Thermal, Calif. – Nov. 9, 2021 – The Grand Prix Stadium at the Desert International Horse Park welcomed back athletes for the start of Week II of the National Sunshine Series on Wednesday. The highlight event of the day was the $5,000 Welcome Speed, sponsored by Everado Hegewisch Stables. Thirty-one horse and rider combinations sped around the track, and at the end of the day it was Patrick Billes and Espartano LS who handily took the win by more than six seconds.
Course Designer Manuel Esparza (MEX) set 11 numbered obstacles on the speed track, featuring a careful vertical-vertical combination across the middle and an oxer-vertical double combination coming home to test each combination’s agility and hoof speed. With a combination of long runs and tight rollbacks, the winning time required a combination of speed and ability to turn efficiently.
Setting a fast time early on in the class Allison Kroff and Imara M sped through the track in 63.993 seconds, but it came at the expense of a rail down for 4 faults. Olivia Brown (USA) and Alessandra Volpi’s Stratos then clocked in at a fault-free time of 65.687 seconds, which would ultimately be good enough for second place as rails fell all over the track with pairs continuing to up the speed. Billes (USA) was twelfth to step in the ring and the first to cross the timers below the 60-second mark, hitting a clear-round time of 59.39 aboard his own Espartano LS.
Eighteen rounds after Billes set the time to beat, Allison Kroff returned for another shot aboard Elyse Buscema’s Emmy Lu 3 and laid down a solid round, ensuring a clear effort and securing a time of 66.357 seconds. With five clear rounds in the 66-second range, Kroff was the fastest of those with only two to go, which would earn the pair third place overall.
Billes was thrilled with Espartano LS, a 14-year-old La Silla gelding, whom he purchased two years ago. The two have been working up from the 1.20m level to the 1.45m level, carefully progressing and consistently earning top placings throughout the year. Billes has worked carefully with Espartano LS to help improve the horse’s performance in the ring and it was clear today that the hard work has paid off.
The National Sunshine Series Week II is welcoming the Markel/USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships and Platinum Jumper Championships as part of its schedule, and on Tuesday more than 100 horses participated in the Jog ahead of the week’s competition, which began Tuesday morning and will conclude on Saturday. Earlier on Tuesday, the USHJA Platiunum Jumper Championships kicked off with the jog and a win in the first individual qualifier for Maison McIntyre and Hold It Against Me.
Jumper highlights will continue at DIHP on Thursday with the $30,000 National Grand Prix, sponsored by FarmVet, followed by Friday’s $10,000 1.35m Young Jumper Futurity Series, sponsored by Interactive Mortgage. Saturday’s highlight event will be the $100,000 1.50m Grand Prix, sponsored by Great American Insurance Group, and show jumping competition will conclude on Sunday with the $15,000 1.35m Open Classic, sponsored by Alu Jumps.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Patrick Billes – $5,000 Welcome Speed Winner
On Espartano LS:
“I got him just over two years ago. When he came to me he was a bit of a mess – physically and mentally – and he’s come around. He used to spook and gawk at a pole on the ground and now he’s game to jump anything. He’s really friendly; he’s a good partner. If you step over, he steps with you. He’s just a fantastic horse. He’s quick and he turns. He came off a jump one time and I just looked to the inside and he turned so fast there was no staying with him. He’s got those upright front legs and if he puts one down, he’s going the other direction.”
On his plan for Espartano LS this week:
“We’re debating whether we play in the 1.45m or if we do the 1.40m and then the 1.35m Open Classic on Sunday. I’ve got to flip a coin on those two and see what’s best for him. We did the 1.45m last week so I think we’re going to sit tight and maybe stick with the 1.35m this week.”
On the Desert International Horse Park:
“We’ve come here the last few years for Sunshine and on and off through the whole Desert Circuit. It’s absolutely impressive; every time we come here there’s something new and that’s fantastic. Especially after being shut down for COVID, we’re seeing more places where spectators can come. I really like the credential system because we have family that like to come to the show and once they get their credentials they can just march through the gate and that makes things really great.”
$5,000 Welcome Speed sponsored by Everado Hegewisch Stables
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time
- Espartano LS / Patrick Billes / USA / Patrick Billes / 0 | 59.39
- Stratos / Olivia Brown / USA / Alessandra Volpi / 0 | 65.687
- Emmy Lu 3 / Allison Kroff / USA / Elyse Buscema / 0 / 66.357
- Isolde de Wacht / Katey Kozeny / USA / Katey Kozeny / 0 | 66.621
- Sanvano / Julia Nagler / USA / Kenilworth Sport Horses LLC / 0 | 66.69
- Kandella / Cassio Rivetti / BRA / Delaney Batter / 0 | 66.731
- Ariana / Lorcan Gallagher / IRL / HKC Collection LLC / 0 | 66.955
- Cristal de Menardiere / Cassio Rivetti / BRA / Raphaella Guerrand-Hermes / 0 | 67.134
- C’Est Bon / Kirsten Coe / USA / Equine Trading Company / 0 | 67.474
- Quintago VA / Uma O’Neill / AUS / O’Neill Show Jumping LLC / 0 | 68.501