Thermal, California, USA – March 05, 2023 – Luckily for Katie Laurie (AUS), she knows Django II like the back of her hand. She had a couple advantages on her side Sunday of Desert Circuit VII, ultimately bringing home the win in the $145,100 Talus Grand Prix CSI 3*.
The first advantage was being last in the jump-off order. She had a lucky draw with Django II and managed to jump her other mount, McCaw MVNZ, owned by Carissa McCall, clear as well, comprising two of the six clear efforts over Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) course.
Conor Swail (IRL) had set the time to catch early on and held onto it until Laurie’s second ride, but Laurie had the last word. She unseated Swail and Theo 160’s lead and claimed the victory as her own.
Swail took second, while Marie Valdar Longem (NOR) claimed third with Echo de Virton, the third of only three double-clear efforts.
“I haven’t sped him that much,” Laurie reflected on her jump-off strategy. “He’s normally such a big jumper and a bit slower. When I try to make him go a little faster we get too fast. I jumped the 1.45m yesterday and when he jumped clear I thought for once I’m just going to practice the jump-off. I felt like we needed that, and today I felt like I could really have a go. I feel like we’re starting to understand each other, which is fun.”
The second advantage is that Django is part of the family. Laurie bred the now 12-year-old gelding (Lordano x Brilliant Invader) out of a Thoroughbred mare, Flower Power, ridden by her father, Jeff McVean (NZL). Because of the breeding, Django is not an easy keeper, but he’s proving well worth the effort, jumping the most recent FEI World Equestrian Games in 2022 and the 2020 Olympic Games.
“He’s really anxious; he’s half thoroughbred so all we have to do is keep him calm and if we do, he’s got such an enormous jump and he’s actually really nice once you get going on course to ride,” Laurie continued. “He eyes up the jump and he’s always backing off them. I start off slow and build it up to try to be within the time allowed. He looks so slow but he always gets one less without looking [fast].”
Her masterful plan proved successful yet again, making it two FEI grand prixs in a row that the pair jumped double-clear for a podium finish. They also secured a second-place finish in the CSI3* 1.45m Classic the day prior, but she wisely opted out of the prizegiving early. “Yesterday I didn’t [victory gallop] because he was jumping the Grand Prix today and I felt like it would wind him up more. Today I felt like he needed to know that he won. He was so pleased with himself,” she shared.
As well as the pieces have come together, Laurie admits their partnership was not always written in the stars.
“To be totally honest he was really bad,” Laurie said of Django’s upbringing. “He always had a huge jump, but if you wanted to go one way he wanted to go another. It’s been a long road, but when he got it, he got it right. He works with you now and not against you. When he started enjoying the job is when he really turned a corner and started to be a pretty amazing horse.”
Final Results – $145,100 Talus Grand Prix CSI 3*
1) Katie Laurie (AUS) & Django II: 2011 gelding by Lordano x Brilliant Invader, Katie Laurie – 0 / 0 – 40.89
2) Conor Swail (IRL) & Theo 160: 2012 HOLST gelding by Christian 25 x Calando IV, Team Philippaerts – 0 / 0 – 41.27
3) Marie Valdar Longem (NOR) & Echo de Virton: 2010 SBS gelding by Vagabond De La Pomme x Grignoteur De La Fontaine, Marie Valdar Longem – 0 / 0 – 47.53
4) Katie Laurie (AUS) & McCaw MVNZ: 2011 NZWB gelding by Corofino II x Cassini II, Carissa McCall – 0 / 4 – 44.62
5) Chandler Meadows (USA) & Casiano: 2014 Anglo European gelding by Casino Berlin x Iroko, Chandler Meadows – 0 / 4 – 47.66
6) Savannah Jenkins (USA) & Comrado: 2011 DSP gelding by Como 25 x Coronado 3, Proper 12, LLC – 0 / 39 – 82.89
7) Vanessa Mannix (CAN) & Carmela Z: 2011 ZANG mare by Candillo 3 x Nissan Caretano Z, Vanessa Mannix – 4 – 76.93
8) Gregory Wathelet (BEL) & Clarity: 2009 HOLST gelding by Clarimo x Ephebe For Ever, An Breeding – 4 – 77.21
9) Karrie Rufer (USA) & Mr. Europe: 2009 KWPN gelding by Mr. Blue x Cassini, Morning Star Sporthorses, LLC – 4 – 79.29
10) Ali Ramsay (CAN) & Conrado 12: 2013 ZANG gelding by Cardento x Diarado, Ramsay Equestrian Inc. – 4 – 79.36
11) Kaitlin Campbell (USA) & Feyon: 2010 KWPN gelding by Zazou R x Hamilton, SWS Training & Sales – 4 – 79.62
12) Tali Dejong (USA) & Vaillant de Belle Vue: 2009 AA gelding by Calin Du Plessis x Peeping Tom A, Tali Dejong – 8 – 78.85
Source: Press Release by Tori Bilas for Desert International Horse Park (DIHP)
Photos: © DIHP / HD – High Desert Photo / MG / ON