Mark Kinsella is proving to have a true star on his hands. Aboard Quality H, the Irishman took top honors in the $50,000 El Cristiano National Grand Prix Saturday afternoon of Desert Circuit III, besting some elite pairs and further solidifying their partnership.

Over Manuel Esparza’s track, Kinsella was early to jump off, and in good company, with the likes of Conor Swail, Kaitlin Campbell, and more top athletes. Swail set the pace to beat aboard Casturano, proving a questionable inside turn was achievable, and making the field catch his double-clear time of 34.471 seconds.

Mark Kinsella and Quality H. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I watched Conor go first and there was a pretty dicey inside turn back to the combination which I didn’t love when we walked, but he did it and made it look pretty smooth,” Kinsella remarked. “I know my horse has a big stride so I left out in the jump-off. I know he’s fast so I used his step coming home, doing the double leave-out. I used his length of stride and speed and it worked out today thankfully.”

Kinsella’s time of 32.227 seconds put him into a convincing lead. Only Kaitlin Campbell came in with a blazing pace aboard Palina De L’Escaut, owned by SWS Training & Sales, and threatened that time, but opted to forego the inside turn, still clocking in ahead of Swail in 33.824 seconds. Swail took third as the class came to a close. Delaney Batter won the EquiFit U25 Classic with a double-clear round aboard Vulcana.

Mark Kinsella and Quality H in their winning presentation, pictured with Mia Minervini of El Cristiano. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He’s a phenomenal horse,” Kinsella said of Quality H, a 2011 Hanoverian gelding (FRH Quaid x Stakkato). “Originally I was going to start him FEI this week but there’s such great money in the national classes here at DIHP. For this horse right now it was a good pick to keep him in the national classes. They’re good courses, they’re pretty technical to ride, and I feel like he’s extremely comfortable at this level. We’ll aim to go FEI for the second half of the circuit.”

Kaitlin Campbell and Palina De L’Escaut. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The course certainly presented its challenges, whittling down a field of 29 to eight for the jump-off, but Kinsella thought it worked to his horse’s advantage, as it has all week. “This course rode pretty nice,” he continued. “This designer likes to use different angles that we wouldn’t necessarily see every week so it’s good because it puts us riders under a bit of a challenge to do something that’s not so ordinary. Overall, the courses have been fantastic. Last week there was an Irish builder and he built amazing courses. I’ve had a great week with this horse.”

Conor Swail and Casturano. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The battle between the Irishmen fell in Kinsella’s favor this time, but Swail has had a sensational week, taking a podium placing every time he’s stepped foot in the Grand Prix Arena. He is also on a clear-round streak with all his horses, and Casturano has not dropped a rail in National action yet at DIHP.

“Obviously Conor is so fast and he’s on this never ending winning streak,” Kinsella commented regarding his first place finish over Swail. “He’s so competitive and so hot. Granted, he’s on a new horse, so he’s still getting to know his new partnership but it seems to be an incredible horse. I’m not looking forward to fighting one on one against that pair six months from now.”

Delaney Batter and Vulcana in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Final Results: $50,000 El Cristiano National Grand Prix

1. Quality H / Mark Kinsella / Ben Asselin / 0/0/32.227
2. Palina De L’Escaut / Kaitlin Campbell / SWS Training & Sales / 0/0/33.824
3. Casturano / Conor Swail / Conor Swail / 0/0/34.471
4. Vulcana / Delaney Batter / Delaney Batter / 0/0/37.725
5. Escapado S / Ian McFarlane / Mountain View West Farm LLC / 0/4/36.753
6. T-Quick Hurricane Z / Allison Kroff / TC Sport Horses LLC / 0/4/42.564
7. Hunters Conlypso II / Lorcan Gallagher / Lorcan Gallagher / 0/8/33.731
8. Comrado / Savannah Jenkins / Proper 12, LLC / 0/8/50.427
9. Tinkerbell / Elisa Broz / Elisa Broz / 4/70.111
10. Ilana / Halle Duke / Halle Duke / 4/72.113
11. Odysseus / Kyle King / Patricia Vasey / 4/72.15
12. Epsilon De Brenil / Andrew Lopez / Andrew Lopez / 4/72.316

Wathelet Back to Winning Ways in $38,700 CSI3* 1.45m Classic

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) added another win to his impressive resume in the desert in Saturday afternoon’s $38,700 Morning Star Sporthorses CSI3* 1.45m Classic at Desert Circuit III, once again aboard his homebred 11-year-old mare Argentina De La Marchete.

After an impressive week at Desert Circuit II with four wins, he made it an even five with a speedy jump-off to take the lead by a full second over second-place finisher, Irishman Conor Swail, and was able to maintain his position despite quick riders following him in the second round.

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Argentina De La Marchete. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Over Manuel Esparza’s (MEX) first-round track, nine competitors jumped clear, with Wathelet having the advantage of jumping off later in the returning order. One round prior, Swail took the lead aboard Theo 160, seeming to leave very little on the table. But using his mare’s quick footspeed and inside turns, Wathelet managed to unseat Swail and push him to second.

“I went number one with a really good canter because I knew the [first] seven strides were a bit flat for me. I did that easily. I ran a little. She can do quite easy inside turns.” He secured his faultless effort by not leaving out a stride in the final line on course. He said, “ I decided to do 8 because I felt like I was fast enough at the beginning that I didn’t have to take that risk.”

