Thermal, California, USA – February 11, 2023 – Kyle King (USA) had the last word in Saturday evening’s $50,000 Hygain Feeds National Grand Prix, and he made his words count. With Etalon, owned by Christine Maclean, he bested a six-horse jump-off stacked with speed, bringing home his first grand prix victory of the 2023 Desert Circuit.
Bernardo Costa Cabral set a track for 24 entries to contest, with top talent coming forward. Among jump-off contenders were Belgian superstar Gregory Wathelet (BEL), Australian Olympian Katie Laurie (AUS), and fellow Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) Roadrunner Kaitlin Campbell (USA). King had an advantage, however, and that was his spot as last to go in the jump-off.
With Kaitlin Campbell (USA) leading aboard Armentos, owned by SWS Training & Sales, Laurie and Wathelet were then taken out of win contention with rails. King knew the time was beatable, and he also knew he could count on Etalon.
“I was going to win one way or another,” King said, after taking two consecutive second-place finishes just this week in CSI 3* competition, among other top-five placings that were just shy of the top spot. “I was not going to settle for second again, third again, or fourth again. I consider this my home field, so I went in with my ears pinned.”
With his ears pinned, King sped to a time two seconds faster than Campbell’s, and with all rails intact.
Campbell claimed second, while Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) took third with Hunters Conlypso II.
“I saw everybody’s strides and did the same,” King remarked on his strategy. “I was maybe a little short to the third jump, and I’m glad I got patient because I was going to get the seven to the last but on the angle [I had] that would’ve been [a risk]. I’m proud of myself for being a little patient at the end.
“Etalon is one of my longest partners,” he continued of the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Otangelo x Concorde). “He’s a great horse. We’ve had him four or five years now, we’ve won numerous grand prixs, his owners were here tonight which is really cool. Between Gregory and Kaitlin, I knew I had to lay it on the line, and he came through.”
The horse put in his all, but it wasn’t without the expert guidance of King, who hasn’t had the win percentage he would have liked at this point in the circuit. But with the hard work put in, he expects to push for the results from this point out.
“I like to win a lot. It’s a bit frustrating, but I’m proud of my horses,” King said. “I purposely started out a bit easy because I was injured the first three weeks. I have a back injury I’ve been fighting. I’ve been slowly getting through it while riding my horses. I wasn’t totally on my game at the beginning and I was patient with my horses; I’m really looking at the long run. This is only [Etalon’s] second week. I’ve got enough horses right now to rotate. They’ve all been answering well and now it’s time to tighten it up a little bit.”
As a true competitor, King has heard pieces of advice from other professionals throughout his career, but he seems to always stay true to his inner speed demon. “I have lost more classes trying to win than the other way around,” he joked. “Hap Hansen once said he won more classes trying to be second. My mentor and good friend Stuart Belkin is always trying to get me to slow down and ride for second or third and I have the hardest time doing it. It goes against my instinct. I’ve lost so many classes where I could’ve gotten a lot more money if I was a little more patient, but it’s the way I’m wired.”
Final Results – $50,000 Hygain Feeds National Grand Prix
1) Kyle King (USA) & Etalon / Christine MacLean – 0 / 0 – 35.911
2) Kaitlin Campbell (USA) & Armentos / SWS Training & Sales – 0 / 0 – 37.822
3) Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) & Hunters Conlypso II / / Lorcan Gallagher – 0 / 0 – 38.032
4) Gregory Wathelet (BEL) & Argentina de La Marchette / Gregory Wathelet – 0 / 4 – 41.737
5) Matt Archer (USA) & Monseigneur / Rhys Farms, LLC – 0 / 8 – 38.576
6) Katie Laurie (AUS) & Cera Caruso / Carissa McCall – 0 / 12 – 37.759
7) Sophia Siegel (USA) & Unchained 2 / Sophia Siegel / 1/85.753
8) Shawn Casady (USA) & Castelissimo / Tiffany Sullivan / 4/77.680
9) Ian McFarlane (USA) & Escapado S / Mountain View West Farm LLC – 4 – 78.778
10) Jake Endicott (USA) & RMF Chacco Top / / Ashland Farms – 4 – 81.780
11) Savannah Jenkins (USA) & Comrado / Proper 12, LLC – 4 – 82.076
12) Elisa Broz (USA) & Tinkerbell / Elisa Broz – 4 – 82.609
Source: Press Release by Tori Bilas for Desert International Horse Park (DIHP)
Photos: © DIHP / HD – High Desert Photo / TB – Tori Bilas Photography / MG / ON