Thermal, Calif.—March 11
To say Chris Pratt had a good weekend at HITS Desert Circuit VI would be a massive understatement.
Pratt started out by winning the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix with Cruise on Friday. Then he tacked up Cruise again today, put in two fault-free rounds and is now taking home an even bigger check—his share of the winnings for the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix Of The Desert—along with the first.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Pratt, who rides for Canada. “The horse is just coming into his own. He hasn’t had a rail down in two weeks.”
Only four of the 43 starters made it around Olaf Petersen’s tricky first track. Of those four, only two left all the rails up in the jump-off. Pratt’s time of 42.09 scored him the win over fellow Canadian John Pearce, riding Chianto, and his time of 42.76.
“I thought there would be six to eight clear,” said Pratt. “It was tricky, but it wasn’t as big as past courses. It was technical, for sure. Olaf really asks a lot of questions and has his own style of course building. It teaches horses, it teaches riders, and you can’t cheat in his courses anywhere. You have to be balanced, you have to be on form, and you have to be on stride. You can’t get away with anything.”
Problems were spread throughout the course, with many riders coming to grief at a daunting double combination, which followed a triple bar.
“The second line, the four-stride line, for my horse was the biggest concern,” said Pratt. “It was right at the beginning of the course, so you’re asking your horses to lengthen stride and undoing all your collected work. The [double] combination was difficult—doing that line from the triple bar, and then seven strides to the double. That was tough.”
Pratt, Valencia, Calif., was last of the four to go in the jump-off.
“I knew I could shave a little time to the last jump. I knew I’d have to fly there, and it was one of those classes where you look at the jump, and you see a distance, and everything just comes up.”
Fresh off a few weeks competing in Wellington, Fla., Pratt is now giving Cruise a bit of a rest before gearing him up for shows in Del Mar (Calif.) and Spruce Meadows (Alberta).
“I went to Florida to really tune up my riding and tune up the horse for those three weeks, and it’s paying off,” said Pratt. “It’s very competitive there. It’s competitive here too, don’t get me wrong. It’s a fantastic field of horses and riders here.”
Cruise, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Gran Corrado—Nelana) owned by Indigo Farms LLC, was originally bought by one of Pratt’s students to be a junior jumper.
“I’ve had him for just under two years now, and he just impresses us a little more each day. He can be a little quirky at times, and he just wasn’t suitable for the girl,” said Pratt. “I had another client, Susan Geliebter, who saw the talent way before I did and said, ‘I want to own that horse.’ So she did, and look how far we’ve come. My hat’s off to her for recognizing his talent.”