The first week of the Temecula Valley National Horse Show (TVNHS) concluded Saturday afternoon with the featured show jumping class of the week, the $40,000 KindredBio National Grand Prix. Out of a field of 37 horse-and-athlete combinations, the Audi Grand Prix Arena, presented by Evergate Stables, saw only seven competitors find their way to the jump-off, and ultimately it was defending title-holder Mandy Porter and Milano that saved the best for last to ride away with top honors. Will Simpson and Whoop De Doo were awarded second place, with Nayel Nassar rounding out the top three riding Lordan.
Olaf Petersen, Jr.’s (GER) 12-obstacle track proved challenging for the field of competitors as rails fell in various places on the course. The time-allowed for the first round was adjusted to 74 seconds to accommodate for the tight and difficult track, with two riders going clear while still obtaining time faults. Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata, owned by Silver Raven Farm, were the first to leave all of the fences intact without incurring any time faults, with other clear finishers including Kyle King, Everado Hegeweisch, Julia Nagler, Simpson, Nassar, and Porter.
As the first pair to go clear, Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata were the pathfinders for the eight-obstacle jump-off track. No stranger to a quick jump-off, the pair left all of the rails up, setting the pace to beat at 37.295 seconds. Shahinian-Simpson’s time was quickly taken over by the next competitors, King and Christian, as they left nothing to chance and finished on a fault-free time of 36.973 seconds.
King’s lead was short-lived when Olympic veteran Simpson entered the arena riding Coxe Horses, LLC’s Whoop De Doo. Simpson and the 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding put down a swift and tidy track, shaving over one second off of the leading time to finish in 35.768 seconds. For a final time, the lead would change hands as last year’s winners, Porter and Milano, entered the Audi Grand Prix Arena.
Coming back to defend her title, Porter and the 14-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding took every opportunity to shave time on course, tackling rollbacks and corners with ease. The pair just narrowly bested Simpson’s time, finishing just three-tenths faster in 35.471 seconds to take the win. Simpson and Whoop De Doo would ultimately be awarded with second place, while owner-rider Nassar and Lordan rounded out the top three.
Porter has had the ride on Abigail Archer’s Milano for the last three years, and the pair has been accumulating winning titles up and down the west coast. Most notably, Porter and Milano won the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix in 2017 at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. Porter and Milano were the 2018 $60,000 KindredBio Grand Prix winners during the inaugural TVNHS, as well nabbed the top spot in the $40,000 Aon Grand Prix later in the series.
“I just went to go and be as fast as I could," said Porter. "I did not think for a second that I would be faster than the first two, [Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and Will Simpson]. I just didn’t think it was possible, but Milano had other ideas and it all worked out.”