American rider Mandy Porter earned 1st place in the $75,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix on Sunday, March 5, 2017 during Week VI of the HITS Coachella Desert Circuit in Thermal, California.
Porter rode Abigail Weese’s Milano, an eleven-year-old SWB gelding (Orlando x Pomme Royale) to the win in the afternoon grand prix. Porter and Milano were two of only four pairs to make it through the both rounds double clear. Contender Zazou Hoffman had an early lead in the class, clocking in at 37.705 in the jump off round but was just slower than 2nd place finisher Ashlee Bond with a time of 36.271. Then came Porter who delivered a precision round that narrowly edged out Bond by 0.02 seconds.
Porter jokingly said the factor that contributed most to her success was luck. “I kind of went in knowing that there were quite a lot of fast riders in the jump off. I just tried to go as quick as I could,” she said. “I know I missed one spot where I could have been a little faster and I felt that I left the door open a little bit but I was lucky that it all worked out!”
Porter began her partnership with Milano about a year ago after making a trip to Europe to find a horse for Weese, who purchased him from Ashford Farms. Milano has been a top horse in Porter’s barn ever since.
Porter reflected on the spunky personality of her winning mount. “Oh he has a lot of personality. He’s quite opinionated, in a good way, but he’s usually pretty calm, cool, and collected.”
But, she says that he thrives in competition. “He lights up in the ring. He lives for going in the show ring.”
Along with Milano, Porter has a second serious grand prix contender in Coral Reef Follow Me II who delivered a Week IV win for her on February 10. She is working to qualify both horses for the upcoming AIG $1 Million Grand Prix.
“I am still building a partnership with both horses, getting to know them a little bit better each time they go into the ring. At this point in time we just need mileage together,” Porter commented.
Porter’s plan leading up to the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix on Sunday, March 19 is to take it easy on both horses. She aims to strike a balance between keeping them in peak condition over the remaining weeks of the circuit and preparing them for the challenge of the circuit’s finale competition.
“I know they are more than capable,” she said of her horses. “It’s just a matter of the jockey staying out of their way.”
Porter, Bond, and Hoffman all are recent winners in the grand prix arena this season at HITS Coachella. Porter won the $36,500 Desert Classic on Week IV. Bond had double wins in the $100,000 FEI World Cup Jumping CSI3*-W Thermal and the $75,000 Osphos Grand Prix. And Hoffman won the $25,000 SmartPak Open Prix on both Fridays of Week IV and Week VI.
“It feels a little bit like it’s been, dare I say, a girl’s circuit!” Porter exclaimed.