Thermal, California, USA – March 12, 2023 – Gregory Wathelet (BEL) has an ace up his sleeve. With Ace Of Hearts, Wathelet took home arguably his biggest win of Desert Circuit so far on Sunday of Desert Circuit VIII in the $145,100 Go Rentals Grand Prix CSI 3* 1.55m. As one of only two clear rounds, Wathelet sealed the deal in the second-to-last week of his Californian winter tour.
Up against Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Kingston, Wathelet had the disadvantage of jumping first. He kicked the speed up a notch over the short course while not going all out, but the final rail came down for a quick time and a score of 4 penalty-points.
“He jumped amazing in the first round,” Wathelet reflected on his horse’s performance. “With two [in the jump-off] it’s always a little bit delicate to know what you have to do. I stayed inside to the last one because I found a good line to cut in. He just focused on the [decoration] behind the jump rather than what he had to do, and that caused the 4 [faults] so I was a bit surprised.”
With Mannix pulling two rails along the way, the victory was Wathelet’s.
The Belgian Olympian could see the challenge presented immediately upon walking Marina Azevedo’s (BRA) course. “This week she has built very good but very difficult,” he said. “We saw it yesterday in the National Grand Prix and again today. The fences were big for a three-star. There were some spooky jumps like the wall, the delicate white vertical at [fence] four, and the last line also. It was a bit more technical.”
One welcome change for Wathelet was the move to the grass field, which will host National and FEI show jumping the final week of Desert Circuit as well.
“I was ready to jump on the grass because [grass arenas] are something I really like, especially here where they have that kind of grass with a good ground,” Wathelet said of the change in environment to the grass field. “This is what you like [to see] in the grass. It was good for the horses to change the pace as well. With first and fifth in the Grand Prix I’m very happy.”
While Ace Of Hearts is full of talent, he had a rather slow start at the highest levels due to being a slightly difficult ride.
“He was always jumping a bit too high,” Wathelet said of the 13-year-old Estonian Sport Horse gelding (Aliandro B x Ra Ex Romanov ESH) earlier in his career. “He had too much quality and he was difficult to develop. I feel more and more comfortable now on him; he’s starting to trust his scope. I’m feeling like I can trust him more and more at this height and he’s really fun to ride; he’s fantastic. I’m not sure [at what level] he’s going to stop, or if he’ll jump everything [I put in front of him]. Now that he has the rhythm I also need to trust him because he can do it easy.”
Hopes are high for the horse as he continues to plan the his schedule following the performances in the desert. “It’s perfect here because you can jump proper classes,” Wathelet said of developing Ace Of Hearts at DIHP. “I started him National and now next week I’m going to do the four-star Grand Prix, then after here he’ll be ready to do a five-star grand prix.”
While Mannix claimed second place, Katie Laurie (AUS) returned to the podium for the second consecutive week, taking third with just one time penalty-point in the first round.
Final Results – $145,100 Go Rentals 1.55m Grand Prix CSI 3*
1) Gregory Wathelet (BEL) & Ace of Hearts: 2010 ESH gelding by Aliandro B x Ra Ex Romanov ESH, Gregory Wathelet – 0 / 4 – 45.68
2) Vanessa Mannix (USA) & Kingston: 2013 AES gelding by Ustinov x Insider, Vanessa Mannix – 0 / 8 – 48.92
3) Katie Laurie (AUS) & Django II: 2011 gelding by Lordano x Brilliant Invader, Katie Laurie – 1 – 84.82
4. Eric Krawitt (CAN) & Chicago CM: 2013 HOLST gelding by Cassini x Carpaccio, Eric Krawitt – 4 – 82.07
5) Gregory Wathelet (BEL) & Clarity: 2009 HOLST gelding by Clarimo x Ephebe For Ever, An Breeding – 4 – 83.11
6) Kyle King (USA) & Chess: 2011 BWP gelding by Bufero Van Het Panishof x Latano I, The Chess Group – 8 – 83.09
7) Samantha Buirs (CAN) & Chic d’Emma Z: 2013 ZANG stallion by Cigaret JV H Z x Unique Drum Van Het Juxschot, Samantha Buirs – 9 – 84.51
8) Jim Ifko (CAN) & Un Dimant des Forets: 2008 SF stallion by Diamant de Semilly x Papillon Rouge, Eventyre Farms Ltd. – 12 – 81.19
9) Christian Heineking (GER) & NKH MR. Darcy: 2013 HOLST gelding by Darco x Chepetto, NKH LLC – 12 – 82.69
10) Kassidy Keith (CAN) & Havana: 2012 KWPN mare by Cardento x Judgement, Cheryl Keith – 13 – 84.10
11) Zume Gallaher (USA) & Calacas d`Aubigny: 2012 SF gelding by Jarnac x Notrestar Dela Nutria, Blue Gate Stables, LLC – 15 – 86.42
12) Nicky Galligan (IRL) & Javas Miss Jordan : 2009 ISH mare by Luidam x Obos Quality, Nicky Galligan -17 – 92.63
Source: Press Release (edited) by Tori Bilas for Desert International Horse Park (DIHP)
Photos: © DIHP / HD – High Desert Photo / MG / ON
Categories: CSI 3*, English, Jumper News Belgie