(c) ESI Photography. Will Simpson and The Dude take first in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix.
Thermal, California (January 25, 2015): Competition in the Grand Prix ring is heating up at HITS Desert Horse Park, as Will Simpson stretched his streak to three with a win in Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix with Monarch International’s The Dude.
Forty-one starters took to the SmartPak track but only thirteen left all the jumps up and qualified for the jump off. Simpson and The Dude, who won $7,500 for their effort, were the fastest with a jump off time of 39.562, but by just less than a second over second place winner Christian Heineking, riding Charika for Isabella Terry with a time of 40.312. Simpson, riding another Monarch International-owned horse, Katie Riddle, came in a close third with no faults in 40.675.
“This circuit is heating up already with these jumpers,” said Simpson. “The Dude felt so good in the victory gallop, I think he thought he was going back in to do it all over again. One good horse elevates the entire string and I have two right now – pretty sweet. The nice part, too, is that Hannah Heidegger [who trains with Simpson and came in sixth on Monarch International’s Geledimar with a time of 45.346] is putting pressure on me to stay on top of it all, too. She is right in there just about every time now, too.”
Heineking, riding Chakira to the second place win, said, “The jump off was technical enough and with thirteen in it, you had to be on your game. I liked the course and it looks like the HITS circuit here this year is going to be special. I really look forward to coming from Texas for these competitions. It’s going to be a horse race in some of these.”