American rider and trainer Mandy Porter scored top placings with two horses in the $36,500 Desert Classic CSI3*-W on Friday, February 10, 2017 at Week IV of the HITS Coachella Desert Circuit in Thermal, California.
The Del Mar, California based Porter piloted Coral Reef Follow Me II, a 12-year-old Westfalian stallion (For Pleasure x Sandrina) to a winning jump-off time. Shortly after, she rode to 4th place aboard Abigail Weese’s Milano, a twelve-year-old SWB gelding (Orlando x Pomme Royale).
With only 15 challengers in the day’s competition, many riders may be saving their horses to gear up for the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Thermal CSI3* on February 11. Nonetheless, top riders such as Ashlee Bond, Karl Cook, and Week III’s Sunday grand prix winner Chris Pratt showed up to compete for the $36,500 cash prize.
Porter and her mounts were two of five pairs to make it to the second round. The jump-off consisted of some west coast favorites such as Eric Navet and Peter Petschenig. Going first in the jump-off was Christian Heineking and NKH Quanto. The pair took advantage of the many rollbacks and inside lines the course allotted, clocking in at a jump off time 42.24 seconds.
Navet and Basimodo immediately followed with a skillfully ridden round. His time, just a bit quicker than Heineking’s at 41.71, secured a 2nd place finish for the pair. Navet is expected to compete in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier aboard a different mount, Signe Otsby’s Catypso.
As a consistently top placing rider in several of this year’s grands prix in Thermal, Austrian rider Petschenig was one rider everyone was watching. Although he had a winning jump-off time, an unlucky rail at the final oxer kept Petschenig from an elusive first place. Petschenig and October Hill’s Saint Quentin placed fifth.
Porter was last to go in the jump-off on Milano. With only herself to lose to, she rode a speedy round that was only 6 hundredths of a second slower than 3rd place competitor Heineking.
With two horses in a five-person jumpoff, the odds were in her favor, even with each horse requiring a different approach.
“Coral Reef Follow Me II has a lot of experience and I am trying to build a strong relationship with him,” Porter explained. Milano, on the other hand, “is a little less experienced so I was trying to go nice and smooth because he gets a little hot sometimes. I didn’t want to go full gas and get him too excited.”
This strategy obviously paid off as Porter walked away with nearly $15,000 in combined winnings. Although she won’t be competing in Saturday’s $100,000 Longines World Cup Qualifier, she plans to continue building a strong rapport with her horses and is keeping one eye trained on the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix in Thermal this March as a possibility. With this win, Porter proved she has not only one but two strong contenders for the $1 Million class and beyond.