Thermal, Calif. – Jan. 26, 2022 – Desert Circuit II kicked off on Wednesday with the $2,500 Whittier Trust 1.35m Welcome Speed in the Grand Prix Arena. A total of 22 entries came forward to contest the Manuel Esparza-designed track, set in the Table II speed format. One by one, athletes attempted to jump clear in the quickest time to take the lead and qualify for Saturday night’s $25,000 FarmVet Grand Prix. In the end, it was Rachel Fields (USA) and Lexi Burdon’s Daisy Lyn who rose to the occasion to take the top spot.
Esparza’s (MEX) course consisted of 11 numbered obstacles and 13 jumping efforts set across the expanse of the Grand Prix Arena, featuring a vertical-oxer double combination at fence four, an oxer-vertical double combination at fence six, sweeping rollback turns and many jumps set on an unrelated distance, encouraging riders to take as few strides as possible to shorten their times. As the pathfinder for the track, Nicole Haunert (USA) piloted Cherokee Show Horses Inc.’s Isabel to a near fault-free ride, knocking an unfortunate rail at the final fence on course and finishing in a time of 69.482 seconds. The second pair in the ring, Emma Irwin (CAN) and Bella, set the pace for those to follow with the first zero-fault effort of the class, laying down a solid ride in 75.059 seconds.
It was evident Irwin left the door open for a speedier pair to take over as Jason McArdle (USA) and Once Upon a Time entered the arena next and quickly took over the lead, shaving five seconds off of Irwin’s time to finish in 70.490 seconds. Just two pairs later, Ireland’s Mark Kinsella knocked another five seconds off of the leading time to gallop through the finish line in an impressive 65.516 seconds, moving into the first place position aboard Astrid de B’Neville. It would take nine more pairs contesting Esparaza’s track before a new leader would emerge. Alexis Sokolov, a 20-year-old Rancho Santa Fe native, skillfully rode Fasole du Seigneur through a winding path across the expansive arena in order to save valuable time on course. The duo notched just 64.259 seconds on the clock to set the bar high for those who remained.
Rising to the challenge set by Sokolov, the United States’ Hannah Selleck and Rumpleteazer DF entered the arena next, determined to nab a win. Narrowly sliding into first place by just four one-hundredths of a second, Selleck notched 64.215 seconds on the clock. Her lead was short lived as the winning spot would exchange hands yet again just two rounds later. Fields and Daisy Lyn stepped up to the plate, speeding through the timers nearly one second quicker for a fault-free finish of 61.385 seconds. In the end, Fields’ efforts aboard the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare was enough to lend her the top spot on the leaderboard as the remaining two athletes were not quick enough to catch her impressive time. Claiming second place at the conclusion of the class was Selleck and Rumpleteazer DF, owned by Descanso Farm, with Sokolov and Hot Horses LLC’s Fasole du Seigneur rounding out the top three.
Competition during Desert Circuit II continues Thursday, January 27, spotlighting the first day of FEI CSI3* competition with the $5,000 Vitaflex 1.40m Two-Phase CSI3*. National show jumping competition will continue Thursday with the $5,000 1.40m Open Classic, sponsored by Morning Star Sport Horses. Show jumping competition at Desert Circuit II will come to a pinnacle Saturday, January 29, as athletes vie for the top prize in the $138,600 Purina 1.55m Grand Prix CSI3*.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Rachel Fields – $2,500 Whittier Trust 1.35m Welcome Speed winner
On her plan for the course:
“I’m not sure I had one. [Daisy Lyn] is a really fast mare naturally. If you can keep a feel and point her to the jumps, she’s already fast. And today she just felt really extra careful, sharp, and focused, and just an easy ride today, which was nice.”
On Daisy Lyn:
“It’s actually a client’s horse. She’s owned by Lexi Burdon, who’s at Stanford at the moment; she’ll come on the weekend to ride her. Lexi’s had the horse for a couple of years. We got her from Guillermo Obligado. My husband had tried her earlier when he was in Europe years ago. We always liked the horse. I like mares, and I like quick horses, and so does Lexi. She’s just been a great horse for Lexi and I’m just lucky enough to get to ride her.”
On Rachel’s goals for the circuit:
“To survive. I just want our horses to go really well for our clients. And for our clients to have a great experience, and maybe move up to different levels. My husband, Jeff, and I have a real client based business. I just want our kids and our adults to have a good experience, to have some fun, and to enjoy the sport.
“They’re doing such a great job here at the facility. They’re making it very easy for us to try and achieve [our goals].”
$2,500 Whittier Trust 1.35m Welcome Speed
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / Faults | Time
- Daisy Lyn / Rachel Fields / USA / Lexi Burdon / 0 | 61.385
- Rumpleteazer DF / Hannah Selleck / USA / Descanso Farm / 0 | 64.215
- Fasole du Seigneur / Alexis Sokolov / USA / Hot Horses LLC / 0 | 64.259
- Gigolo Field / Tyler H. Stewart / USA / Tyler H. Stewart / 0 | 65.315
- Astrid de B’Neville / Mark Kinsella / IRL / Victory Four Sporthorse LTD / 0 | 65.516
- Kiss Me VD Rollebeek / Kaitlin Campbell / USA / Eyckenhoeve Sales LLC / 0 | 67.269
- Isaac / Ashley Stannard / USA / Ashbrook Farm LLC / 0 | 68.251
- Lutalo / Michelle Parker / USA / Dana B. Nemeth / 0 | 69.637
- Once Upon a Time / Jason McArdle / USA / Tal Milstein / 0 | 70.490
- Kingston VH Akenhof / Tyler H. Stewart / USA / Tyler H. Stewart / 0 | 71.434
- California Sunshine / Susan Artes / USA / Alix Fargo / 0 | 71.610
- Bella / Emma Irwin / CAN / Kimberlee Farms / 0 | 75.059