One victory at the Desert Internatonal Horse Park (DIHP) National Sunshine Series was not enough for Mark Kinsella. Aboard his second-place mount in Wednesday’s $10,000 Welcome Speed, Quality H, Kinsella took the win Thursday in the $30,000 Ritz Carlton 1.45m Open Classic, besting 61 entries.

Mark Kinsella and Quality H. Photo by ESI Photography

Set in a speed format, the class saw the lead change hands several times, but around the halfway point, Kinsella came in aboard Ben Asselin’s Quality H and shaved nearly five seconds off the leading time. His time of 61.757 seconds was untouchable, and only Jake Endicott and the Ashland Farms entry RMF Chacco Top came close, clocking in at 63.820 seconds for second place. Eric Navet found himself back on the podium aboard Signe Otsby’s Cadillac Jack in third.

Kinsella has seen the quality improve in the 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding over the last year. “I’ve always liked the horse,” he said of Quality H. “Ben and I spoke last year and he thought it was a good option to give it to me. I needed to increase my strength of horses, and he’s really adapted well. He never feels like he’s struggling; he can jump as big as he wants. I did some five-star grand prixs with him and he feels like he’s ready. I’ll do mostly FEI weeks during [Desert] Circuit and until then I’ll keep knocking on the door and jumping the grand prixs they have here.”

Jake Endicott RMF Chacco Top. Photo by ESI Photography

As for Thursday’s class, Kinsella knew he could rely on Quality H’s big stride to get the job done. “I went earlier with one of my other horses called Doraindo and I did all the inside turns with him. I ended up having two rails down, but I tried to ride the same course with Quality H, and I know his stride is so big that the leave-out is very easy. I left out a stride from one to two and that set me in my rhythm and I tried to stay on it,” he explained.

Kinsella aims Quality H at the $100,000 FarmVet Grand Prix Saturday night of National Sunshine Series week two, and he likes his chances considering the week has gone so well for him and the horse. “He’s a big ride and a very big mover,” he continued. “I can go on leave-out numbers without going super fast. I don’t have to put him under too much pressure. I like that ride but it’s something I’m not super used to so I’m trying to get used to it more. So far so good.”

Eric Navet and Cadillac Jack. Photo by ESI Photography

Returning from a week in Mexico, Kinsella is making his presence known, taking two big wins in just two days, something he attributes to DIHP’s added classes. “The schedule at Desert Horse Park has changed a lot. This is my third circuit here and it’s really strong. It allows riders to come with all sorts of different horses and clients as well. We have access to good money classes and we’re also producing horses at the same time. It’s definitely beneficial for riders to have more money classes here,” he concluded.

National Sunshine Series week two continues Friday with the $65,000 Butet USHJA International Hunter Derby Regional Championship at 8:00 a.m. in the Grand Prix Arena and the CPHA Style of Riding Championships as the evening session.

Mark Kinsella and Doraindo, stepping in for Quality H. Photo by ESI Photography

Final Results: $30,000 Ritz Carlton 1.45m Open Classic

1. Quality H / Mark Kinsella / Ben Asselin / 0/61.757
2. RMF Chacco Top / Jake Endicott / Ashland Farms / 0/63.820
3. Cadillac Jack / Eric Navet / Signe Otsby / 0/65.139
4. Luigi VD Bisschop / Matt Archer / Rhys Farms LLC, / 0/66.210
5. Cadeau Z / Mandy Porter / Risen Eq Holdings LLC / 0/67.268
6. Zibaloubet Z / Matt Archer / Rhys Farms, LLC / 0/68.375
7. Monseigneur / Matt Archer / Rhys Farms, LLC / 0/70.523
8. Concolue / Nicole Haunert / Cherokee Show Horses / 0/72.405
9. Acocento / William MacLean / William MacLean / 0/73.587
10. Chagolou / Jamie Gornall / Jamie Gornall / 0/74.822
11. Copycat / Lorcan Gallagher / Lost Lake Farm LLC / 0/74.880
12. Ekarlus BH / Jamie Gornall / Mavis Spencer / 0/77.503

Stiletto Struts to Championship in Platinum Performance 3’6” Performance Hunter

Top hunter athletes brought their A-game to Main Hunter to prepare for a big week ahead during National Sunshine Series II. Out of over 20 entries in the Platinum Performance 3’6” Performance Hunter division, Leslie Steele took championship honors aboard Jennifer Berman’s Stiletto.

Leslie Steele and Stiletto. Photo by ESI Photography

“We’re a new partnership actually,” Steele said of her ride aboard the 13-year-old Westphalian mare. “It’s a horse in training with Rainie Rose and I had the catch ride on her at Capital Challenge for the first time and she was really, really fun. She’s a lovely horse, a beautiful mover, a beautiful jumper, and sweet and easy. She’s just a super horse. I’ve been lucky enough to be offered the ride on her.”

Steele hopes the partnership is just beginning, as she plans to spend the majority of her season at DIHP and has been offered the ride on Stiletto for longer, and she will also stay busy developing young horses of her own throughout the season.

“I’ve got some great young horses that I’m developing so those will be doing the young horse classes, which I think are really important to our sport,” said the experienced hunter rider. “I go to specific horse shows that have young horse classes because I think when you’re developing 5- and 6-year-olds, they need those classes. I appreciate them having those here and in a nice arena. I intend to bring as many young horses as I have here.”

Though having earned countless accolades nationwide throughout her career, the West Coast will always pull Steele back home.

“California is my home and I love it,” Steele, of Calabasas, went on. “I appreciate how much effort they put into the horse show. I’ve had the same stalls since this facility was opened, so that’s how long I’ve been coming here. It’s nice that they keep continuing to make it a better facility. The improvements are great. I go to horse shows that have good footing, that want to cater to the exhibitors, and that want to help you develop young horses.”

Hunters return to Main Hunter Friday morning for the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open, sponsored by Valencia Saddlery, and two sections of the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Junior/Amateur, sponsored by Valencia Saddlery.