January 27, 2014–After riding in a junior/amateur-owner high jumper classic earlier in the day, Alec Lawler of Atherton, California stepped up to the big time on Sunday and bested a field of 32 horse-and-rider combinations in the $50,000 Tuff Rider/Equine Couture Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis.
The senior earth systems major at Stanford University rides with Burt Mutch, and admits that ?the goal? is to ride professionally upon his graduation. ?We are here aiming for the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix and both World Cup Qualifiers while we are here in Thermal,? said Lawler.
Anyone watching Sunday?s event at HITS Thermal would agree that Lawler has the talent and the horses to get him to the top of the sport. He piloted two self-owned mounts in Agamemnon and Dauphin De Muze, jumping to the blue with the latter, an 11-year-old imported Belgian Warmblood gelding.
Martin Otto of Muenster, Germany set the course and Lawler was first to attack the track. He rode clear, but picked up two time faults with Agamemnon, to keep them from the jump-off. ?The courses have been great all week and I was really happy with how both my horses jumped ? I had two on the clock with my first, which was frustrating, but it couldn?t have worked out better for Dauphin De Muze,? said Lawler, who piloted Dauphin De Muze 14th in the original order.
Otto set 12 obstacles, which included both a double and triple combination, with faults evenly distributed throughout the course. Erin Davis-Heineking of Aledo, Texas was second in the order and was the first to post a clear round in the irons of October Hill Sales Limited?s October Hill?s Concho. Andrew Ramsey of San Francisco, California guaranteed a jump-off two trips later aboard Shalanno Farms, LLC?s Asamo Van?t Steenputje. Six more would eventually join them, including Lawler, to set the stage for an eight-horse jump-off.
?With eight advancing, I knew I had to be quick,? Lawler said. ?My biggest challenge was keeping my excitement under control ? I had to remember to be careful.?
Ramsey was the first to secure a double clear, setting the Great American Time to Beat at 46.37 seconds. Lawler was quick to answer in 44.66 seconds, and the two were the only double clears of the class, handing Lawler the win and settling Ramsey in second.
Jenni McAllister of Sun Valley, California rode to third with Legis Venice, owned by LEGISequine.com. Their jump-off time was 46.50 seconds with four faults at the second-to-last fence of the round. Davis-Heineking was fourth with a heartbreak rail at the last fence of the jump-off and a time of 47.62 seconds. Elizabeth Gingras of Edmonton, Alberta capped the top five aboard her own Floreen SFN in 48.82 seconds with four faults.