Thermal, California, USA – January 21, 2023 – Mark Kinsella (IRL) is proving to have a true star on his hands. Aboard Quality H, the Irishman took top honors in the $50,000 El Cristiano National Grand Prix Saturday afternoon of Desert Circuit III, besting some elite pairs and further solidifying their partnership.
Over Manuel Esparza’s (MEX) track, Kinsella was early to jump off, and in good company, with the likes of Conor Swail (IRL), Kaitlin Campbell (USA), and more top athletes. Swail set the pace to beat aboard Casturano, proving a questionable inside turn was achievable, and making the field catch his double-clear time of 34.471 seconds.
“I watched Conor go first and there was a pretty dicey inside turn back to the combination which I didn’t love when we walked, but he did it and made it look pretty smooth,” Kinsella remarked. “I know my horse has a big stride so I left out in the jump-off. I know he’s fast so I used his step coming home, doing the double leave-out. I used his length of stride and speed and it worked out today thankfully.”
Kinsella’s time of 32.227 seconds put him into a convincing lead. Only Kaitlin Campbell (USA) came in with a blazing pace aboard Palina de L’Escaut, owned by SWS Training & Sales, and threatened that time, but opted to forego the inside turn, still clocking in ahead of Swail in 33.824 seconds. Swail took third as the class came to a close. Delaney Batter won the EquiFit U25 Classic with a double-clear round aboard Vulcana.
“He’s a phenomenal horse,” Kinsella said of Quality H, a 2011 Hanoverian gelding (FRH Quaid x Stakkato). “Originally I was going to start him FEI this week but there’s such great money in the national classes here at DIHP. For this horse right now it was a good pick to keep him in the national classes. They’re good courses, they’re pretty technical to ride, and I feel like he’s extremely comfortable at this level. We’ll aim to go FEI for the second half of the circuit.”
The course certainly presented its challenges, whittling down a field of 29 to eight for the jump-off, but Kinsella thought it worked to his horse’s advantage, as it has all week. “This course rode pretty nice,” he continued. “This designer likes to use different angles that we wouldn’t necessarily see every week so it’s good because it puts us riders under a bit of a challenge to do something that’s not so ordinary. Overall, the courses have been fantastic. Last week there was an Irish builder and he built amazing courses. I’ve had a great week with this horse.”
The battle between the Irishmen fell in Kinsella’s favor this time, but Conor Swail (IRL) has had a sensational week, taking a podium placing every time he’s stepped foot in the Grand Prix Arena. He is also on a clear-round streak with all his horses, and Casturano has not dropped a rail in National action yet at DIHP, rounding out the top three in 34.471 seconds.
“Obviously Conor is so fast and he’s on this never ending winning streak,” Kinsella commented regarding his first place finish over Swail. “He’s so competitive and so hot. Granted, he’s on a new horse, so he’s still getting to know his new partnership but it seems to be an incredible horse. I’m not looking forward to fighting one on one against that pair six months from now.”
Final Results – $50,000 El Cristiano National Grand Prix
1) Mark Kinsella (IRL) & Quality H / Ben Asselin – 0 / 0 –32.227
2. Kaitlin Campbell (USA) & Palina de L’Escaut / SWS Training & Sales – 0 / 0 –33.824
3) Conor Swail (IRL) & Casturano / Conor Swail – 0 / 0 – 34.471
Source: Press Release by Tori Bilas for Desert International Horse Park (DIHP)
Photos: © DIHP / HD / High Desert Photo