Category Archives: HITS

HITS Culpeper Opening Day

Tracy Magness & IBENZ VAN HD | ESI Photography.

HITS Culpeper Showday National at Commonwealth Park, Virginia opened on Wednesday, July 5th to kick off two consecutive weeks of Horse Shows.

The venue greeted exhibitors with refreshed footing in the showing rings and schooling areas, and altogether revitalized grounds to compliment the experience that is unique to competing in the heart of Virginia Horse Country.

Showday National has drawn Exhibitors from afar such as Britt McCormick, head trainer at Elmstead Farm in Plano, Texas, who hadn’t been to Culpeper in several years. He noted, “The place looks great. The footing and rings are good, and everything is super.” McCormick has successfully trained horses for over 25 years, and he is a USEF licensed R judge, and USEF licensed R course designer.

The opening day Jumper ring highlight, the $5,000 1.40m Open Welcome, featured an inviting course designed by Sergio Lopez from Colombia, South America. Tracy Magness, the head trainer/rider at Lake View Farm in Hughesville, Maryland, collected the top honors atop IBENZ VAN HD. The pair was one of only two double clear rounds. Magness said that some of the lines posed tricky and technical questions, but not unfair. “I thought it was a good course, and the footing was nice.”

IBENZ VAN HD, also known as CANDY around the barn, is a nine-year-old mare owned by Mr. & Mrs. John Bartko.  Magness said she imported the mare in August of last year from Belgium. “I think it takes a year to really get to know a horse totally, but we kind of hit it off right away,” remarked Magness. “I’ve just been learning her, and what works best for her, but she is quite consistent and we’ve had some pretty good placings.” New York-based Debbie McCarthy Connor placed second on ZIM.

Since turning professional in 2001, Magness has won over 30 Grand Prix classes, represented the United States in Europe, and won over $600,000 in Grand Prix earnings alone. She is a 3-time leading Grand Prix Rider in HITS Ocala, and in 2009 she was the leading rider of the United States Grand Prix League.

Patty Foster and her sister Mary Lisa Leffler, of Rolling Acres Show Stables in Brookeville, Maryland, dominated the Green and Performance Hunter Divisions collecting wins with CLASSIC, CHARMING, INCOGNITO, and WHISPER WIND. But even more meaningful than blue ribbons, Foster was delighted to have her sister “back in the ring”. On March 1st, Leffler had broken her leg so badly that it placed her future riding ability in jeopardy. Foster noted, “The doctors put a rod in, and they said it’s amazing how good she looks.”

On Tuesday, Ken Krome arrived in Culpeper where rainstorms had soaked the grounds. “I saw the drain tiles flowing at the edge of the rings and everything looked great,” he noted. After he settled in, all of his horses were schooled in the new footing which deterred the water so well. “The horses were confident jumping, and they’ve all done well for us — everything has been made more comfortable for the horses.”

EGO, ridden by Krome for owner Chelsea Director, earned the tri-color Reserve Championship in the Green Hunter 3’ Division on Opening Day. Krome is quite fond of Ego. “He’s just a cool horse, who is very attentive and really loves what he does. He wants to do everything right,” praised Krome. “Ego is a special horse, and I just really appreciate a horse that wants to do what you want to do and he’s great to work with. He’s fun.”

Krome is the head Trainer/Rider at K2 Show Stables in Brookeville, Maryland. He is credentialed as an FEI-3 rated Course Designer and a USEF “R” rated Judge and Course Designer.

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HITS Ocala Winter Circuit Week X Round-Up

(C) ESI PHOTOGRAPHY. Hunter Holloway and Any Given Sunday.

Ocala, FL (March 30, 2017): The Ocala Winter Circuit came to a close last week in Week X at HITS Post Time Farm. The Ocala Winter Circuit will return next year in 2018 with the same schedule. Great American Insurance Group will again sponsor the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix for what will be the fifth consecutive year.

Hunter Holloway Captures Win in $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby in Ocala

The final week of the 2017 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit drew to an end last weekend as an eager crowd gathered to witness 28 riders and their elegant mounts compete for one of the most prestigious hunter victories, the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.

Last week’s hunter event marked the second USHJA Hunter Derby at HITS Ocala this winter season. It was a big class that carries very prestigious honor, and the top placings were stacked with young, talented equestrians.

The top contenders were all competitive and accomplished jumper riders in the junior/amateur-owner divisions as well as several Grand Prix winners – but this day was all about the hunters, and these stellar performances did not disappoint the crowd.

Hunter Holloway of Topeka, Kansas walked away with the blue-ribbon victory aboard Any Given Sunday, owned by Hays Investment Corp. In the Week IV Hunter Derby, Holloway and Any Given Sunday received the second place prize, but this time, they were picked to sit at the top of the leaderboard.

Second place went to Personalized, owned by Further Lane Farm, and ridden by Brian Moggre. Moggre has shown tremendous success in the jumper ring, including a huge win in last year’s $250,000 Black Barn Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Final at the HITS Championship in Saugerties.

Moggre and his beautiful mount stepped up to the plate in Saturday’s derby to walk away with the red ribbon.

