Margie Engle and Royce. Photo (c) ESI Photography.
FEI classes continued Thursday at the National Sunshine Series II in Thermal, California, and as the prize money grew, so did the competitive spirit among the world’s top riders. Having won the $50,000 HITS Welcome Stake the day before, Margie Engle, of Wellington, FL, had her game face on and this time with Royce, owned by Elm Rock Partners, LLC., she dominated the $65,500 Sunshine Classic.
Thirty-seven competitors jumped Thursday’s Classic course of 15 efforts designed by Alan Wade of Tipperary, Ireland. Of those three dozen riders, only five cleared the round one course to proceed to the jump-off. Jonathan McCrea and Special Lux, owned by Candy Tribble and Windsor Show Stables, was first to attempt the abbreviated course. They impressed onlookers as they cruised through the course with no problems along the way. Clean in a time of 37.890, McCrea set the time to beat and took his place at the top of the leaderboard.
Next in the order to challenge McCrea was a familiar face for the East Windsor, Connecticut resident – his wife, Christine McCrea aboard Win for Life, owned by Candy Tribble and Windsor Show Stables. They too had luck on their side and Christine whipped through the fences keeping the rails in place and clocking in at 39.360, less than two seconds behind the leader.
Next in the order and hot off his Week I $50,000 Sunshine Series Grand Prix win, Rich Fellers and Flexible chased the clock and McCrea’s top time. All was going in Feller’s favor until a rail at the second-to-last fence resulted in 4 faults and a time of 36.720 to place him in third.
Paris Sellon piloting Adare, owned by Paris Sellon and Willow Grace Farm, were fourth in the order and when their turn came, they were ready. Sellon was quick to complete the course fault free in a time of 37.960 which placed her in second, just a tenth of a second behind the reigning leader.
Anchoring the jump-off, Engle kept her cool and lived up to her reputation as a speedster. She crossed the timers in 35.650 with an untouched course in her tracks and found herself in a familiar place at FEI week – first place – bumping McCrea to second, Sellon to third, Christine McCrea to fourth and Fellers to fifth.
Engle will be one of the top riders vying for international ranking points as FEI competition continues at HITS Desert Horse Park, in the $100,000 Coachella Valley Classic on Friday, and in the $350,000 Sunshine Grand Prix FEI CSI-5* on Sunday. HITS will offer a live webcast of Sunday’s event, beginning November 8 at 2pm PST/5pm EST, through HITS TV on HitsShows.com.
Source: Press release from HITS.