Looking to Sunday’s competition, Wathelet plans to compete this mare, plus one more, in the $145,100 Gillibrand Sand CSI3* 1.55 Grand Prix in hopes of leading her to a third victory in the desert. While Wathelet admits it’s unideal for him that his horse go back-to-back the day after a competitive jump-off, he is not worried about Argentina De La Marchete’s stamina.

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Argentina De La Marchete in their winning presentation, pictured with Karrie Rufer of Morning Star Sporthorses. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I hope she’s not too fast,” he remarked. “She’s going to walk a bit tomorrow morning to get more relaxed. It’s not always the best to go like that in a jump-off today, but I know she can go fast and we’ll see tomorrow.”

As for his plans for the coming weeks of Desert Circuit, Wathelet prefers to take it one day at a time. He narrowed his string to two mounts during week three in order to save his other horses for the latter weeks of competition. “I want them to feel fresh for the rest of the season,” he continued. “I tried to go fast yesterday and was fourth. We’ll see about tomorrow. I’m really enjoying it so far.”

It is no secret that the Belgian rider has an impressive winning record both in and far beyond the desert, and when asked about how competition in California compares to that in Europe he said, “It’s always the same; the jumps are there, and the height is there. Last week was a proper Grand Prix. It’s more technical in Europe and a little more difficult, but in the end you need to be clear, you need to jump it, and you need to go fast. The only big difference is in a jump-off like today, in a similar show, you might have 18 in the jump-off and 16 can win. But to be in the top three you still have to be quick.”

Show jumping continues Sunday morning with the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic, followed by the $145,100 Gillibrand Sand CSI3* Grand Prix.

Final Results: $38,700 Morning Star Sporthorses CSI3* 1.45m Classic

1. ARGENTINA DE LA MARCHETE: 2012 SCSL mare (Acajou De La Marchete x Del Piero PB)
GREGORY WATHELET (BEL), Gregory Wathelet: 0/0/30.65

2. THEO 160: 2012 HOLST gelding by Christian 25 x Calando IV
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Team Philippaerts: 0/0/31.63

3. CHICAGO CM: 2013 HOLST gelding by Cassini x Carpaccio
ERIC KRAWITT (CAN), Eric Krawitt: 0/0/32.59

4. CON CALLE: 2009 Holst gelding by Contendro II x Cassini II
MAVIS SPENCER (USA), Georgy Maskrey-Segesman: 0/0/34.36

5. ZAMIA 3: 2007 HOLST mare by Aljano 2 x Dream Of Glory
CHANDLER MEADOWS (USA), Chandler Meadows: 0/0/35.74

6. INDIGO VAN DE MUGGENHOEK: 2013 KWPN gelding by Montender x Riverman ISF
ZUME GALLAHER (USA), Blue Gate Stables, LLC: 0/0/35.93

7. ETALON: 2009 KWPN gelding by Otangelo x Concorde
KYLE KING (USA), Christine Maclean: 0/4/32.11

8. CALACAS D AUBIGNY: 2012 SF gelding by Jarnac x Notrestar Dela Nutria
ZUME GALLAHER (USA), Blue Gate Stables, LLC: 0/4/34.09

9. FEYON: 2010 KWPN gelding by Zazou R x Hamilton
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), SWS Training & Sales: 0/8/38.32

10. CALIFORNIA SUNSHINE: 2013 DSP mare by Captain Z x Bollvorm’s Lauriston
SUSAN ARTES (USA), Alix Fargo: 1/79.23

11. CALGARY IV: 2008 HOLST mare by Casall x Calato
NICOLE HAUNERT (USA), Cherokee Show Horses Inc: 4/75.74

12. CONRADO 12: 2013 ZANG gelding by Cardento x Diarado
ALI RAMSAY (CAN), Ramsay Equestrian LLC: 4/76.87

Djuna Lauder and Radio City Top 3’6” Junior Hunter Classic in Style

Djuna Lauder, of Los Angeles, CA, entered the ring on Saturday sporting a bright blue show coat, one that ultimately matched her ribbon at the end of the $5,000 Callidae 3’6” Junior Hunter Classic. Of her multiple rides, it was her own Radio City that took top honors.

Djuna Lauder and Radio City. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I like to stand out, but not in an obnoxious way,” commented Lauder on her unique style in the hunter ring. “I think there is a fine line between being too much and being stylish. If you’re going to stand out, you might as well go big or go home.”

Despite the relatively short partnership, Lauder and Radio City have developed a close bond and have proven themselves as a stylish pair. “I got him last May right before Devon. Ever since then, it’s been a really incredible learning experience with him,” Lauder said of the 10-year old Warmblood gelding. “We have a really similar brain; he’s like my equal. He’s a really special boy and I love him,” she remarked.

Djuna Lauder and Carleton Brooks. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“My goals for Desert Circuit are to be as consistent as I can be and I want to be the best horsewoman I can be,” explained Lauder. For as long as Lauder has been in the saddle, her trainer, Carleton Brooks of Balmoral Farm, has been by her side. “I have been riding with Carleton for 13 years. He taught me to see through the horse’s point of view and feel what they’re feeling. He’s the reason I have those goals.”

Hunter competition concludes Sunday with Amateur-Owners Hunters and their respective classics.