The eleventh annual Horse Shows In The Sun Indio Desert Circuit kicked off its six weeks of top equestrian competition with the $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix. Cathleen Calvert and Shania topped a 35 horse field to take home $7,500 in prize money. Calvert is a relative newcomer to the grand prix ranks, the highest level a show jumping rider can reach. Calvert had a successful career as a junior rider through 2000, winning many top equitation awards and culminating with both team and individual gold medals at the North American Young Riders Championships. I started in my first grand prix classes at Indio last year, and to win this year is great! said an ebullient Calvert of her first grand prix victory.
Calvert catch rides both hunters and jumpers, and rides under the watchful eye of Dale Harvey. Calvert and Shania have moved up through the show jumping ranks together and theirs is a story of hard work,perseverance, and talent. I got Shania when she was five, said Calvert of the eleven year old dark brown Dutch Warmblood mare. She is by Wellington and has lots of talent, but she is difficult, kind of quirky. She will suddenly decide something is spooky and dash sideways.
Although there were eight four-fault rounds over Ken Kromes attractively built course,only two riders managed fault-free rounds. Calvert was joined in the jump off by Richard Spooner, a popular rider on the grand prix tour and a regular visitor to the winners circle. Richard had to go first in the jump off with Hiltons Flight, explained Calvert and Dale told me to watch what Richard does. He told me that if Richard is clean, try to duplicate his track. He told me if Richard has a rail to try to play it safe and jump around clean.
Spooner and Hiltons Flight started off with a bold, positive jump off round, but when Spooner made the right turn to the last fence, a large oxer, Hiltons Flight became difficult to turn. He just didnt want to come right, said Spooner of the Freedom Farms owned gelding.He is a green horse and didnt get his eye on the jump. I was riding to a specific (take off) distance and as Hiltons Flight resisted in the turn my takeoff option got longer and longer. To help the horse get across the oxer I threw myself up his neck and it distracted him. In fact, I think it really annoyed him and he flung me through the finish markers when we landed.
Since Spooner crossed the finish line without his horse, he received no score,leaving the door wide open for Calvert. I was really concerned about Richard because I knew he had hurt his knee earlier. Besides, he is a really nice guy and I felt for him. Calvert rode a cautious jump off round and had one rail at the midpoint. I was going a bit slow, but Shania jumped really well. This a great start to my year, said a happy Calvert.
The Indio Desert Circuit continues each week through March 10, with a mid-circuit break February 11-17. Last year Spooner prophesized six grand prix wins and met his goals when he clinched the $150,000 Ford Grand Prix, the fourth time in five years Spooner took the top prize in the final class of the circuit. This year I am hoping for four wins, but I think I let one slip through my fingers today. I dont have Southshore this year and I won two of my six classes with him last year. That is why I am predicting four wins this year, said Spooner of his 2002 Desert Circuit goals. Crowd favorite Robinson is jumping great according to Spooner and hopefully fans will be able to cheer for the flashy white gelding leading a victory gallop.
Show Manager Tom Struzzieri and his staff continue to improve the Indio Desert Circuit, and this year pony riders are enjoying a brand new ring. Riders are enjoying expanded riding areas throughout the grounds. This Sunday jumper riders will vie for the top prize in the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix beginning at 1:00 p.m.
$25,000 Ariat Grand
Prix - Friday, January 25, 2002
Place Horse Rider
Owner Prize Money Rd 1/ Rd 2 Faults/JO Time
January 27 1:00PM $50,000 EMO Grand Prix
February 3 1:00PM
$50,000 Cosequin Grand Prix