Class: $125,000 HITS Grand Prix,
presented by EMO.
Conditions: Windy, very windy.
Community: Pulled together during chaos.
Sunday morning came along blissfully and the second week of HITS Thermal was coming to a close. The $125,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by EMO, commenced at noon and as horses negotiated the Leopoldo Palacios course, the winds kicked up. Initially it was little gusts but as the class continued the wind increased. It huffed and puffed and blew the jumps down, it blew the VIP Oasis Club tables and chairs down, it blew the hunter ring fences to the ground.
It became clear that the horse show could not go on and what happened next was commendable – Grand Prix riders, VIP guests, HITS staff all teamed up to create a safer atmosphere in a matter of minutes. As the wind blew harder, the collective group removed trays and tablecloths, laid down the tables and chairs, and carefully stored the ceramic pots and glass signs.
Competitors and management waited through wind (and the Super Bowl) and the class continued in the late afternoon to an exciting finish. Joie Gatlin secured $37,500 in prize money for Camaron Hills Farm when she rode Camaron Hills Shanroe to the win. During the 2005 HITS Desert Circuit, Gatlin won the blue ribbon in the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix. “I love to win the EMO class,” said Gatlin. “They are a great supporter of our sport and I am very appreciative of everything that they do.” Gatlin was sitting in the enviable last-to-ride spot in a jump-off that featured eight pairs. The pair had a fast time to beat, raced to stop the clock in 40.947 to win the class by just over half a second. Camaron Hills Shanroe is 13 and Gatlin had the ride in place of rider Molly Talla who is expecting her second child.
Jill Humphrey started the jump-off of eight on Rudy Leone’s Kaskaya. The pair negotiated a clear round and set the time to beat at 46.330. Canadian Olympian John Pearce was next to go in the jump-off aboard Allison Moore’s Chianto. They had four faults and finished in sixth place. Third to go was Ashlee Bond and her mount Tommy Gun. The pair went clear in a very fast 41.588 to take over the top spot. “I thought I was very fast but knew I had some big competition behind me,” said Bond. “Richard Spooner had already beaten my time but had a rail down, so I knew my time was reachable.”
Sure enough, Bond and her horse finished third. Fourth to go was the HITS Desert Circuit’s all-time leading money winner Richard Spooner and Cristallo. One rail down would land them in fifth place. Recent Pan Am Games Gold Medal Winner, Jill Henselwood was next aboard Callisto. Henselwood and her mount would be eliminated and finish in eighth place.
Pearce was back in the irons aboard his second ride of the jump-off. This time it was Archie Bunker and they pushed Bond and Tommy Gun off the top with a fast and clean ride in 41.582. Pearce and Archie Bunker eventually finished in second place. “Two horses in the top six is a fair chunk of change,” said a happy Pearce after the class. “The vibe is good and the people seem very happy this year.”
Pearce also has his eyes on Friday night’s $50,000 Tourneau FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan where he plans to show Archie Bunker and his top gun Urioso. His fellow countryman, Henselwood, was back for her second trip of the jump-off aboard Black Ice. The pair had two rails down and finished in seventh place.
Finally, it was Gatlin and Camaron Hills Shanroe’s turn. They were lightning-fast and stopped the clocks in 40.947 to win the class. “John Pearce set a fast pace,” said Gatlin. “We were slow to the first jump and then I said to her, ‘Come on. Let’s go!’ We were very fast from two to nine and we kept cruising through 10. Once we cleared 12B I heard the crowd getting behind me so I knew we had a good chance to win.”