Kent Farrington (USA) and Orafina. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Kent Farrington’s (USA) cross-country trip to the Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) paid off in spades Sunday afternoon as he and Orafina took top call in the $226,000 Adequan® CSI4* Grand Prix to conclude Desert Circuit VI.

With the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (For Fashion x Canturo), Farrington bested a field of six jump-off contenders over Alan Wade’s (IRL) course, winning by a margin of nearly five seconds with Orafina’s unmatched speed.

“Orafina is a very fast horse,” Farrington remarked. “She’s extremely careful and she really doesn’t have a middle speed. There were a few in the jump-off – not a huge amount – but that doesn’t change my strategy. I just tried to do her best round. I thought she jumped incredibly today, both rounds. A great finish to come out with a win.”

Kent Farrington (USA) topped the podium in the $226,000 Adequan® CSI4* Grand Prix. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Taking second place behind Farrington was Alison Robitaille (USA) with Oakingham’s Lira for Alison Firestone LLC. The duo clocked the second-fastest double-clear ride in their second CSI4* appearance in their year-long partnership.

“I wanted to have a competitive round but I wasn’t going in to beat Kent,” Robitaille said of her strategy with the 10-year-old mare (Tornesch x Del Piero P&B). “I wanted to do, like [Kent] said, my best round for today. She’s a really special horse. Kent found her for me. I’ve been working with him for over a year now and I’m really happy. It’s going great.”

Alison Robitaille (USA) and Oakingham Lira. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Katie Laurie (AUS) claimed third with Django II, making it a podium full of Olympians. Laurie knows her 11-year-old homebred gelding (Lordano x Brilliant Invader) well and has larger tracks in mind for later in the season, so her strategy was a double-clear ride for third place.

“He’s a really scopey horse but he’s really sensitive,” she said of Django II. “In the past I have tried to run him in these bigger grand prixs and today I thought to stick with the double-clear. He’s got a big summer ahead and has a lot to jump, so I played it safe and thought a nice double-clear would be good for me.”

Farrington was in the winner’s circle at DIHP not long ago, just back in December with Orafina under the lights of the Grand Prix Arena.

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

“I came here in the winter and I thought it was fabulous,” he said of DIHP. “The group here at Desert International Horse Park has made a great effort to improve the sport. The facility is fantastic, with great footing and great jumps. They’re behind the sport for the right reasons and I like to support that and have a change of pace. I have a younger group of horses coming up so for them to get to go different places and jump in different rings helps develop the horse at the same time.”

One year ago, Orafina was still in development, but she has become a top mount for Farrington, taking wins at the highest level and still early in her career. The difference a year makes, according to Farrington, is “more confidence in her jump-offs now to go a little tighter in the turns than I did before. Her rate of speed is probably the same because she’s always on go, but a little more confident. It’s still not an easy ride. She can still be tough to manage but she’s a fabulous jumper and an incredible athlete.”

Kent Farrington (USA) and Orafina. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Orafina is just his type, something that has been apparent from the beginning and something he admits quite frequently. “[She is] a hyper careful, very sensitive horse,” Farrington said. “That is my favorite type of horse to work with. I think this is the ultimate modern sport horse. There’s a lot of power there, it’s just getting the horse to work with you. To control their power takes time. I’ve been putting in a lot of time and it’s starting to pay off with great results.”

With this great result in his hand, he looks forward to returning to DIHP for future elite competition.

Final Results: $226,000 Adequan® CSI4* Grand Prix

1. ORAFINA: 2012 KWPN mare by For Fashion x Canturo
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Kent Farrington LLC: 0/0/33.91

2. OAKINGHAM LIRA: 2013 mare by Tornesch x Del Piero P&B
ALISON ROBITAILLE (USA), Alison Firestone LLC: 0/0/38.78

3. DJANGO II: 2011 gelding by Lordano x Brilliant Invader
KATIE LAURIE (AUS), Katie Laurie: 0/0/40.70

4. ARMENTOS: 2011 OLDBG gelding by Armitage 2 x Levantos
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), SWS Training & Sales: 0/4/38.53

5. NORTHERN LIGHT: 2011 SWB mare by Plot Blue x Contender
TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms, LLC: 0/4/39.05

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

7. CHADORA LADY: 2013 OS mare by Chacco-Blue x Nintender
NATALIE DEAN (USA), Marigold Sporthorses, LLC: 4/67.51

8. CACTUS DE COSNIERE: 2012 SF gelding by Padock Du Plessis x Flipper D’Elle
ERIC KRAWITT (CAN), Eric Krawitt: 4/68.76

9. BONITA VH KEIZERSHOF Z: 2011 ZANG mare by Bustique x For Pleasure
ALI RAMSAY (CAN), Ramsay Equestrian Inc.: 4/71.57

10. LUIGI VD BISSCHOP: 2011 BWP gelding by Bamako De Muze x Nabab De Reve
MATT ARCHER (USA) Rhys Farms, LLC: 4/73.71

11. LAVALLINO TER KLOMP: 2011 BWP stallion by Clearway x Coriano
JENNIFER WAXMAN (USA), Lost Lake Farm LLC: 4/75.83

12. CLARITY: 2009 HOLST gelding by Clarimo x Ephebe For Ever
GREGORY WATHELET (BEL), An Breeding: 8/70.65

James Chawke and Gamble Win Big in $30,000 1.40m Open Classic

James Chawke and Gamble in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

We’re placing wagers on James Chawke and Gamble. The duo took two major wins during Desert Circuit VI, culminating with victory in the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic Sunday.

