Lane Clarke knows he’s got a special horse in Venom, and he proved it to everyone in attendance Saturday night of Desert Circuit 5 in the $100,000 Premier Equestrian Grand Prix, taking the win in a highly competitive crowd.
It’s not often that riders can beat Conor Swail in jump-off, but that’s exactly what Clarke did. As one of seven to come back after Kelvin Bywater’s course clear, Clarke knew it was a tough order to top Swail, who was leading with Gamble at the time.
“To have Conor Swail, Mark Kinsella, Kyle King, they’re heavy hitters,” Clarke admitted about the field he was up against. “It’s always great to compete against them, and it’s great to beat them sometimes. I want them to feel about me the way I feel about them: watch out. Tonight was my night and it’s been their night a lot more often.”
Clarke had something in Venom that the other riders didn’t have: his horse is insanely fast in the air. He quite literally slithers over every fence, staying true to his name. His time of 37.446 seconds just barely edged Swail out of first, his time being just barely slower in 37.480 seconds.
“I got to see Conor go and he was beautiful,” Clarke said of the jump-off he was trying to beat. “He did a totally different track than I did. He’s got a bigger stride and maybe more scope. I didn’t think I could get the striding done and keep the rails up, but I know my horse is quick through the air and across the ground so I took the risk of adding a stride in two places and relying on his speed through the air. I just used it to our advantage. He’s that fast that he can do two more strides and still win.”
Swail took second with Gamble and Mark Kinsella claimed third with Marquis Le Beau Courally, owned by Katherine Huffstutler.
Clarke took a slower approach to the start of the year, so his horses, Venom included, are feeling great. With the win now in his pocket, so is he.
“It’s my first show of the year,” he said of Desert Circuit 5. “I did last week just as a prep week and he’s been great. He’s always been spectacularly fast, the fastest in every class, I’ve just pushed the envelope a little too hard. I backed off a little bit and gave him a little more balance because he always tries hard and is always so quick, and tonight was the ticket.”
Venom is a special horse because he’s one that Clarke has produced with his father, Alan, who works with difficult horses. Venom was no exception, proving quite difficult as a young horse. Now 11, the gelding (Chacco-Blue x Quidam’s Rubin) is Clarke’s ultimate match.
“My dad did most of the work. He came as a difficult horse. Crazy spooky, wouldn’t jump poles on the ground,” Clarke reflected of Venom’s early years. “It helps because I know [my dad] systems and can follow his instructions. Anytime we get into a snag, we go back to the drawing board and he does what he does again. We built him for a few years but we’ve only had one and a half years of real competition; the rest was developing him into a horse that was willing to go do his job. He’s super willing now. He’s always had the desire to be good, but he’s always been a bit spooky.”
Clarke came into the ring noticeably different from the other riders, showing off his personal style in a white show coat. “My dad always wanted to have something unique with his horses. I’ve always liked unique jackets,” he shared about the fashion choice for the occasion. “He said to pick something crazy, so I wore white because why not?”
Jose Maria Quintana Leaps to $20,000 Perfect Products U25 Victory
Jose Maria Quintana was hoping for a better result than fourth place in the $100,000 Premier Equestrian Grand Prix, but with the caliber of rider he was up against, plus the hefty bonus he got as the top U25 rider, he was perfectly happy with how the class ended.
“I was telling all these riders I’ve never been in such a competitive jump-off,” he said of the selection of seven riders who took to the short course. “I’m really proud and honored to be sharing this jump-off with all these amazing riders who I all look up to.”
Quintana went second, just after Conor Swail and Gamble, and were just off the pace. The competitive edge just kept rising, and his second-place time quickly became a fourth-place finish. But he was the youngest in the jump-off field, leaving him with a hefty prize at the end in the $20,000 Perfect Products U25 Classic.
“I don’t always go into the U25 normally but today it was really cool that the administration put a little more motivation for the young riders,” he said of the U25 offering $20,000 in prize money this week. “It’s really good. It’s cool to win U25 of this level for sure.”
Catoki Boy, a 14-year-old stallion (Catoki x Cassini II), has helped Maria Quintana reach goals he never thought he’d accomplish. After winning a $100,000 Grand Prix in November of 2022, the horse was sidelined for almost a year due to an injury.
“He’s like my son,” he said of Catoki Boy. “I got him six and a half years ago and we’ve been together all the way. It’s been a while since I could have an achievement like today and i’ really proud of him because he’s a warrior. He’s for sure the horse of my life. I’m really proud of him and I hope he can give us more achievements.”
Next week, he plans to step up a level if all goes to plan, and he’ll hope for even more achievements before Desert Circuit is over.
“I’m doing the three-star next week with him then I’ll rest a couple weeks and come back and do a few shows,” he shared of his remaining plans this winter. “This is my first time doing the whole circuit and I couldn’t ask for a better place for my horse to be showing.”
In addition to two big wins, $43,000 was raised for Uryadi’s Village through their Jump for the Village initiative on Saturday evening.
Show jumping resumes Sunday with the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic.
