Mandy Porter and Milano (FEI/Kristin Lee Photography)
Mandy Porter couldn’t help but hold back tears as she stood for the American national anthem after winning the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifier at Sacramento with Milano.
Porter (USA), a Northern California native, and Abigail Weese’s 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding were the only double-clear performers on the evening. Jenni McAllister (USA) and Legis Touch the Sun were second, and Richard Spooner and new mount Chatinus (USA) finished third.
“Milano was so in-form tonight. I couldn’t have asked him to do anything better. As long as I stay out of his way, he’s unbelievable. He just rose to the occasion. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be nervous with the crowd, but in reality, he thrived on it. In the jump-off, he felt solid, not nervous. He basically was saying, ‘Don’t mess this up for me today!’”– Mandy Porter (USA)
Only four riders were able to navigate Marina Azevedo’s (BRA) course without fault in the first round, and when returning for the shortened course, Porter was in the disadvantageous position of having to go first. Not only were she and her mount the only ones to keep all the jumps up, but their blazing time of 39.16 seconds was also good enough to win even if her competitors would have also jumped cleanly.
“Milano is quite fast, and in all honestly, my strategy was not to get too excited rolling back to the vertical [at fence seven],” Porter explained. “I have a tendency to get a little excited, and I wanted to give him the chance to see [the fence] and jump it and be balanced. After that, it was a galloping game.”
Porter’s finish moves her up to fourth place in the standings for the west coast sub league of the North American League with 22 points. The League continues with another west coast stop in Del Mar (USA) on Saturday 21 October 2017.
Mandy Porter (USA) -1st: “We’ll go home [from here], and [Milano] will have a little bit of an easy week next week, and then we’ll be at Del Mar for the [Longines FEI World Cup Jumping™ Del Mar]. Then, we’ll definitely make it out to Las Vegas. I don’t know if we’ll make it out to Calgary, but we’re going to keep plugging away one [show] at a time. This is still new for Milano, too – the indoor shows.”
Jenni McAllister (USA) – 2nd: “[Legis Touch the Sun] is growing up. He’s just turning 11, which is still pretty young, and he’s a very big horse. He’s maturing, and every year he learns one more thing. Every year, he just takes that next step. I tried to sneak inside a fence to the in-and-out [in the jump-off], and it didn’t work out for me. I knew I had to be extra fast [to catch Porter].”
Thermal, CA (March 20, 2017): Dynamite equestrian Mandy Porter, of Encinitas, California, rose to the occasion against a top-notch field of fifty-four riders, in the most popular AIG $1 Million Grand Prix class to date. Porter rode Milano, owned by Abigail Weese, to a thrilling finish as the second-to-last rider in a six-horse jump-off. The starting order included several prior victors of the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Desert Horse Park including 2016, 2015 and 2014 winners: McLain Ward, Charlie Jayne and Ashlee Bond.
“It’s an honor to win this class, coming into this I always hoped that this result would happen,” said Porter after her blue-ribbon victory. “I always try to go into an event like this hoping to do the best that I can – I think it’s great that the ‘West Coast’ won this one.”
New for the 2017 class was a 1.50-meter course height and the Top 20 qualified riders had the opportunity to enter two horses into the class for a second shot at the money. Of the top three, two West Coast riders walked away with the top portions of the prize purse: Porter and second place rider, Tamie Phillips, who rode Cristar, owned by Merle Gardner.
“I want to say thank you to Tom and the HITS staff – I was very pleased with the new [1.50m] course height, it gave me a lot of confidence coming into this class,” said Tamie Phillips in the post-Million press conference. “My horse was just absolutely on fire today. I put down the best round that I could, and almost hung in there, but Mandy just got it in the end. It was a really fun class. I loved it.”
Third place went to Cian O’Connor who has shown tremendous success at HITS Ocala this year in the FEI Nations Cup™ and the $100,000 City of Ocala Grand Prix. The Irish Olympian traveled west to try his luck in the desert for the first time, and his double-clear performance aboard Good Luck, owned by Adena Springs, did not disappoint.
