Nicole Shahinian-Simpson became the first grand prix rider of the HITS Indio Desert Circuit to log multiple grand prix victories with her win in today's $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix. After 51 rounds, nine horses moved on to the jump-off over Buddy Brown's testing course. Richard Spooner, riding with a broken bone in his leg, qualified four of his five horses for the jump-off, but he had to settle for second as it was Simpson's day aboard El Campeon's Petri.
Simpson rode the large Holsteiner gelding fifth in the order and there were two clear rounds in front of her. Jennifer Crooks logged a clear round in a conservative time of 48.246 aboard Stella. Richard Spooner had the leading time of 44.817 with Jewel Thief. Simpson has only had El Campeon's Petri since last June. "He is fast and has a big stride," said Simpson, "but he is still kind of green, especially in the jump-offs." However, the big horse handled the sharp turns and the long gallops with aplomb and cruised through the timers in 42.323 seconds. "This is pretty cool," said Simpson of the horse's first grand prix victory. "He doesn't know what he is yet, and I just hope he turns out to be what I think." Simpson feels "Petri" has the ingredients of a world-class horse, and the HITS Indio Desert Circuit is a great testing ground. "He has been getting money throughout the Circuit and has been getting better and better. He has lots of blood for such a big horse. He is strong, but not heavy. He goes like a Thoroughbred, which is unusual for a horse of his size."
Spooner was second aboard Jewel Thief, and Crooks was third with Stella. John Quirk was thrilled with his horse's fourth place performance. "We just got Fighter Pilot in June and Richard has only had him for three and a half months. He was Modified Jumper Mid-Circuit Champion after the first three weeks, and these classes have been his first grand prix outings." Although today's class was Fighter Pilot's first grand prix jump-off, Spooner felt confident with the gray gelding's ability and turned on the after burners. The big, elastic gelding jumped beautifully and turned on a dime. The pair had the fastest time in 39.378, but a light rub at the final vertical earned the pair four faults and a white ribbon. Regardless, Quirk was delighted.
For Agate Records:
Place/ Horse/ Rider/
Owner/ Faults - Time/ Prize Money