THERMAL, CA (November 5, 2015): Show jumping’s biggest stars have converged at the National Sunshine Series at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. Riders will enjoy five days of FEI ranked competition at the west coast’s premier horse park, all leading up to the $350,000 Sunshine Grand Prix FEI CSI-5* on Sunday, November 8 at 2 pm PST.
Day one was a good one for Margie Engle, of Wellington, Florida, and Abunola, owned by Elm Rock Partners, LLC, as the duo emerged victorious in the $50,000 HITS Welcome Stake. Engle bested a field of 38 contenders, including the likes of Eduardo Menezes, Rich Fellers, Will Simpson, for a $16,500 payday and will add another blue ribbon to the stack.
Of the sizeable round one, only 12 went clear to move on to the jump-off. Matthew Williams and Vallnski S, owned by Wyndmont, began the second round and ready to show their stuff, they zipped through the course clean, in a time of 40.78. The next three riders chased William’s time but it wasn’t until the fifth entry, Olympian Will Simpson, that the race to the top on. Riding Monarch International’s The Dude, Simpson cleared the course and clocked in at 40.18 for the lead.
Engle was ninth in the order and navigated her bay mount through the fences with precision, to a clear finish a full 2 seconds faster than Simpson, in a time of 37.97 for a spot at the top of the leaderboard.
Jonathan McCrea aboard Aristoteles V, owned by Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables, were next to give the jump-off a shot and that they did. McCrea had visons of the blue ribbon in mind as he made his way through the eight obstacles without fault, but clocked in at 40.59, just behind Simpson and bumping Williams to fourth.
Lauren Hough and Cornet 39, owned by Paris Sellon & Willow Grace Farm, received fifth place with a clean round in a time of 41.11.
International jumping competition continues in Thermal with Thursday’s $65,500 Sunshine Classic. Earlier this morning, HITS announced that the main event, the $350,000 Sunshine Grand Prix FEI CSI-5* on Sunday, November 8, will be webcast live on HITS TV courtesy of presenting sponsors Purina Animal Nutrition and Pyranha. For more information on the webcast, please visit www.HitsShows.com.