Canada’s Chris Pratt took home the blue ribbon in the $75,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix on Sunday, February 5, 2017 at Week III of HITS Coachella Desert Circuit in Thermal, California.
Pratt delivered a double clear round aboard The Epic Group, LLC’s Concorde, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding by Valiant. “Concorde hasn’t shown since November,” Pratt said, “So I thought he might be a little bit rusty but he was right on the game today.”
Germany’s Olaf Petersen Jr. designed the course, which included a tricky triple combination in the first round and a thrilling jump-off that provided ample challenge for the 35 competitors.
The start list included a wealth of talented American riders, but also some international competition from Canada, Germany, Mexico, and France. Thirty-five competitors entered the first round but only nine moved on to the second round. Six combinations went double clear in the jump-off round. Pratt commented, “I think Olaf [Petersen Jr.] does an excellent job whenever he’s course building. We were fortunate and jumped some really nice courses all week long with him building.”
Pratt, who is based in Rancho Santa Fe, California at his Epic Stables, skillfully piloted his mount to a clear round with a time of 41.70, setting a fast and ultimately unbeatable pace for the rest of the class. In 2nd place was legendary French rider Eric Navet on Signe Otsby’s Catypso, clocking in at only half a second slower than Pratt at 41.78. “I saw Eric Navet’s round. I saw he was quite fast and I thought I could be faster for the first three jumps,” Pratt said. “That’s where I think I edged him out.”
Third place went to Canada’s Tamie Phillips and her mount Cristar after they stopped the clock at 42.49 seconds. Karl Cook of the USA placed 4th with Tembla, and Jamie Barge was 5th aboard Luebbo. Mattias Ekeroth of Sweden rounded out the double clear scores; he placed 6th with Dacarlos. Jill Prieto and Carlton Café were 7th, and Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Open Prix winner Zazou Hoffman rode a clear Round 1 to qualify for the jumpoff, but two down over the shortened track made it eight faults for 8th place aboard W Zermie.
Pratt’s Sunday win mirrored similar achievements almost exactly twelve months ago.. Last season, he won the $350,000 HITS Thermal Grand Prix and the $50,000 BrookLedge Welcome Stake during Week III of the HITS Desert Circuit. With a laugh Pratt said, “maybe I should just come for Week III!”
He pointed to the importance of planning to accomplish his goals. “You can’t come to an eight week circuit like Thermal and be successful in every grand prix. You have to pick and choose. My experience over the years has taught me it’s important to have a plan.”
One thing’s certain, Chris Pratt has the Week III plan down pat at HITS Coachella.