

Final Results: Amberway Equine 2’6”-2’9” Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby

1. Quanta / Allegra Greco / Chloe Tobias / 86 + 86 = 172
2. Mojave / Asa Caditz / Asa Caditz / 86 + 82 = 168
3. So Fun / Payton Fuller / Payton Fuller / 84 + 83 = 167
4. I Claudius / Madison Walker / Genevieve Kalmbach / 80 + 80 = 160
5. Coolman / Caroline Ebenhack / Georgy Maskrey-Segesman / 79 + 79 = 158
6. Calvin Klein 29 / Evie Becky / Having Fun Already, LLC / 77 + 80 = 157
7. Notorious / Joann Niffenegger / Joann Niffenegger / 76 + 79 = 155
8. Heineken / Shenae Johnston / Shenae Johnston / 74 + 80 = 154
9. Cashew Q / Lauren Brummett / Lauren Brummett / 77 + 73 = 150
10. Lambrusco / Kim Letter / Kim Letter / 73 + 76 = 149
11. Conquest / Christina Ruby / Archway Equestrian Sports, LLC / 71 + 77 = 148
12. Reign / Asa Caditz / Asa Caditz / 73 + 74 = 147