Nicole Bourgeois has been enjoying quite a few lovely horses under the guidance of Traci and Carleton Brooks during Desert Circuit 2024, and on Friday of Desert Circuit 7, presented by TALUS, she earned a big win on one of their rides. Aboard Vino Bianco van Overis Z, owned by Ellicia Edgar, Bourgeois posted scores of 90 and 95 to win the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open, sponsored by Vogel.

“She actually just got here last week,” Bourgeois said of the 8-year-old Zangersheide mare (Vingino x Amoroso). “Her owner lives up in Canada and she spent the winter up there. This is our second week together of the circuit. I showed her for two weeks in August up at Thunderbird. We’re a relatively new match, but she’s a lovely mare. She’s awesome.”

Nicole Bourgeois and Vino Bianco Van Overis Z. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Bourgeois knew the competition was steep coming into Friday’s class, and she sat in fourth place after round one. Nick Haness had the lead with a 95 aboard Reese’s, owned by West Coast Equine Partners LLC, but Bourgeois gave it all she had to move up the leaderboard, and it paid off.

“Her braveness and her maneuverability [helped me today],” she said of her jump from fourth to first. “We made a really slick inside turn to the first jump followed by a real slick inside turn after the first jump. I knew this horse would do it no problem. She was so game and with me. I was really proud of her. She’s 8 but that’s still not super old, so I was really happy with her that she understood the assignment.”

Bourgeois is used to a variety of rides, but she gets along with this one particularly well, which was evident Friday as she navigated both rounds so seamlessly.

“We get along great,” she continued about her partnership with Vino Bianco van Overis Z. “She’s a little bit of a sensitive mare but she’s so game. She has a soft mouth, she’s so brave, she really tries her heart out. She’d jump any jump you pointed her at. She wants to win; she’s a winner.”

Nicole Bourgeois and Vino Bianco Van Overis Z in their winning presentation, pictured with Ecole Lathrop on behalf of Vogel, Carleton Brooks, Kendall Bourgeois. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Coming off a high from week 6, dubbed “Hunter Week,” Bourgeois still has her eye on a few prizes to come, including the WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular and additional hunter derby action in the final three weeks of Desert Circuit.

“It’s been a great Circuit so far. I’ve been here almost every week,” she shared. “I’ve been riding some of Traci and Carleton Brooks’ horses, so it’s a nice opportunity to be able to go in so many times and get comfortable. Last week was awesome, we got to ride out in the Grand Prix ring and that was so much fun. I hope we get to do that again. I loved that. The horses absolutely loved jumping out there and it was a really fun experience to shake it up for the hunters. The grass field is also amazing so I love riding back there too. I’m very thankful for Desert Horse Park to give the hunters some more highlights that we don’t get other places.”

Haness and Reese’s ultimately claimed second, just a quarter of a point off Bourgeois’s score, and Natalie Rae Sibert took third with Montego Bay.

Madison Wu and Notorious Claim Biggest Derby Win of Their Career

Nick Haness may have walked away with second place earlier, but his student scored a win slightly later on Friday in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am, sponsored by Voltaire Design. Madison Wu and the West Coast Equine Partners LLC-owned Notorious put in two excellent performances for the win, with both scores in the 90s.

“I’ve won derbies before but they were at smaller shows and I’ve never won one here so it’s really a big deal for me,” Wu said of her win Friday. “My goal is kind of always to win, but I’ve never thought I was actually going to win. I was really shocked when I got my really good score in the first round.”

Madison Wu and Notorious. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Notorious was Wu’s third of three rides, and she just missed out on handy round action with her other two, so she was not only thrilled to make it back for the handy round, but she was coming back with the second-highest score. There was a bit of pressure, but she didn’t let that get to her.

