Nilforushan Equisport Events‘ Temecula Valley National Horse Show returned Saturday for the penultimate and largest day of the weekly competition at Galway Downs, with elite horses and athletes taking center stage in the $60,000 KindredBio Grand Prix in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Pulling ahead of the field with the speediest double clear ride of the evening was Mandy Porter and Milano, solidifying Porter’s second big win of the week following her top prize in Thursday’s $30,000 Voltaire 1.40 – 1.45m Speed Classic.
The first phase of the $60,000 KindredBio Grand Prix, held in the Audi Grand Prix Arena, challenged exhibitors over course designer Frédéric Cottier’s (FRA) 15-effort track. Of the initial field, only six pairs qualified for the jump-off with clean and clear rides over the long track, with a handful of competitors falling victim to the 72-second time allowed. Headed into the jump-off, Shawn Casady had the advantage, having ridden both HKC Collection, LLC’s Cicomein VDL and Highpoint Farm, LLC’s Campitello 5 to successful trips over the initial course.
Facing stiff competition, Casady and Cicomein VDL set the bar high as the first to go over the shortened track, leaving all the rails intact and crossing the finish line in a quick 36.274 seconds thanks to a series of bold slices across the fences. Riding third in the jump-off, Porter piloted Abigail Archer’s Milano, a 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding, to a smart and savvy ride, stopping the timers less than one second ahead of the leading pair in 35.351 seconds to take over the lead with half of the short course pack left to ride.
“I thought the course was great. It was a bit of a rider’s course in that there were places where the jumps were careful,” Porter said of the day’s course. “You can tell there will be faults made, but it’s not a course where the horse will get afraid or have big problems. You can learn from the faults and build from them. That’s what I experienced with my younger horse tonight. We made a couple faults but when we improve on a few things, it won’t happen again. It was a learning experience. It’s hard enough but no bad effects. I thought he did a fantastic job with the course. All week the courses have been great and I’ve really liked them.”
Casady and Campitello 5 gave Porter and Milano a run for their money two trips later as the third double clear of the evening, but ultimately broke the beam in a more conservative 40.705 seconds to settle for third position.
With Porter leading and Casady sitting in two and three, the final contender, Olympic gold medalist Will Simpson, posed trouble for the horse-and-rider combinations at the top of the scoreboard. In the irons aboard his own Chacco P, the seasoned veteran started strong but had an unfortunate rail mid-course, solidifying Porter and Milano as the $60,000 KindredBio Grand Prix champions. Casady maintained his second and third positions in the final standings with the rides on Cicomein VDL and Campitello 5, respectively, as the only other double clears of the class behind Porter.
“I’ve been riding him for two years,” Porter shared. “We originally bought him for his owner and she was riding him when we first bought him. Since then she got married and is now pregnant. Along the way, she loves the horse and sport enough that she has given me the ride – I am very lucky. He is always game. I have to make sure I stay out of his way. He’s a fighter.”