Kyle King exploded into the world rankings over the past couple years and his 2023 season is off to an equally explosive start, as he took the win in Thursday’s $30,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP). Aboard Patricia Vase’s Odysseus, a newer ride for him, he sped to the fastest time in the single-round speed class, adding a victory to his name in the opening week of Desert Circuit.

Kyle King and Odysseus. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

New to the schedule this season, the $30,000 1.45m Open Classic allows riders with top mounts to gauge how their horses are performing coming into each week, then make appropriate decisions for how to place the horses the rest of the week. King is one of many top athletes who has taken advantage of the addition of this class, but the result Thursday over Ken Krome’s track was not precisely what he expected.

“On [Odysseus] I was going to be a little more cautious than I planned for my second horse and it turned out the opposite,” King remarked. “He’s just naturally fast so all the jumps showed up at the right place. I was going to put a little muscle into my second horse and he ended up being slower. It’s funny how it works sometimes.”

Kyle King and Odysseus. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

In Thursday’s class, King would have chosen Ittolo, owned by Kerri Volek, to get him to the winner’s circle, but Odysseus stepped up to the plate and secured the win by just three-tenths of a second. The pair’s time of 60.667 seconds edged them into the lead, ahead of Mark Kinsella who took both second and third, aboard Ben Asselin’s Quality H and La Capitol, owned by Aleron LLC, respectively.

King acquired the ride recently aboard Odysseus, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, from owner Vase, and he’s been getting to know the horse throughout the season so far at DIHP.

“‘Odie’ is a very fast horse,” King continued. “I’m not sure of his stride length yet because we’re just five or six shows in. [Today] was awesome. It’s my first [big] win on him. Patty has brought him along to this level and let me take over the reins. I’m very excited to see what he can do from here because I think he can really, really jump.”

Mark Kinsella and Quality H. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Odysseus competes in a liquid titanium mask, something becoming more prevalent in the show ring that encourages a calmer temperament. Owner Vase claims the mask worked wonders on a particularly spooky horse she had, and she won’t ever go without it now. King was not convinced at first, thinking the look wasn’t quite what he wanted in the show ring. “I tried to ride him without it once and he wasn’t great. So I put it back on and he was very consistent,” he reflected.

Win or lose, Thermal is home for King and his team. “We’re super excited,” he said of being at DIHP to kick off Desert Circuit. “This is my home base and has been for a few seasons now. I’m so excited about what they’ve done with the place; it’s unbelievable. The footing, the materials, the trails out back – it’s a great place to base for a full six months. My whole operation is here. I’m super happy with the job they’ve done; it’s amazing.”

Mark Kinsella and La Capitol. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

King and other top riders focus now on Saturday’s $50,000 Valencia Saddlery Grand Prix, but Friday welcomes young jumpers into the Grand Prix Arena for a class King himself has won several times already, the $7,500 Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity.

Final Results: $30,000 FarmVet Open Classic

1. Odysseus / Kyle King / Patricia Vase / 0/60.667
2. Quality H / Mark Kinsella / Ben Asselin / 0/60.793
3. La Capitol / Mark Kinsella / Aleron LLC / 0/62.084
4. Livestream 2 / Lisa Carlsen / Lisa Carlsen / 0/63.809
5. Chacco Latte’ / Alexis Taylor / Aleron LLC / 0/64.302
6. Vaillant De Belle Vue / Tali Dejong / Tali Dejong / 0/65.085
7. Conrado 12 / Ali Ramsay / Ramsay Equestrian Inc. / 0/65.320
8. De Laloma / Skylar Wireman / Shayne Wireman / 0/66.964
9. Casiano / Chandler Meadows / Chandler Meadows / 0/68.108
10. London’s De Muze / Uma O’Neill / O’Neill Show Jumping LLC / 4/66.918
11. Quaprice B / Tracey Epp / Tracey Epp / 4/72.894
12. Kodak Van Het Indihof / Joie Gatlin / Chandler Meadows / 8/64.603

Big Spender Cashes Out in 3’6” Green Hunters

Jenny Karazissis has been working with Big Spender for the past year building his confidence and getting him more comfortable with the idea of showing at the highest level. As a top professional hunter, Karazissis has high hopes for every horse she sits on, and Gaby Morgerman’s 9-year-old Warmblood gelding is no exception.

Thursday morning of Desert Circuit I at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP), the duo claimed championship honors in the 3’6” Green Hunter division.

Jenny Karazissis and Big Spender. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I’m so proud of this horse,” said Karazissis, of Westlake Village, CA. “He has been dealing with a little bit of stage fright. We had tried everything until recently we decided to ask Allen Clarke [of Horsemanship Unlimited] to help us. I can’t even tell you the difference in his behavior and how he just marched into the ring, both yesterday and today. It was all about business and he was not at all concerned. I want to give a huge thank-you to Allen Clarke. I’m just so thrilled with the way it turned out.”

Their partnership is only about one year in the making, but if Karazissis knows anything, it’s how to ride a nice hunter to the very top.

“He’s just lovely; he’s quality all the way,” she continued. “He’s a lovely mover, he’s attractive, he’s got the scope to jump the 3’6” in stride, and he’s really lovely to ride. The only thing that was holding us back was his fear when he first entered the ring and his concern. But I feel like we’ve conquered that and I’m really excited for the year.”

Karazissis is a staple in the hunter rings at DIHP and is thrilled to be competing all season, with her eyes on big events including USHJA International Hunter Derbies, USHJA National Hunter Derbies, the second $100,000 WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular, and beyond.

Jenny Karazissis and Big Spender. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

When asked what she likes about DIHP, Karazissis responded, “Everything! It’s fabulous. Every ring is beautiful. They’ve continued to do things to improve it, and we’re just so lucky to have this place to show. The footing is fantastic. The weather is fantastic. I can’t say enough nice things about the owners and Steve Hankin and all the work that they’ve done. I really appreciate it.”

Hunters continue Friday with Open and Junior/Amateur editions of the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, beginning at 8:00 a.m. in Main Hunter.