Kyle King (USA) may not have had the ideal circuit, results wise, but he’s enjoyed every minute of time in the desert sun and particularly enjoyed Thursday of Desert Circuit 10, presented by La Quinta Resort & Club, when he took home the win in the $32,000 Bridgeport Farms CSI4* 1.50m Speed.

Aboard Odysseus, owned by Patricia Vasey, King was last to go over Peter Grant’s (CAN) track. While there had been several clears, most riders took a little more time over the technical track. Ali Ramsay (CAN) led the way with Bonita VH Keizershof Z, and King wasn’t exactly determined to be the winner.

“Honestly I wasn’t planning to try to win this because I was thinking about doing Odie in the four-star Grand Prix, which is the biggest thing he’s ever tackled,” King explained of his approach to the class. “I just followed his rhythm. I didn’t think I had won, but he’s a fast horse. I had an idea at the end that I was close so I rolled back quickly to the end.”

Kyle King (USA) and Odysseus. Photo by HIgh Desert Sport Photo

King captured the win, while Ramsay took second. Shawn Casady (USA) ended up third aboard Cool Quarz, owned by Morning Star Sporthorses.

“He’s a neat horse,” King said of Odysseus, a 13-year-old American-bred Holsteiner gelding (Osilvis x Riverman). “Patty Vasey bred him and did all the riding on him until he was 10 or 11, and I got the ride just over a year ago.”

The horse has surpassed every expectation, and King has had to constantly adjust his vision for the horse as he’s lived up to every challenge. “When I first rode him I thought the 1.30m was too big, then I thought the 1.35m was too big, and then thought the 1.40m was too big, but he’s just coming into a really special form,” he explained. “He’s always been a cool horse but he has so much in there, so much heart, his technique is so pure, and he’s handling this really easy.”

King calls the desert home for a large portion of the year, so he has enjoyed that the jumping surfaces have been switched up quite a bit this season.

Kyle King (USA) and Odysseus in their winning presentation. Photo by HIgh Desert Sport Photo

“We’ve been on the grass a little more and I think it’s freshening the horses up,” he shared. “They come back here and respect these jumps. It’s for sure great confidence going into the rest of the week. I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous going on Saturday night under the lights – it’ll be scopier and bigger – but we’re going for it.”

King has a powerhouse of a horse in Odysseus, but he’s part of an even bigger squad of horses that King is hoping may peak just in time for some shows over the summer.

“The rest of the team has been great; I’ve been developing my other horses and they have been very good,” he said of the rest of his string. “I’ve got a nice young horse, Diamond, to do the National division who’s been stepping up. [SIG Chiari] has been great; he was second in the three-star a few weeks ago. I got my Etalon back, so I’m about to do him in one of our first classes back.

“My team for the summer is looking pretty strong,” he continued. “I got a ride on a nice new horse that I’m excited about that I almost won the National Grand Prix on last week, so if I can keep this string together then I”m pretty excited about what I can pull off this summer.”

James Chawke Earns Title of “Fastest Gun in the West”

James Chawke and Nacara Van Berkenbroeck Z. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

James Chawke said it last Sunday: he doesn’t like to lose. That was quite apparent when he set out on course for the $15,000 CWD Speed League Final on Thursday under the lights. With Nacara Van Berkenbroeck Z, owned by Alison Locke, the Irishman kicked it up a notch into an entirely new gear, racing to the win.

Coming in around midway through the order, reigning champion Skylar Wireman led with Karen, owned by MKT Equine LLC. Chawke took risks absolutely everywhere, going at a full gallop then turning tightly, and he was able to unseat Wireman’s lead and hold it as his own through the rest of the class.

“I said to Skylar I knew with Karen she’d be wild fast. She’s hard to beat,” Chawke said. “So I tried to do that. [Nacara] did it really well. He’s a very quick horse. Everything just came up nicely and really suited him. I did a few less steps in a few of the lines and rollbacks. He’s very quick and can do it well.”

Nacara came out very strong with a big win on Wednesday in Welcome Speed action, so Chawke knew he’d be up for the task. With the speed in the horse and the determination in the rider, they were the perfect match for the occasion.

