James Arkins’ trip to Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) was a long one, but it was well worth it. Recently he relocated his top horse Eurostar 1 to the states, and following an appearance at the FEI World Championships, the pair took the number one spot in the $100,000 Hygain Feeds Grand Prix in the first grand prix event of the 2022/2023 season.
Not only was this the first Grand Prix of the National Sunshine Series, but it was also the first time Arkins had shown Eurostar since the World Championships in August. “I only got him back last week so this is our first time back in the show ring and to come out with a win is just incredible. I’m super excited,” the Australian rider reflected.
Alan Wade of Ireland set the track for the feature event of the week, welcoming 48 horse-and-rider combinations to attempt to navigate the tricky course clear. Of the starting entries, nine qualified for the short course, and Arkins had pole position of being second to last in the jump-off order.
Luis Goncalves, hot off his win in Thursday’s $30,000 1.45m Open Classic, set the pace with Vick Du Croisy, owned by Sigma Stables, in 37.066 seconds. It almost seemed he could not be caught, until Arkins and the 10-year-old Stallion (Diarado x Chacco Blue) managed to shave off nearly one full second and take the lead. Goncalves claimed second while Lorcan Gallagher and the Lost Lake Farm entry Copycat took third place in 37.433 seconds.
“I’ve had him since he was a 3-year-old and produced him the whole way through,” Arkins said of Eurostar. “We decided at the end of last year to bring him over to the [United States]; we thought we’d have a crack at trying to get him on the team for the World Championships. He’s just grown every show we’ve gone to and he’s just getting better and better.”
Having a breakout year, Arkins has had Nations Cup appearances and already knows the horse is a championship-caliber athlete. He now eyes Olympic Games and additional championship events to come.
“He’s always been such a beautiful horse in every way,” Arkins continued. “He’s so trainable and incredibly intelligent. You almost have to be a little careful that you don’t let him know too quickly that you want to turn, because as soon as he knows you’re turning he’s off. Everything we’ve asked him through his whole training process he’s stepped up. I’m really excited about the next 18 months to two years with him and really looking forward to trying to get him on the [Olympic] team for Paris.”
A newcomer to DIHP, Arkins’ trip has been worthwhile. “I’ve heard a lot about it and I really wanted to come here,” Arkins said of DIHP. “I thought of the opportunity to see the rest of the country and it really hasn’t disappointed. It’s been great. This is an amazing facility and I think [they] are putting on a fantastic show. I’m looking forward to coming back here in a couple weeks for Major League [Show Jumping].”
Arkins’ name is now in the running for the inaugural $100,000 National Grand Prix Jumper Rider Bonus to be awarded at the end of Desert Circuit.
Kassidy Keith and Cheryl Keith’s Havana were the recipients of the $1,000 U25 Equifit bonus. Keith was the first of the night to jump the course clear and was the fastest 4-faulter in the jump-off.
Earlier in the day Saturday, top young talents showed off their scope and speed in the $10,000 Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity Series. The fan-favorite class returned for its second year, and will have a home on the DIHP calendar through the entirety of the 2022/2023 season. Taking the top call was Mariano Maggi and Right On Time Margarita. Goncalves and Sigma claimed second place, while Arkins and Joevaro N took third.
The Grand Prix Arena also hosted 1.20m athletes for the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament Jump for Kevin Babington, another popular class returning to the desert for the 2022/2023 season. Of junior, amateur and professional athletes, it was Annelyse Bansbach and Andrea Snyder’s Dauphin taking top call. Michelle Berry claimed second and third places, aboard Travers Girl HS, owned by Professional Maintenance Systems, and Ilyas Van De Mispelaere, owned by Everardo Hegewisch, respectively.
The first week of the National Sunshine Series concludes Sunday with the $30,000 1.40m Open Classic, sponsored by Brown Advisory, and the $10,000 1.35m Open Classic, sponsored by Antares.
Final Results: $100,000 Hygain Feeds Grand Prix
1. Eurostar 1 / James Arkins / James Arkins / 0/0/36.103
2. Vick Du Croisy / Luis Goncalves / Sigma Stables LLC / 0/0/37.066
3. Copycat / Lorcan Gallagher / Lost Lake Farm LLC / 0/0/37.433
4. Stern Dei Folletti / Karrie Rufer / Morning Star Sporthorses LLC / 0/0/37.680
5. Cadeau Z / Mandy Porter / Risen Eq Holdings LLC / 0/0/40.154
6. Havana / Kassidy Keith / Cheryl Keith / 0/4/37.658
7. Tashmir Z / Alexandra Biederman / Alexandra Biederman / 0/4/39.843
8. Chattanooga / Cassio Rivetti / HF Farms LLC / 0/10/61.362
9. Hirado Blue / Molly Talla / Molly Talla / 0/EL
10. Edesa’s Vidal 8 / Mariano Alario / Edesa Horse Promotion Inc. / 3/84.393
11. Flinton M / Kendall Bourgeois / Cameron Brown / 4/77.463
12. Boucherom / Trent McGee / Trent McGee / 4/79.447
Noah Nelson Nabs 3’6” Junior Hunter Classic Win
Noah Nelson started the National Sunshine Series at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) on the right note, topping the Callidae 3’6” Junior Hunter Classic aboard his own Odysseus.
Nelson, of Santa Barbara, CA, has won all over the West Coast and DIHP is no exception for the 17-year-old rider. With a jam-packed schedule, he has rides in the hunters, jumpers, and equitation, and he is competitive no matter the ring or class.
“We got him almost two years ago,” Nelson said of the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Casall. “We started off together in the 3’3” [Juniors] and moved up to the 3’6” and we’ve had a great career together. He felt really good this weekend. He felt sensitive and willing to go around. He really likes this show.”
The native Californian, like many at the National Sunshine Series, is thrilled to be back at DIHP. “I like this show because there’s such a big presence. The people are always really nice and it’s just so fun to be here. It’s a big show so you see a lot of people. It’s cool to meet new people and see old friends,” he reflected.
Watching his friends compete on the East Coast has inspired him to set that goal for the coming year, the final year of his junior career. “I want to go to Capital Challenge and [ASPCA] Maclay Finals next year in my final junior year,” he explained. “Beyond that I want to turn professional and hopefully have a good professional career.”
Beginner’s Luck Strikes for Bailey Rose and True That in the 3’3 Junior Hunter Classic
For Bailey Rose, winning the Perfect Products 3’3 Junior Hunter Classic on Saturday afternoon of the National Sunshine Series was the perfect way to start off her partnership with her new horse, True That. Known as “Tiny Tim” back at the barn, True That, at just 6 years old, has joined the Junior Hunter circuit and is a new mount for Rose.
“I just got him a little less than a month ago when we were back East,” Rose said. “This is my first show and my first course that I’ve ever really jumped on him was this weekend. “He’s amazing; he’s super sweet. He’s never really had a junior ride him so this is new to the both of us.”
Despite their new partnership, Rose and True That topped the leaderboards with an impressive 85 in the first round and 83 in round two for a combined score of 168 and the win. She was joined on the podium by second place finisher Ella Dalton on Ghost De Longchamps with a 164 and Frankie Ruane aboard Revelation in third with a 162.
With scores getting close at the top of the class it was a nail-biter ever for Rose who was warming up her Large Junior while the classic concluded. “The entire time I was warming up I was listening to the score thinking ‘I hope no one beats me,’” she laughed.
Luckily the prayers paid off for Rose, who has kicked off her career with True That in the best way possible.
Hunters conclude Sunday with the 2’-2’3” and 2’6”-2’9” Hunter Derbies and the conclusion of Amateur-Owner Hunters.