“I’m really happy,” Chawke reflected on his success with the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Campbell VDL x Quick Star) . “He’s improved an awful lot. Like I said on Wednesday, he hasn’t done all that much, so it’s been good for him here and the classes are so good; there’s good money and I feel he’s learned an awful lot.”

Gamble isn’t the only one out there learning in the show ring. Chawke himself is also working alongside fellow Irishman and world-ranked number five Conor Swail, who has endless lessons to teach. “I’ve learned a lot,” Chawke said of his time working with Swail. “He’s a great horseman. He always has a really good plan, which is the biggest thing I’ve taken away. In the ring he always has a really good plan of what to do to be smooth and try to win.”

With one week off and three more weeks of showing before the close of the season at DIHP, Chawke believes he has found the sweet spot for Gamble and does not plan to change much.

James Chawke and Gamble. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I think I’ll keep doing the same thing,” he said about his plan. “I try to keep him happy and he seems to be enjoying himself. He likes that 1.35m [Welcome Speed] the first day that’s nto too big and you can run around a bit. He was quite good in the 1.45m [Open Classic]; I kind of made a mistake. Then having a jump-off class the last day has worked well as well.”

Show jumping resumes March 1 as riders return to the competition arenas for the final three weeks of the season at DIHP.

Final Results: $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic

1. Gamble / James Chawke / James Chawke / 0/0/34.712
2. Un Diamant Des Forets / Jim Ifko / Eventyre Farms Ltd / 0/0/34.993
3. Peninsula Swanky / Samara Heinrichs Prak / Samara Heinrichs Prak / 0/0/35.015
4. Zuperman MT / Mariano Maggi / Jesse Jia / 0/0/36.383
5. Gerko III Van De Zeilhoek / Shawn Casady / Zoe Wolf / 0/0/36.848
6. Iville / Rachel Fields / Sahana Ganesan / 0/0/37.261
7. Indago / Madison Sanders / Strasburg Morin Inc. / 0/0/38.789
8. Jericho / Laura Jane Tidball / Thunderbird Show Park / 0/0/39.438
9. Florado VS Romano / Mark Kinsella / Mark Kinsella / 0/4/34.062
10. Lennox EZ / Cassio Rivetti / Deaconhill LLC / 0/4/34.416
11. Larima / Katie Kehring / Kehring Family / 0/8/38.394
12. Sanvano / Julia Nagler / Julia Nagler / 1/72.028

Olive Paesano and Whispering Marquis Capture Child Pony Hunter Classic

Over in pony land, many young riders brought their Sunday best in their respective classics. Olive Paesano earned the top spot in the R.J. Classics Child Pony Hunter Classic aboard her trusty partner Whispering Marquis, owned by Lesley Moore.

Paesano’s trainer, Jenna Mayor of Highland Farm, had simple advice for her rides today: “Have fun and try your best.” Paesano’s best brought her to the top of the class with a total score of 159, leading the class by a whopping 8 points.

Olive Paesano and Whispering Marquis in their winning presentation, pictured with Georgie Hammond and Grace Pratico of R.J. Classics. Photo by Megan Giese

“I have been riding him for about a year now,” Paesano said of her partnership with the 15-year old Welsh Pony. “He is a really good pony. When I go up to a jump he never gets scared of anything. He goes right over them. He knows his lines and how many strides they are.”

Outside of the show ring, Whispering Marquis likes to keep it real. “In his stall he is kind of grumpy,” she admitted. “When he’s outside his stall he’s friendly.” Despite enjoying his me-time, Whispering Marquis and Paesano prove to be a strong team.

There are several competitive ponies and pony divisions at DIHP and Paesano enjoys the pressure that comes with showing at a higher level. “I like that it’s difficult and you really have to work at it to win,” she commented.

Joining Paesano in pony classic wins included Megan Xu and Smash, winner of the $1,500 Domino High Voltage Pony Hunter Classic, and Ainsley Green and Incognito, winners of the Platinum Performance Stirrup Hunter Classic.

Weekly Winner: Ashlin Goodwin and Tippy Toes

Grace Shiflett and Tippy Toes. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Grace Shiflett and Tippy Toes were the winners of the .75m Jumper Classic, sponsored by Andalusia. The pair rode to a blazing-fast jump-off time, 12 seconds faster than any other competitor!

Congratulations to Grace and we hope to see you and Tippy Toes back in the ring again soon.

For those who competed during Desert Circuit weeks 1-6, purchase your photos from High Desert Sport Photo. They provide instant access and downloads.