James Chawke and Nacara Van Berkenbroeck Z in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

As for whether the horse needs to be put back together after going pedal to the metal, Chawke replied, “We’ll find out on Sunday. I don’t think so. I think he’ll be alright. He knows the job at this stage; I use him enough speedwise. He always comes out the same every day. He used to be quite blood and anxious and now he’s settled down enough that he doesn’t frazzle easily.”

Wireman took second while Katherine Huffstutler took third aboard Kimmel SCF, as the sole amateur rider in a field of all professionals.

Chawke is nowhere near done for the week, as he has big things on the horizon. He’s up for leading open jumper rider, which is determined at the close of 1.40m action on Sunday, another class he’ll aim to win.

“Nacara was supposed to do Sunday so we’ll decide if he still does that,” Chawke said of the upcoming plan. “I have a few in the 10 & Under tomorrow and then I’ll do the 1.40m class Sunday; I think I’ll do Daido [Van’t Ruytershof Z].”

Three days remain for Chawke to keep his title as “fastest gun in the West,” and it’s a title we think he has earned.

Gregory Wathelet Takes One-Two Finish in Final $30,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic

Gregory Wathelet brought a different string to the desert for his second year attending Desert Circuit, and the results haven’t played out exactly as he wanted to, but he’s still made it count. The Belgian World Champion took first and second with his own two entries in Thursday’s $30,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic.

Going first in the rider with Clarity, Wathelet laid it down over Joey Rycroft’s speed track, leaving the rest of the field to catch him, which no one did. With Clarity comfortably in the lead, Wathelet returned with the last entry as well, Beau Gosse du Park, and secured second. Jake Endicott captured third with RMF Chacco Top, owned by Ashland Farms.

Gregory Wathelet and Clarity. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“Honestly I was expecting a bit more from them throughout the season,” Wathelet said of his two mounts in Thursday’s class. “Clarity was coming back from a long injury when he arrived here and it took him a little longer before I felt him better in the rhythm. I wanted him to do the three-star [last week] but it felt like he was not ready so we jumped National [this week] and he was good today.”

Both horses were returning from injuries, so the idea was to get them back into proper form in the first part of the season to take on bigger events the rest of the year.

“Beau Gosse is a bit the same,” he continued. “He was also out for a while so that’s why he came here to get in a rhythm. He was a bit tricky also here which is why I just kept going and doing classes and hoping that when I go back to Europe that he’s ready to go back to bigger shows.”

Gregory Wathelet in his winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wathelet has taken several trips to various parts of the world during Desert Circuit, including to Abu Dhabi for the FEI Longines League of Nations and to ‘s-Hertogenbosch for the Dutch Masters, from where he returned not even a week ago.

“I always enjoy being here, even if it’s a long flight to get here, for many reasons,” Wathelet said of being at DIHP. “The atmosphere is great, the people are really friendly, and on top of that maybe the most important is the quality of the show. The ground is fantastic and I really love the grass. I already see big differences from last year and I’m really happy to be here, at the beginning of something. It looks like they’re just getting better and better.”

Show jumping resumes Friday with the $12,000 Horseflight CSI4* 1.45m Speed.

Nick Haness and Golden Road Ride to 3’6” Green Hunter Championship

Nick Haness and Golden Road. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Back in November, Golden Road was showing in the 1.0m jumpers at Desert International Horse Park. Come Week 10 of Desert Circuit, he’s showing in the $100,000 Irene Neuwirth WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular, as well as winning the 3’6” Green Hunter Championship during WCHR week. With Nick Haness in the irons, the horse, owned by Balmoral, took scores of 90, 91, and 92 for the division championship.

“Everything about him is amazing, from his attitude to his balance, his look, to the way he travels across the ground, and the jump is spectacular,” remarked Traci Brooks of Balmoral. “We thought he had all of the makings to be an amazing hunter. Everything is so easy for him, but he looks like he’s having fun out there. He tries so hard all the time and he gets better every class.”

Traci and Carleton Brooks have identified so many top hunters that have stepped into their line of sight and gone on to accomplish incredible things. Golden Road seems to be no exception. The 8-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Cornet Obolensky took a top-seven finish in Week 9’s $49,900 USHJA International Hunter Derby, and is now ready to take on the $100,000 Irene Neuwirth WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular Friday of Desert Circuit 10.

