Thermal, California, USA – January 21, 2023 – Gregory Wathelet (BEL) added another win to his impressive resume in the desert in Saturday afternoon’s $38,700 Morning Star Sporthorses Classic CSI 3* 1.45m at Desert Circuit III, once again aboard his homebred 11-year-old mare Argentina de La Marchette.
After an impressive week at Desert Circuit II with four wins, he made it an even five with a speedy jump-off to take the lead by a full second over second-place finisher, Irishman Conor Swail (IRL), and was able to maintain his position despite quick riders following him in the second round.
Over Manuel Esparza’s (MEX) first-round track, nine competitors jumped clear, with Wathelet having the advantage of jumping off later in the returning order. One round prior, Conor Swail (IRL) took the lead aboard Theo 160, seeming to leave very little on the table. But using his mare’s quick footspeed and inside turns, Wathelet managed to unseat Swail and push him to second.
“I went number one with a really good canter because I knew the [first] seven strides were a bit flat for me. I did that easily. I ran a little. She can do quite easy inside turns.” He secured his faultless effort by not leaving out a stride in the final line on course. He said, “ I decided to do 8 because I felt like I was fast enough at the beginning that I didn’t have to take that risk.”
Looking to Sunday’s competition, Wathelet plans to compete this mare, plus one more, in the $145,100 Gillibrand Sand Grand Prix CSI 3* 1.55m in hopes of leading her to a third victory in the desert. While Wathelet admits it’s unideal for him that his horse go back-to-back the day after a competitive jump-off, he is not worried about Argentina de La Marchette’s stamina.
“I hope she’s not too fast,” he remarked. “She’s going to walk a bit tomorrow morning to get more relaxed. It’s not always the best to go like that in a jump-off today, but I know she can go fast and we’ll see tomorrow.”
As for his plans for the coming weeks of Desert Circuit, Wathelet prefers to take it one day at a time. He narrowed his string to two mounts during week three in order to save his other horses for the latter weeks of competition. “I want them to feel fresh for the rest of the season,” he continued. “I tried to go fast yesterday and was fourth. We’ll see about tomorrow. I’m really enjoying it so far.”
It is no secret that the Belgian rider has an impressive winning record both in and far beyond the desert, and when asked about how competition in California compares to that in Europe he said, “It’s always the same; the jumps are there, and the height is there. Last week was a proper Grand Prix. It’s more technical in Europe and a little more difficult, but in the end you need to be clear, you need to jump it, and you need to go fast. The only big difference is in a jump-off like today, in a similar show, you might have 18 in the jump-off and 16 can win. But to be in the top three you still have to be quick.”
Show jumping continues Sunday morning with the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40 Open Classic, followed by the $145,100 Gillibrand Sand Grand Prix CSI 3*.
Final Results – $38,700 Morning Star Sporthorses Classic CSI 3* 1.45m
1) Gregory Wathelet (BEL) & Argentina de La Marchette: 2012 SCSL mare (Acajou De La Marchete x Del Piero PB), Gregory Wathelet – 0 / 0 – 30.65
2) Conor Swail (IRL) & Theo 160: 2012 HOLST gelding by Christian 25 x Calando IV, Team Philippaerts – 0 / 0 – 31.63
3) Eric Krawitt (CAN) & Chicago CM: 2013 HOLST gelding by Cassini x Carpaccio, Eric Krawitt – 0 / 0 – 32.59
Source: Press Release by Tori Bilas for Desert International Horse Park (DIHP)
Photos: © DIHP / High Desert Photo
Categories: CSI 3*, English, Jumper News Belgie