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Joie Gatlin needed at least a third-place finish in the $50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix March 6 on Cameron Hills Quick DOllar. She took first.

Flying Horse photo

Joie Gatlin needed at least a third-place finish in the $50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix March 6 on Cameron Hills Quick DOllar. She took first.

THERMAL — Competing against world class competition, Joie Gatlin of San Juan Capistrano needed at least a third-place finish March 6 to keep in the hunt for the World Cup Finals. She took a title, instead.

Riding Cameron Hills Quick Dollar in the $50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, Gatlin made sure that this time around the blue ribbon and the first-place check stayed in Southern California. She beat 23 other starters who had challenged designer Steve Stephens’ first-round track, and then she topped the six who had advanced to the jump-off in the featured Saturday night class.

“We came in tonight needing to finish in the top three to stay in the chase for a trip to the World Cup Finals and to earn some much-needed prize money to qualify for the $1 Million Class,” said Gatlin. “It’s hard to keep a horse jumping fresh at one venue for a few weeks in a row, but HITS always seems to make each class special and electric. Thankfully we were able to rise to the occasion tonight.”

After Stephens cut the field down to six for the jump-off, the indoor arena took on an international feel.

First to challenge the Olympic course-designer’s track was Canadian Olympian John Pearce riding Forest View Farm’s Chianto. Pearce entered the show ring with a pair of wins in FEI World Cup Qualifiers, including a blue ribbon in the $50,000 Purina Mills CSI-W Grand Prix during Desert Circuit IV. But with 12 faults, they finished sixth in the jump-off and failed in his bid for a third triumph.
New Zealand Olympian Guy Thomas and Willow Tree Farm’s Carino showed second in the jump-off. After winning the $30,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix during Desert Circuit IV, it appeared the duo was poised to win again, but they dropped two rails to finish fifth.

Going third was another Canadian, Karen Cudmore on Blair Cudmore’s Ulano, who assumed second after an unfortunate rail on the only combination. After Peter Lutz on Kelly Tropin’s Turbo Z and
World Cup veteran Keri Potter on Rockford I failed to ride cleanly, the stage was set for Gatlin.
Sitting in the cat-bird’s seat, they took advantage of the enviable last-to-go spot and came home clean in 34.68.

“I always have the same strategy in the jump-off,” said Gatlin. “It’s go fast or be last. I knew all that I had to do was go clean, but I didn’t want to change my approach at the last second.”

QUICK HITS: Going into Saturday night’s feature class, Gatlin was one of 15 riders who have met the initial qualification criteria for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and was sitting at number 11 in the preliminary rankings. With the win, Gatlin added another big chunk of prize money to her qualified winnings aboard her leading horse, Camaron Hills Quick Dollar, in the chase for the Pfizer Million. With nearly $22,000 in prize money won so far and three remaining Grand Prix qualifiers left at HITS Thermal, including the monstrous $300,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, on Sunday, March 14, she has the chance to cement a competitive spot in the Rankings for the historic event by the end of the six-week circuit.

More coverage: For complete results, go to website: http://www.HitsShows.com

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