Thermal, California, USA – January 29, 2022 – Saturday’s highlight class began as the sun was setting in the desert and the crowd gathered to watch athletes compete in the $25,000 FarmVet Grand Prix. A total of 41 entries came forward to test the track set by Mexico’s Manuel Esparza. Out of the eight horse-and-athlete combinations to jump a clear first round and advance to the jump-off, it was the United States’ 17-year-old Zoe Brown (USA) who secured her first grand prix win with the quickest double-clear effort riding Cate Tomlinson’s Laviata.
The course included an oxer-vertical double combination, a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination followed by a wide triple bar oxer, and an airy liverpool vertical. Riders struggled with several elements across the course, with three electing to retire and two suffering elimination. Karrie Rufer (USA) and Mr. Europe were the pathfinding pair for the first round as the sixth duo to contest Esparaza’s track. Brazil’s Cassio Rivetti (BRA) navigated the second clear effort just one round later aboard Chappuis 14, guaranteeing the crowd an exciting jump-off later in the evening. Bruno Diniz das Neves (POR), Conor Swail (IRL), Simon Schroeder (GER), Zoe Brown (USA), Elisa Broz (USA) and Susan Artes (USA) would also add their names to the jump-off list by the conclusion of the first round.
Taking to the seven-effort jump off track first, Rufer suffered a rail mid-course to finish on four faults in a time of 35.543 seconds. Cassio Rivetti (BRA) and Chappuis 14 were next in the arena, laying it all on the line to ride away with the first double-clear effort of the night. The pair crossed through the timers in a swift 32.931 seconds to set the standard high for the remaining six horse-and-athlete combinations. Bruno Diniz das Neves (POR) suffered the same four-fault fate aboard Adele XIII, immediately followed by a clear from Conor Swail (IRL).
Though Swail piloted Errol to a clean finish, the pair was not quite fast enough to unseat Cassio Rivetti (BRA), notching a time of 33.785 seconds to move into the second place position.
In the arena next, Schroeder navigated a safe, four-fault effort aboard Stakki, leaving the door of opportunity open for Brown, who entered the Grand Prix Arena next riding Laviata. Brown and the 11-year-old Oldenburg mare gave the crowd something to cheer about as they sliced and diced their way through the track to shave nine-tenths of a second off of Rivetti’s leading time, narrowly moving into the top position. Though the remaining athletes, Broz and Artes, would put forth a valiant effort, they could not match Brown’s impressive performance, ultimately lending the first place honors to Zoe Brown (USA) and Laviata.
Broz’s double-clear effort with Tinkerbell, owned by Constance Broz, would be good enough to earn second place, with Rivetti rounding out the top three aboard Shelly Stull’s Chappuis 14. In addition to achieving her first grand prix win Saturday evening, Brown also walked away with the $1,000 Equifit U25 Classic award for being the highest placed rider under the age of 25.
Final Results – $25,000 FarmVet Grand Prix
1) Zoe Brown (USA) & Laviat – 0 / 0 – 32.083
2) Elisa Broz (USA) & Tinkerbell – 0 / 0 – 32.528
3) Cassio Rivetti (CAN) & Chappuis 14 – 0 / 0 – 43.92
Source: Press Release by Tori Bilas / Phelps Media Group for Desert International Horse Park
Photos: © Phelps Sports/ Tori Bilas