“I’m delighted to be here; it’s my first time to be here and I have to compliment the show organizers for setting the height at a 1.50m this year to really give people a chance to jump in a class like the Million,” said O’Connor. “Everyone jumped very well, as you can see from the line-up, and I’m very happy to be a part of it and to have jumped double clear.”
Every few trips, the six riders that would eventually compete for a slice of the biggest prize purse in show jumping, would punch their ticket to the jump-off with a clear round.
A large spectator crowd filled the grandstand, complete with a sold-out VIP club and thousands viewing a livestream on HITS TV. Competitors brought the heart for their fans as the showdown for the 2017 AIG $1 Million Grand Prix title unfolded. An electric crowd looked on as the top six began their return to the Grand Prix Ring to challenge the jump-off course set by Alan Wade, of Tippery, Ireland.
“A lot of people were worried about dropping the height down to 1.50 meters, Tom [HITS President and CEO] told me there would be six in the jump-off, so I was just doing what I told,” Wade joked. “I believe a lot of riders had some unlucky faults, and sometimes the money offered can be extra pressure, but I keep that out of my mind. I build the course for the people that are here and for the sport – we are lucky to have this amount of prize money in the sport though, so hats off to AIG for supporting that. This was an exciting class and I was very happy to be here.”
“We are very thankful to AIG for their support, they’re a super sponsor – we also have just fantastic clients,” said HITS President and CEO, Tom Struzzieri. “The results, for those who organize events, couldn’t have been better. We have Cian who is a good friend and great competitor, and then my friend McLain Ward, and other riders from the East who travel out to compete with HITS here – it’s great to have that support. However, it’s no coincidence that the West Coast riders, Mandy and Tamie, are sitting up here with us. They rode with us here all winter, and did great. They came out here and had a chance to ride two in the AIG Million and that worked out beautifully; that’s what we wanted to see happen.”
First to return to contest the abbreviated course was O’Connor and Good Luck. They laid down a solid, clear trip right out of the gate, stopping the clock with all of the rails up in 43.986, a time that would hold up through the rest of the jump-off.
Following O’Connor was Germany’s Andre Thieme, also a past HITS $1 Million Grand Prix winner. Thieme piloted Conthendrix through the technical, shortened course.
An unfortunate rail at A of the combination would earn them four faults as they passed the finish in 42.086, a round that would ultimately give them the fourth place prize.
Calgary, Alberta equestrian, Tamie Phillips, has been a force to be reckoned with all season at HITS Coachella. This class was no exception to Phillips’ dynamite skills, as she put down a thrilling ride to step into the temporary lead.
Phillips and her mount, Cristar, powered through the course, taking each fence by storm. The crowd cheered as they galloped home to stop the clock with a fault-free trip in 41.954.
The sun shined down on HITS Desert Horse Park and three riders still had to try their hand at the jump-off course. The anticipation was high in the stands to see if anyone could overcome Phillips’ ride or if the victor had already been crowned.
Uma O’Neill and Clockwise of Greenhill Z were next to step into the ring. Their feet touched the earth with four faults, after also having a rail at the A element of the combination, in 45.664, still good enough to eventually settle them into sixth place.
Following O’Neill were the victors, Mandy Porter aboard Milano. They knew what they had to do to move into the top place on the leaderboard. They put the pedal to the metal and took every chance they could to shave the second off of the clock.
The crowd rose to their feet as they pushed ahead to their eventual winning round. They crossed the timers in 41.600, a few fractions ahead of Phillips to the sound of cheers from the spectators. Milano and Porter also showed success during the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal CSI3* week with a win in the $36,400 Desert Classic win and a $25,000 FEI SmartPak Grand Prix win.
“This horse is just amazing,” Porter said of Milano. “I have a feeling this is just the beginning for him. He definitely hasn’t reached his peak and we are excited to see what the rest of his jumping career holds.”