James Chawke Takes Another Win in $7,500 Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity Series
James Chawke, master of the 1.35m fence height at DIHP, struck again in the $7,500 Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity Series during Desert Circuit 5, presented by Premier Equestrian. This time aboard Daido Van’t Ruytershof Z, Chawke put in a very competitive jump-off time and secured the win. Mandy Porter took second with Cara Mia 155, owned by Risen Eq Holdings LLC, and Hannah Evans claimed third with Jane Avril Des Terdrix.
Maggie Dumrauf and Cognac Capture Struck Apparel 3’3” Junior Hunter Classic
Maggie Dumrauf and Cognac are only two weeks into their partnership, and already they’ve captured back-to-back wins. During week five, for the second week in a row, she was champion and won the Struck Apparel 3’3” Junior Hunter Classic with the 9-year-old gelding, owned by Nicola Genaud and trained by Amanda Tallman.
“I started riding him last week,” Dumrauf said of Cognac. “He has the best personality. He’s the sweetest, goofiest horse. He is on the younger side but his first time out last week he was also champion and he won the classic two weeks in a row. He’s a winner. He wants to go in there and jump to win it. He’s very forgiving. He’s a really great horse.”
Dumrauf clocked scores of 86 and 87 in the respective rounds, which gave them a total of 173 and the win. As for the future, it’s a little unsure, but they’re certainly having a good time while it lasts.
“We’re just playing it by ear,” Dumrauf, of Del Mar, CA, continued. “He had a great two weeks and Amanda has done a fantastic job with him for his upbringing. He’s won derbies and been champion in big divisions. I’d love to keep riding him. He’s awesome.”
It’s been a marathon of a season so far for Dumrauf, but she’s loving every minute getting to ride all sorts of horses for various professionals across the park. “I’ve been here for all five weeks so far,” she said. “I just catch ride so I’ve been riding for Amanda, John Bragg, Robin Stigler, Everardo Hegewisch and other great trainers.”
The opportunity has seasoned her for everything that’s to come, including collegiate competition. “It’s honestly super cool learning from a variety of horses and trainers,” she continued. “It’s an awesome experience. I’m going to Texas Christian University this fall and riding on their D1 equestrian team. It’s great I’m able to learn on so many different horses because it’s good prep for that. I am so grateful.”
Tallman was especially grateful for Dumrauf to take the ride aboard Cognac the past two weeks, with the junior rider putting in an excellent performance and helping to develop the horse even further.
Dumrauf also has support back home helping to pave the way to big shows like those at Desert Circuit. “My trainer at home Hailey Scharping has prepped me a lot for this and she’s given me so many opportunities,” she remarked. “She gave me that jump start to be here so she’s a big reason why I’ve been able to do this.”
From a town just down the road near San Diego, Dumrauf still feels like she’s at home in Thermal and enjoys all aspects of the show. “I love it because it’s much different than anywhere else in California,” she said of why she loves DIHP. “All my friends are here and it’s so big with so many different classes and rings to explore. There’s a variety at this horse show that you don’t get anywhere else.”
Alvin and the Chipmunks Prevail in Inaugural .70m Jumper Team Challenge
You may have thought this was a horse show, but the chipmunks came to play on Saturday of Desert Circuit 5, presented by Premier Equestrian. In Alvin and the Chipmunks fashion, a team of riders from Vintage Lane squeaked to victory in the inaugural .70m Jumper Team Challenge, sponsored by American Equus.
Four teams came out in strong costume to go for the top prize in the new class, and team spirit was apparent. Among the costumes were piñatas, Cupid and the Cupettes, and the legendary chipmunks. Three of the four teams made it to the jump-off, where they each selected one rider to go for the gold. Ultimately, Clare Dreyfus sealed the deal for her teammates Lily Kurek and Kendall Very, taking the win.
“We were trying to think of trios so we had a list, and Kendall decided Alvin and the Chipmunks would be a good one,” Dreyfus explained of how the costume came to be. “We got some of the pieces on Amazon of course, and Kenall and Lily went shopping and crafted them. And the horses had letters on the saddle pads that they made too.”
Two of the team members, Dreyfus and Very, were already fairly seasoned jumper competitors, but Kurek stepped into the jumper ring for the very first time to join this team.
“My horse only did the jumpers in Europe before she was imported but now we only really do the hunters,” Kurek explained. “We needed one more person. It was fun. I’m glad I got to do it. It’s good to do it once, but I’m not a jumper.”
Kurek currently competes in the 2’9” hunters and aims to move up into the 3’ Children’s Hunters in the near future, so this was a good challenge to prepare them to take on something new.
It was still something new for Dreyfus, though, who is working her way up to the 1.0m level with her horse Imperial City.
“I’ve never done a team format,” she shared. Both Dreyfus and Very jumped clear rounds. “It was really fun to be able to cheer on other people in a real sense. We cheer each other on anyways, but it was really fun today. We think there should be a relay event next.”
As for the pressure on her, she didn’t take it too seriously. “I just ignore the clock,” she explained of her strategy. “I know some people look but I don’t. I try to get my strides right and get a good distance to each jump. My horse likes to go fast so he carries the team in that regard.”
Overall, everyone had fun not only competing but also gathering team costumes and coming out for a fun experience, no matter the result.