The feature event of National Sunshine Series 2, presented by Marshall & Sterling, put Kyle King in familiar territory. Just the week prior, he had won the $100,000 Grand Prix aboard SIG Chiari, and during week two, in the $100,000 Marshall & Sterling Grand Prix, he was back in contention aboard a different mount, Odysseus. Last time, he jumped off last. This time, he went first. That didn’t change the result.

With Patricia Vasey’s speed demon, King put in the round he needed to, and the remaining six jump-off contenders couldn’t catch him, though they came very close. In a time of 40.038 seconds, King captured the second of two grand prix victories in just a week’s time.

Kyle King and Odysseus. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Barely off the pace was Trent McGee, who came home with second place aboard Caracas, owned by Archie Cox. Their time of 40.138 was scary close, just missing the mark but still earning them the Surrey U25 bonus. In third place was Charlie Jones with the Morning Star Sporthorses entry Capitale 6, having wished to move up the leaderboard from second place the week prior, but having just a few too many milliseconds on the clock to do so.

“For sure confidence breeds confidence,” King said of his winning performance that lasted two weeks in a row. “I knew ‘Odie’ was ready; he’s been knocking on the door lately and last week he jumped wonderfully out here with just one down. I was excited because he’s my fastest horse, so I was happy to have him tonight.

Kyle King and Odysseus. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The biggest difference from week one was that King didn’t have the advantage of seeing any other jump-off rides before he had to go in and try to claim the win. “I don’t like going first; it’s never a great advantage but honestly I knew what was coming behind me so I think I was pretty quick. That horse can really turn on the burners. He’s like a little sportscar,” he said.

Odie and King were ones to watch out for in speed action last season, but this year the horse is stepping into an entirely new space, certainly as one to watch in both National and FEI action to come.

“Odie’s been coming along. Patty Vasey rode him for his whole career and then handed me the reins a little over a year ago and we quickly found success,” King explained of his relationship with the 12-year-old American-bred Holsteiner gelding (Osilvis x Riverman). “I didn’t know how much scope he had but it just keeps growing and growing. He’s a real weapon because he is so fast and his technique is so pure. He’s relaxing and trusting me so I’m really excited about the future with him.”

Kyle King and Odysseus in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The crowd was electric at Desert International Horse Park for the final night session of the 2023 National Sunshine Series. The already excited stands lit up even more when King crossed the finish timers.

“Half of it’s probably my own staff; we have a good group of people and I have a lot of friends here because this is my base for the winter,” he said of the cheering squad. “That definitely helps and makes it feel a lot better when you pull it off in front of people who care about you.”

King bases right onsite at DIHP during the winter season, so he is truly winning on home turf. As the season goes on, the field of competitors will evolve to feature a truly international scene, but King is hopeful his results might not change too much

Trent McGee and Caracas in their U25 winning presentation, pictured with Emma Werner of The Surrey. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“The schedule is great. There’s a lot of good prize money on the line,” he said of what he’s looking forward to. “We’ve got some real serious jockeys coming in for the winter season so it’s not going to be easy, but it never is. It’s going to be very competitive this season. It’s going to be fast jump-offs but I’m excited because I’ve got some really nice horses and young ones coming up. We’ve got a big business here and this is home.”

See full results from the $100,000 Marshall & Sterling Grand Prix here.

The second week of the National Sunshine Series comes to a close Sunday, which features the $30,000 1.40m Marshall & Sterling Open Classic.

Maggie Dumrauf Delivers in USEF/NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Final

Maggie Dumrauf in her winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Keeping in the fashion of equitation finals during National Sunshine Series 2, presented by Marshall & Sterling, junior riders returned to the Grand Prix Arena Friday afternoon for the USEF/NCEA Junior Medal Final, an event held annually at Desert International Horse Park. Forty-two of the West Coast’s elite junior riders went through three phases of competition before the winner, Maggie Dumrauf, was crowned.

Dumrauf brought in a high score of 86 to start, which had a comfortable spot near the top of the leaderboard. She still had quite a ways to go, however, with a tough flat phase and the top four riders returning and switching horses in a bracket-style competition to determine the winner.

“Today I wanted to be bold,” Dumrauf said of her first round plan. “There was an inside turn no one was really taking. I went early in the order so I think I got rewarded for that inside turn. I know my horse [Cover Girl] pretty well; I’ve owned her for almost three years so I knew she’d do anything. Coming into the flat I knew she’d show off. And coming into the final bracket phase, I ride a lot of horses at home, so I felt confident in myself. I get on the horses and it’s all about feel. I went in and tried to do my best.”

Dumrauf was just one spot away from the win Friday night in the CPHA Style of Riding Championship, taking reserve championship honors. “I tried to stick with how I’m feeling,” Dumrauf said regarding whether she was coming back even more determined. “If I tried to go for the win it gets in my head a little bit. I came into today thinking whatever happens happens. I’m grateful we’re here at Desert Horse Park. It’s so cool and riding the Grand Prix Arena is an opportunity in itself.”

Maggie Dumrauf and Cover Girl. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The two finals are very different in format and in objective, and Dumrauf prepared accordingly for each. “Last night it was all about time and style,” she explained. “For me I just wanted to be in the time allowed. As long as you make it back to the second round, that’s where you can be risky.

“This class, I took a breath because there’s no time allowed,” she continued of the NCEA format. “I took my time, used my corners, and my horse has been in this ring from last night so we’re both acclimated to it.”

Dumrauf is actually headed to the collegiate level to compete on Texas Christian University’s Division 1 team in the fall, so the win is a strong symbol of how prepared she is to take on collegiate riding. Her background in riding since a very young age combined with learning the higher levels of equitation have helped her achieve her goal of riding in college.

“I think the equitation is important because it really shows off your style and technique,” Dumrauf reflected. “We’re really lucky that we have so many eq classes. For example, last night it was all about jumper style and today it was all about getting on different horses and riding them. It’s important to show you can do the jumper style versus hunter style. There’s a lot of variety and it’s cool to do them all.”

Riders aged 12 and under rode in round one of the CWD Onondarka Medal Final Friday. Out of 30 entries, Denim Schneider took the high score of 88, putting her in the lead heading into Sunday morning’s final.

Kainville VDS Captures DIHP 10 & Under Futurity Series

Savannah Jenkins and Kainville VDS in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

In its second running in as many weeks, riders again tested their younger mounts in the $7,500 DIHP 10 & Under Futurity Series, sponsored by Premier Equestrian, Saturday morning. Of the 52 entries, it was Savannah Jenkins and the Proper 12, LLC, entry Kainville VDS who took the fastest of eight double-clear rounds for the win. Jolia BH and Isabella Sevigny claimed second place, while Rachel Fields and Kimberly HX, owned by Sahana Ganesan, were third.