(C) ESI Photography. Harrie Smolders and Enjoy Louis on their way to a $35,000 FEI Sunshine Welcome win.
Thermal, CA (November 8, 2014): Week II of the National Sunshine Series at HITS Desert Horse Park is well underway, complete with seven active competition rings, VIP socials, and classic Fall desert temperatures.
An impressive 63 horse and rider pairs had their eyes on Thursday evening’s $35,000 FEI Sunshine Welcome prize. However, just enough Round 1 faults kept the majority at arm’s length from the top six. Several contenders clocked just split seconds beyond the time allowed so one-fault rides put five more in ribbons after the jump-off riders.
Jos Verlooy and Farfelu de la Pomme commenced the jump-off, followed by Lauren Hester and Abigal, both of which fell victim to downed rails. Third to enter the ring was a hopeful Bliss Heers aboard Prado K, who cleared the course in a swift 42.85. Tensions rose and spectators grew quiet as Audrey Coulter piloting Acorte charged to a clean round, besting Heers, with a remarkable 36.93.
The fifth jump-off attempt from Belgium native Harrie Smolders and Enjoy Louis began and onlookers knew the chase was on. The seemingly aerodynamic duo secured their fate with a quick, clear round in 35.20.
With one still to go, Smolders was sitting pretty, but not in the clear yet. Enrique Gonzalez and Quilebo Du Tillard of Mexico went last, finishing with a time of 34.37 but an unlucky rail at Fence 14 left them in fourth place.
Kathy Hobstetter for HITS, Inc.