Kyle King and Capone – 2011 winners of the CN Performance Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows
Quigley may not have many grand prix miles behind him, but his rider Kyle King of Ocala, Florida is looking forward to the 10-year-old gelding stepping up to the level with a bang. He is certainly on the right track after winning Sunday’s $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, at HITS Thermal.
“He’s the horse of my dreams,” said King. “Who knows where we go from here, but he’s the best horse I’ve ever had.” Quigley is owned by Paul Politeski who broke the gelding and rode him up until last year when he moved into the grand pix ring with King. Politeski and King took Quigley to HITS Tucson last week in preparation for the HITS Desert Circuit and he jumped perfectly, according to King. “We got him [Quigley] fired up a little bit in Arizona. He was a little spooky in the Level 6 earlier this week, but jumped around great today,” said King.
Manuel Esparza of Mexico City, Mexico set a course with wide oxers and tall verticals, which included 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts within the Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix Stadium. The 41 who attempted the course agreed that it was big and scopey. In the end, only three jumped clear to advance to the jump-off.
“I was nervous after I walked it, but Quigley is the scopiest horse in the world – they can build as big as they want and he is comfortable,” admitted King.
Alec Lawler of Atherton, California was the first to ride clear in the second trip of the original order. He piloted his own Agamemnon, and was joined by King four rounds later. Crowd favorite Rich Fellers of Wilsonville, Oregon rounded out the jump-off near the end of the order aboard Harry & Mollie Chapman’s Flexible.
Lawler returned to the jump-off first, but had a rail jumping into the double combination to finish with four faults in 37.07 seconds. King and Quigley had the same rail, but crossed the timers in 34.74 seconds to sit in the lead with one more to go.
“I was pretty sure I had handed it to him when I had the rail,” said King. “I mean – it’s Rich and Flexible! I was happy with the rhythm and the pace, but I wasn’t expecting him to have any down.”
Luck was not on Fellers’ side in the jump-off, however, as he had the first fence down and couldn’t find the speed to top King. Fellers’ time of 35.80 seconds settled him in second, bumping Lawler to third.
From the first round, John Perez of Coajimaipa, Mexico was the fastest of the four-faulters aboard his own Utopia, finishing in fourth. Bliss Heers of Olivenhain, California capped the top five in the irons of Contendra for owners Bridgeside Farms, LLC.
As Week IV comes to an end at HITS Desert Horse Park, grand prix competition returns to the spotlight on Friday. All grand prix at HITS Thermal continue to offer riders qualifying opportunities for the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, which will take place March 16 to kick off the first-ever HITS Triple Crown of Show Jumping. West Coast grand prix will also serve as qualifiers for the Zoetis $ Million Grand Prix as part of the HITS Championship in Saugerties, New York this September.