Nick Haness, pictured with Carleton Brooks, and Golden Road in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He’s come along really fast, he’s super smart, and he’s super talented,” Brooks continued regarding how Golden Road has made the career switch so well. “He just had to get some miles and learn to do it, but it was so easy to keep going with him because he’s so naturally gifted. He had to learn that that was his new job, and it started to click really quickly. We just try to stay out of his way.”

Brooks and the team behind Golden Road are excited for the horse’s outing in the Grand Prix Arena Friday, especially after a strong result Week 9.

“Tomorrow we hope that he goes out there and just continues to make us proud and has a great experience,” she added. “We hope for a great result, but we’re just proud of him no matter what. It’s just a great foundation for him to go out and do some of those bigger classes on a bigger stage and show everybody what he’s got.”

The team at Balmoral runs a powerhouse operation of hunters and jumpers, and everyone on the team enjoyed a great deal of success across all rings throughout the season at DIHP

“Circuit has been amazing,” Brooks reflected. “We love being here and we think everyone has done such a great job. It’s been nice with the 10 weeks; We’ve gotten in the groove and showing every week has actually been nice because we don’t show all the horses every week, we just rotate. We have fewer horses showing each spend more time with those people and horses.”

Geoffrey Hesslink and Monarchy Command Green Conformation Hunters

Geoffrey Hesslink Nick Haness and Monarchy. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Geoffrey Hesslink is only on week two of showing in the desert, but already taking top honors with several impressive horses. Monarchy, a horse he brought across the country with him from Florida, earned scores of 90 and 92 in the over-fences classes of the Green Conformation Hunters on Thursday of Desert Circuit 10, presented by La Quinta Resort & Club, earning the pair championship honors for the final week of the season.

“He is 6 years old and we imported him last year,” Hesslink said of the Belgian Warmblood gelding by Malito de Reve. “He’s owned by Shadowfax Equestrian and Lacey Howell. He’s been amazing. His first week competing at 3’6” was WCHR week at WEF Week 6, when he was champion. When we planned to make the trip out here we thought it was worthwhile to bring him.”

Hesslink has identified tons of young talent both domestically and from Europe, and when he was sent the video of Monarchy, he simply couldn’t resist.

“I got a video of him and I immediately fell in love with him,” he said of his love-at-first-sight moment. “I called everyone and said, ‘We need to buy this horse.’ He was 4 at the time and as a young horse, all of his instincts were right. He was extremely athletic, bred very well, very good mover, and very flashy in general. I don’t see a lot of horses that can do that in the correct style at that age. His athleticism and style were the main thing.”

Geoffrey Hesslink, Brendan Williams, and Monarchy in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Hesslink plans to pilot Monarchy in the $100,000 Irene Neuwirth WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular on Friday, along with two other mounts, and his hopes are high for the youngster in his second appearance in a class of this caliber, earning the opportunity to compete in the $100,000 Peter Wetherill WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular in February.

“He was absolutely incredible,” Hesslink said of the horse’s first time out under the lights. “He is extremely brave and I would say what attracted me in the video is that he was born trained. It was hard for me in the beginning to not overdo it and just let him do what he does best. When managing his schedule this year, he’s one that we had to pick and choose what shows we did because he’s better not doing it week after week.”

Halfway through his second week of competing in California, Hesslink has enjoyed a change of scenery and looks forward to more trips to Thermal in seasons to come.

“It’s been amazing and I have nothing but good things to say,” he concluded. “The management and hospitality have been some of the best I’ve ever witnessed. I think a change in venue for all my horses has been amazing. They’ve jumped perfectly and have done really well. The jumps are beautiful here and we are definitely going to come back.”

Hunters have a very exciting day Friday with the $20,000 Adequan® Young Hunter Championship, the $7,500 Horseflight USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open, the $7,500 Voltaire Design USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am, and the grand finale, the $100,000 Irene Neuwirth WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular with the top 12 returning under the lights in the Grand Prix Arena.