A.I.M. United claimed their second win of the Major League Show Jumping season Saturday, jumping to the top of the podium at Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, CA.

They got by with a little help from above…and Eugenio Garza.

Eugenio Garza is A.I.M. United’s MVP

Let’s take a moment of appreciation for Eugenio Garza. The Mexican Olympian made a late appearance in the League due to a previous commitment to the Tokyo Games. But he’s proved his mettle in each appearance since. Garza has consistently delivered the team’s best results over the past three legs. He posted four faults on the leaderboard with Armani SI Z in San Miguel de Allende (before the team was eliminated in the first round.) He delivered a pair of clears in Monterrey, to clinch the silver. And he faced off against McLain Ward and Azur for the gold in Thermal—and won.

Three team classes. Three horses. Two podium finishes. A.I.M. United has now climbed into the #3 spot on the rankings with 46 points and it has much to do with Garza…

...and Jesus?

A.I.M. United opted to ride Ashlee Bond and Karl Cook in the second round “because we thought that they were the fastest two,” explained Garza, “and we wanted to secure the at least the silver medal.”

Only the plan didn’t quite go to plan.

“I ended up having to run like a lunatic [in the medal match]!” he continued.

“Once I had the rail, it was do or die. The last two jumps were kind of Jesus-take-the-wheel type of thing and I kind of closed my eyes and wished for the best, and Contago was able to leave the jumps up and cross the finishline with the time that was good enough.”

A.I.M. United’s “slowest” rider ended up delivering the fastest round of the day.

“He went two seconds faster than we did!” said Cook. “Well, actually two seconds faster than Ashlee and three seconds faster than me.”

Roadrunners in the running

Erin Davis-Heineking predicted a top finish for the Roadrunners. Her teammates delivered. One of only two teams to execute three foot perfect tracks in Round 1, the home team was assured of a top four finish. A speedy trip by Sternlicht and Lafayette Van Overis and a speedy enough one by King and Etalon jumped the team into the gold medal match and, ultimately, to second in the team standings. They now have 51 points, which means…

Roadrunners could still win the championship title. But they have to score 10 points higher than Eye Candy. Working in their favor: points double in next week’s Final.

Otomi Warriors change their lineup and their luck

Cassio Rivetti and Kerri Potter subbed in for the Warriors this week and both riders delivered for the team. The Brazilian Olympian dropped a single rail in the each round, while Potter posted a pair of clears. Together with a single time fault in the first round from John Perez Bohm, it was enough to qualify the Otomi Warriors for the bronze medal match. Alas, Voodoo 10 was no match for Conor Swail and Theo 160 (50.5 to 45.94) and Eye Candy claimed the podium—it’s their sixth medal and first bronze of the season.

The Crusade is over

Roadrunners and Crusaders were tied on 43 points heading into the ninth leg of Team Competition and looked well in contention with Samuel Parot, Alessandra Volpi and Nicky Galligan in the irons. Despite drawing first in the order, Parot started the team with a clear. Then disaster struck when Volpi and Absolute du Mio caught three rails before stopping mid course to repeatedly attempt to exit the ring. The pair managed to recover and finish the round, but not before adding 24 faults to the board. With Nicky Galligan and Javas Miss Jordan adding five more, the Crusaders finished on 29 and dropped all but out of title contention.

Diamond Devils, represented by Natalie Dean, Erynn Ballard and Nayel Nassar fell just short of the cut line in Round I, finishing on 4, 0, and 8, respectively. Blazing 7s just can’t seem to catch, finishing sixth with an eight fault performance from Rowan Willis and Wellington Grey Goose and five from Cara Raether Carey and Cedric; Lauren Hough and Canamera 2 were fault free. While Lucky Charms proved to be neither lucky nor charmed in the desert, despite a clear from Margie Engle and Dicas. Andrew Bourns picked up five faults in the first round with Darquito and Jordan Coyle and Picador, an uncharacteristic 10.

The A.I.M. United advantage

A.I.M. United is riding into the tenth and final leg high on confidence, faith and practical advantage, said Bond. Next week, the Team Competition will be held under the lights and move from the grass ring into the sand ring.

“I think we have the edge actually next week [jumping] on the sand and at night. Contina jumped at night [in the Team Competition] at Angelstone and we won there,” said Bond.

“I have high hopes that we can do a repeat.”

The Major League Show Jumping Final takes place Dec 9–11 at Desert International Horse Park.

Feature image: ©MLSJ / Atalya Boytner