The last rider to enter the jump-off was France’s Eric Navet, who consistently shows at HITS Coachella and stacks up the ribbons in the Grand Prix. Navet had the final shot at taking the leading round away from Porter. He rode Catypso, owned by Signe Ostby, through the course with skill until a heartbreaking rail at the final fence in the course thwarted their shot at the win. Their round in 43.391 would be good enough for the final spot in the top five.
The sun set over the mountain ridge on HITS Desert Horse Park as a West Coast victor walked away with her well-deserved slice of the Million-dollar pie.
Looking ahead, all industry eyes turn to the East Coast for the second jewel in the HITS Triple Crown of Show Jumping, the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. Will Mandy Porter make it two in a row? Will Cian O’Connor get the luck back on his side for a Million-dollar win in the east? Will Beezie Madden return to claim her second $1 Million Grand Prix victory, or will a new winner be crowed? Only time will tell.
OCALA, FL (March 1, 2014) – When Mandy Porter walked into the Strongid C 2X Grand Prix Stadium on Friday, the crowd expected to see her in the tack of her usual stallion, Con Capilot. This time, however, she piloted a 16.3 hand grey gelding named Lexito for Marguerite McAfee of P2 Capital, LLC. Porter, who hails from Encinitas, California, catch rode for Lexito’s regular rider Toni McIntosh of McIntosh Stables after injury has sidelined McIntosh and earned them a win in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis.
“I rode this horse a little last fall for Toni [McIntosh], so I was familiar with him, but I certainly did not expect that we would go in there today and win,” said a pleasantly surprised Porter. “This is a game horse, but doesn’t have a lot of experience at this level – my goal was just to help keep him right and building for Toni.”
Danny Foster of Milton, Ontario set a course of 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts. The last four jumps of the original course proved to pose the most difficult task. An oxer-vertical bending line was placed near the in-gate before the course wrapped around the end of the ring to a tall vertical and finished with an oxer. “I think the horses thought they were done after the bending line, so that vertical was difficult for them,” said Porter.
With technical distances and considerable size, the course allowed four to advance to the jump-off from an original order of 35.
Jaclyn Duff of Edmonton, Alberta was the first to best the first-round course as the 13th in the order, aboard her own Pater Noster. She returned first in the jump-off, but had trouble with a right-hand rollback and was eliminated after a fall.
With one grand prix victory already pocketed this season, Francie Steinwedell-Carvin jumped Taunus, owned by Prentiss Partners, in the jump-off. Taunus jumped around happily to a clear round in 54.15 seconds for two time faults. Steinwedell-Carvin isn’t shy about admitting that her goal at this point in the circuit is to save her chestnut gelding for the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix. Alexander Grayton of Preddis, Alberta rode Candy Girl to 54.42 seconds for Grayton Farms, Ltd. and finished with one rail and six faults after two on the clock.
The door was wide open as Porter trotted Lexito into the ring. After an inside turn from the second-to-last fence kept them safe from time faults, a long spot to the final effort cued gasps from the sidelines. “It didn’t feel as desperate as it obviously looked,” said Porter with a laugh. “He likes to go forward, so I didn’t think pulling was in my best interest at that point – I wasn’t worried at all that he couldn’t get it done.”
After a breathtaking finish, Porter and Lexito led the victory gallop with Steinwedell-Carvin and Taunus in second and Grayton in third with Candy Girl. Duff finished fourth with Pater Noster, while Nayel Nassar of Santa Clara, California was the fastest of the four-faulters in round one with his own Lordan, and capped the top five.
With only three more qualifying grand prix left for the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, it’s crunch time for riders hoping to find a spot in the coveted event. Sunday’s $50,000 Horze Equestrian Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, will wrap up Week V before attention turns to the final opportunities next week. Visit HitsShows.com to view current preliminary rider standings for the AIG Million.
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