“In the handy round I tried to not get too nervous and to enjoy the fact that I even made it there and ride a good round basically,” she explained. Her second-round score of 90 sealed the deal and handed her the win by a hefty margin of over seven points. Margrethe Munkdale scored second place aboard Call Me Captain, owned by Round Meadow Farm, LLC, while Hilary Sosne and Wayfinder were third.

“I got him a little less than a year ago and started leasing him here actually,” she said of Notorious, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Stakkato Gold. “He knows everything. When I don’t know what to do he always knows what to do. He helps me through everything. On my other two horses I made some mistakes today and with him I made some mistakes but he really helped me through it.”

Madison Wu and Notorious. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The handy round really let the pair shine as well, as the rideability showed through. She took enough risks to guarantee a good score but not put her strong first-round score in jeopardy.

“He’s really good at turning and he’s really easy if you need a lead change; you don’t have to worry, he just does it for you basically,” she said of riding Notorious. “He is a really sweet horse. He can be a little bit spoiled because everyone is always giving him treats. He’s a really good boy; he knows he’s good.”

Among Wu’s accomplishments in the show ring, Friday’s victory ranks “pretty high honestly. I’d say it’s really far up there. My overall goal is to do grand prixs so I have some jumper moments in my career that would probably rank higher but this is pretty up there,” she shared.

Hunter competition resumes over the weekend with junior and amateur divisions.

Skylar Wireman and Crunch K Gallop to Victory in $5,000 CSI3* Speed

Skylar Wireman (USA) and Crunch K. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Skylar Wireman (USA) has big hopes for a big ride in her string. Crunch K stands at over 18 hands high, and he’s got a huge presence both in and out of the ring. She used the 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding’s massive stride and build to cruise to first in the $5,000 IDA Development CSI3* 1.45m Speed on Friday afternoon.

“This horse came to me about a year ago now and over the past year we’ve had a great bond,” she said of Crunch K, owned by MKT Equine LLC. “We had a couple smaller 1.35m wins and this is our first bigger three-star win.”

The course was designed by Alan Wade (IRL), and Wireman believed it was the perfect course for her horse. “This class actually was his specialty; I rethink I left a stride out in every line,” she said. “A big open field with lots of long galloping lines is where he’s at home because he has a massive stride. He can leave strides out so easily. We walked the one five and not a single person did four and I cruised down there. It really suited him.”

Skylar Wireman (USA) and Crunch K in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wireman’s time was 66.92 seconds, and she snagged the quickest time right at the end from the hands of Cassio Rivetti (BRA) and Billy Dorito, owned by Monarch Farms LLC. Vanessa Mannix (CAN) took third with Valentino D’Elte.

The Friday FEI class is an addition to the schedule that the international riders very much appreciate, especially riders like Wireman who have several mounts in the international division.

“Because you can only do so many in the 1.50m and Grand Prix each week, I think adding a couple classes gives the third horse an option to have more classes,” she explained of why it benefits her string. “It’s really helped a lot especially with a greener horse that you want to bring up to be your top horse. This horse hasn’t jumped a ton of huge tracks, and I think it’s been really helpful having more classes to mix and match what you want to do with your horses.”

Wireman will jump Tornado in the $117,000 TALUS CSI3* Grand Prix on Saturday night, hoping to score a win in that as well.

“For [Crunch K], he’ll continue to build; he just started doing the 1.50m at the end of last year so he’ll continue to progress through that and keep developing a little more. We’ll see where it takes us,” she concluded.

Pony Costume Pairs Dazzle in Hunter 7

Ten pairs of pony riders showed up dressed to the nines to compete in the Pony Costume Pairs class Friday in Hunter 7. It was perhaps the hardest choice any judges had to make on Friday, but ultimately the Barbie girls took the win, with Sienna Smith and Evie Becky pretty in pink with their ponies, Gold Standard and Best Blonde, donning beautiful, wavy blonde locks. The costumes were incredibly creative and all riders were recognized for their efforts to make this class memorable.

Sienna Smith aboard Gold Standard and Evie Becky aboard Best Blonde. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo