Bond, Wistful Solo Clear at $54K HITS Grand Prix CSI-W

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Ashlee Bond and Wisful accept their trophy from HITS' Tony Hitchcock

After a single round in which Ashlee Bond and Wistful were the only pair to go clear, the winners accept their honors from HITS’ Tony Hitchcock. (Flying Horse Photography)

Before the start of HITS Desert Horse Park’s $54,500 HITS Grand Prix CSI-W, course designer Florencio Hernandez of Mexico said ideally he would have one clear, but he’d be happy with up to three. He landed exactly where he wanted to be, with no need for a jump-off after Ashlee Bond was the only rider to go clear in round one aboard Wistful.

Ashlee Bond pilots the bay mare Wistful over a veritcal jump.

Ashlee Bond and Wistful deliver bravura round. (Flying Horse Photography)

Riding a California-bred mare owned by her family’s Little Valley Farm, Bond, of Hidden Hills, and her mare were among 24 horse and rider pairs to tour the track on Saturday, Feb. 9, Nayel Nasser of Stanford, CA, was the only other rider to finish the course without lowering a rail, but one time fault landed him second place with his own Raging Bull Vangelis S.

The track was huge for this FEI 2* event, presented by Zoetis, with 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts set between 1.50m and 1.60m. The scope, combined with some tricky distances and a sequence of very tight turns, was more than most horse and rider teams could master. Twelve pair  ̶  half the field  ̶  had time faults, even after the time allowed was adjusted from 77 to 84 seconds.

Rich-Fellers-Flexible-$54K-HITS-Grand-PrixRich Fellers of Wilsonville, OR, riding Harry and Mollie Chapman’s Flexible, was the fastest of the four-faulters, breaking the beam at 80.37 seconds to finish third. Of the six who finished with four faults, only two others made the time: Woodside’s Karl Cook on Signe Ostby’s Jonkheer Z, clocked in at 81.27 seconds, good enough for fourth; and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany, whose 82.68 second round on Octavia Farms’ Malou earned fifth.

The $54,500 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, took place under the lights in a ring reduced to 150- by 400-feet, or half its normal width. This to better-approximate the tight indoor ring where the FEI World Cup Final will take place in Gothenburg, Germany in April. “It was a very technical and careful course – definitely big enough,” Bond said after the class. “The oxers were super-wide, and tall. It was very difficult.”

Hernandez’s course, she said, was particularly well-suited to the mare, who Bond described as “a cat,” deft at twists and turns. “It was definitely as big as a World Cup Final course,” said Fellers, the reigning World Cup champion who piloted the 2012 USEF Horse of the Year Flexible. “That last day at the World Cup Final is really huge, but if you reach that point and you’re going well, you’re up for it. This is different because you just start out with a big class. It’s tough. I’m proud of the West Coast today.”

NayelNassar_RagingBullVangelisS_2013.02The event was the second World Cup qualifier of the 2013 HITS Desert Circuit, and this week’s winning horse Wistful shares some history with the horse that won last week’s qualifier. Both Wistful and Rusty Stewart’s Bristol were bred at Rusty and Kandi Stewart’s Grey Fox Farm, based in Camarillo, California. “I bought her as a seven-year-old” said Bond. “Kandi had done maybe six shows with her before I got her, so she was very green but she has really stepped up this year.”

Bond said if she qualifies for the World Cup Final her plan is to take both Wistful and Cadett 7 – who she scratched from this evening’s lineup – to Gothenburg. “The first round I would do Cadett,” said Bond, already a veteran of two World Cup Finals. “He’s really good at speed and she’s [Wistful] not ready to run at that level, so if I can do the first round on him and have her take over, that would be ideal.”

In addition to being a FEI World Cup Final qualifier, the $54,500 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, was also a qualifier for two big-ticket HITS contests; the AIG Thermal Million Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini Newport Beach, taking place March 17, and the Zoetis Million Grand Prix, September 8 in Saugerties, New York as part of HITS Championship Weekend.

There was much discussion during and after the $54,500 HITS Grand Prix about how two of the top three horses in the current AIG Thermal Million Preliminary Rankings were bred by the same Southern California operation; they are Bristol and Wistful, products of Grey Fox Farms, the Camarillo-based farm of Rusty and Kandi Stewart. Bond acquired Wistful from Richard Spooner  in mid-2012, trading her for Apache.

Grand prix riders will have one more chance to earn World Cup points this circuit, in the $54,500 Purina Mills Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, February 23 during Desert Circuit IV.