Week III of Nilforushan Equisport Events’ Temecula Valley National Horse Show equestrian competition returned Wednesday to Galway Downs, with the final week of the circuit commencing on a high note for Will Simpson aboard Attention ET Z and Whoop De Doo as he captured the lion’s share of the purse with a champion and third place finish in the $5,000 Moon Valley Nursery 1.35m Welcome Stake.
No stranger to the winner’s circle, Olympic gold medalist Simpson faced a talented field of horses and athletes in the $5,000 Moon Valley Nursery 1.35m Welcome Stake, but brought two contenders of his own in the form of Callie Smith’s Attention ET Z and Coxe Horses, LLC’s Whoop De Doo. Operating under an immediate jump-off format, the class was initially led by Hugh Mutch and his own Cristar, the fourth pair to qualify for the jump-off and the first to go double clear in a time of 40.791 seconds.
Only a handful of trips later, Simpson and his first mount, the grey Attention ET Z, turned in the second double clear of the afternoon to barely nab the lead in 40.600 seconds with little less than half the pack still to take their turns around designer Olaf Petersen, Jr.’s (GER) 13-fence track.
“Attention is a new horse for me. I had a good go last week, winning the 1.30m, and I tried the 1.35m and they had a bounce. I think that threw me and the horse off a bit. We made a tight turn back to a jump and the horse never even recognized it as a jump and went around it. Today though he was spot on. To me, it felt like a new definition of fun. He is allergic to wood, thinking about the next jump and jumping way over the jumps. I’m really excited about that horse and where he’s going,” Simpson shared.
Unlike the first half of the class, the latter exhibitors proved to be up to the challenges of Petersen, Jr.’s course, with eight of ten pairs following Simpson and Attention ET Z’s ride leaving all the fences intact within the time allowed. Though none were able to surpass the leading combination, Natasha Traurig and Poden Farms’ Ereina came the closest to making the time with a brisk trip in 41.066 seconds, but clipped a pair of rails to keep them out of contention.
The last to go with his second ride, Simpson could do no worse than first place, but still pulled out all the stops to earn the third-place finish with Whoop De Doo, crossing the timers in a clean 42.767 seconds to capture the yellow ribbon as the seventh double clear of the class and the fifteenth duo to take a turn over the short course. Mutch and Cristar retained their reserve position, finishing just less than one-quarter of a second behind the champions.
“I thought the track was fabulous,” said Simpson of the course for that day. “Getting started on the first day of the week I thought the jumps were really nicely placed and tactful. Nothing extremely risky but a nice track. You are always guaranteed a good track with Olaf [Petersen, Jr.].”
Simpson’s thoughts on the Temecula Valley National Horse Show are just as positive of the day’s course design: “Ali [Nilforushan] was talking about this show for a long time and I said, ‘I just have to be on the ground floor getting this thing off.’ We are jumping on world-class footing and the venue is top-notch. It’s really horse country with the racetrack and watching the Thoroughbreds working in the morning. It’s an atmosphere of horsemanship here. This show is going to take off. The seating for the fans – everything is incredible here. I felt it was the right thing to do to support this and I’m certainly glad I did. It’s been a pleasure to be here and I can’t wait for next year!”