Nicole Shahinian-Simpson, Westlake Village, CA, won her first grand prix back in the saddle since the birth of her son, Ty, who is now three months old. Fifty-seven horses contested the $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix, and seven managed clear rounds over Leopoldo Palacios' course. Simpson garnered clear rounds with her two veterans, El Campeon's Jo Jo and El Campeon's Cirka Z. "The horses haven't shown since Spruce Meadows last summer, but I've had them for awhile so I know them well." Because of her pregnancy, Simpson hung up her boots after Spruce Meadows until returning to the Grand Prix ring this week at the Indio Desert Circuit.
Knowing her horses well paid off as Simpson piloted El Campeon's Cirka Z to a clear, fast round. In fact, only Simpson and Richard Spooner, Burbank, CA, managed clear rounds in the Jump-Off. Misti Cassar, Malibu, CA, and Diamond Go Go were first in the Jump-Off. They had a rail coming out of the combination and stopped the clock at 45.948. Simpson and El Campeon's Jo Jo went next and they accrued four faults over the Ariat vertical and just squeaked past Cassar with a time of 45.945, only three one thousandths of a second faster.
Richard Spooner and Prestige logged a clear round with a cautious time of 45.489. Ray Texel, Simi Valley, CA, and Fleur looked like they were taking over the lead with sharp turns and speed, but on the long run to the final fence, a large oxer in front of the audience, Fleur just clipped the back rail for four faults. However, they had the time at 41.890. John Pearce of Stouffville, Ontario, Canada, tried for the win with Jaco's Demeure, but a rail at the midway through the Jump-Off course ended his chances.
Simpson returned on Cirka Z, and the bay stallion got a little hung up after jumping out of the combination. The feisty stallion is well known for showing his displeasure by bucking. "I was just hoping I could get one real stride out of him before the next fence so I could find a distance," laughed Simpson. "I don't worry too much when bucks because I know he will jump anything!" She finished the course with the rails up and a time of 44.311.
Spooner on his second mount, Jewel Thief, was the only one who could beat Simpson, but after two rails, Spooner pulled up to save his horse and concede the victory.
"I am really pleased with both Jo Jo and 'Z' today. They jumped great," commented Simpson after her win. "I am also excited about El Campeon's Petri, my newest horse. They are all great horses, but they couldn't be more opposite one another. After I ride one I just have to stop a moment and chill before getting on the next one."
This Sunday features the $50,000 Cosequin Grand Prix, the first of four World Cup Qualifying classes at the HITS Indio Desert Circuit.
$25,000 Ariat Grand
Prix - Friday, February 2, 2002
Place Horse Rider
Owner Prize Money Rd 1/ Rd 2
February 3 1:00PM
$50,000 Cosequin Grand Prix