Cassandra Kahle, also a seasoned Grand Prix rider, took home third place piloting Baranus, owned by Redfield Farm. Kahle has won several Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS’ Shows and a tremendous amount of ribbons at HITS. The Canadian equestrian also took home fifth place in the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final last September in Saugerties.

Tracy Fenney rode MTM Outbid, owned by MTM Farm, to the fourth place spot. Fenney is also a winner of many Grand Prix at HITS Ocala and, like Kahle, took home a ribbon in the top five in the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix last year with third place. Fifth place in last week’s Derby went to Cassius, ridden by Caitlyn Shiels and owned by Don Stewart.

The enchanting stage was set for the field of top-caliber contenders with a lovely course designed by Tim Hott of Cumming, Iowa.

Unique to the derby format, in addition to the base score, two judging panels awarded an Option Bonus Score consisting of one additional point for every higher height option fence jumped. As 12 returned for the second round, judges awarded a Base Score, Option Bonus Score and a Handy Bonus Score, assessing the handiness of the round.

The top twelve returned for the second round of the two-round derby.  Holloway and Any Given Sunday entered the second round sitting in third place. They opted for two height options, and earned a total that moved them ahead in the pack for the eventual win thanks to their total of 19 handy bonus points. They earned a high second-round total score of 204, combined with a first-round total score of 175 for a very high overall score of 379.

Moggre and Personalized came into the second round sitting in fourth place tie with the eventual sixth place, Robert Lee and Intrepid. After a first-round score of 172, the pair made a major comeback, opting for two height options to step into second place with their second-round total of 194 for an overall score of 366.

Cassandra Kahle was behind in the pack with a first-round score of 160, they made a major comeback in the second round, opting for all four height options to garner a second-round score of 200, boosting their overall total to 360 for third place.

Fenney’s fourth place ride aboard MTM Outbid was second place coming into the second round after a first-round total of 179. Combined with their second-round score of 167, that gave them an overall total of 346.

Caitlyn Shiels and her fifth place mount, Cassius, earned a first round score of 165 combined with their second-round score of 166; they finished the class with an overall score of 331 for the final spot in the top five.

Adelaide Toensing Tops the Field in HITS Equitation Championship

The lights of the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium gleamed down on competitors for the return of the HITS Equitation Championship. Adelaide Toensing took home the evening’s top honors in Ocala, Florida.

After ten weeks of qualifying opportunities throughout the HITS Ocala Winter Show Circuit, thirty-two juniors took their chance at the technical course, set at 3’6”, designed by Tim Hott of Cumming, Iowa.  Competitors were judged by two sets of officials who evaluated their abilities as emerging horsemen and women. The course tested not only their competence in the ring, but also their efforts in the schooling area, as all riders turned in their cell phones and left their trainers in the stands.

A warm-up judge was solely assigned to evaluate how efficiently the riders utilized their time in the warm-up ring and their effectiveness in schooling their horses. Riders banded together as they walked the courses, warmed up and competed all on their own, forming a sense of camaraderie among opponents.

© ESI Photography. Adelaide Toensing

The course included gymnastics, trot fences, oxers, verticals and combinations in the first round, with the second round displaying a more technical, jumper-style course, including an open water element as an option fence.

As the top 12 returned to contend for the blue in the two-round championship, Toensing was feeling confident after sealing the second-highest score of the first round, an 84, to continue into the second round. Toensing earned an 85 in the second round, keeping their scores consistent throughout each challenge. The combined scores produced a winning total of 169.

Coming in behind Toensing for second place was Briley Koerner. She received a 78 in the first round, improving to an 88 in the second round, the highest of the second-round course, to produce a total of 166.

Third in the ribbons was Abigail Lefkowitz with a total score of 163.5 – comprised of her first-round score of 77.5 and improved second-round score of 86.

Todd Minikus Takes the Blue in $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix during Final Week at HITS Ocala

Competition continued during the final week of the Ocala Winter Circuit with the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix

The order of go was stacked with talent, including Florida equestrian Todd Minikus, who would eventually win the class, young star Lillie Keenan, who rode in the FEI Nations Cup™ Ocala for Team USA, and Irishman Cian O’Connor, who placed third in last weekend’s AIG $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Coachella.

Thirty-three challengers turned out for their shot at the top prize, and nine went clear to advance to the jump-off course set by Werner Deeg of Germany.

Four jumped clear over the shortened course in a race for the win, where it all came down to speed and agility.

Minikus rode Valinski S, owned by Michael Dorman & Wyndmont, Inc., to the win, going sixth in the order in the jump-off. They stopped the clock in a cool, fault-free finish in 33.348, two seconds ahead of the eventual second placer.

Tracy Fenney, a force to be reckoned with in the Grand Prix at HITS Ocala, took home the red ribbon and second place prize aboard MTM Como No, owned by MTM Farm. They passed the timers in 35.637 for the ultimate second place spot on the leaderboard.

Venezuelan equestrian, Emanuel Andrade, is a speedy rider and has laid down numerous quick and competitive rounds in the Grand Prix. Andrade rode for Team Venezuela in the FEI Nations Cup™ Ocala and placed highly all weekend.

Andrade piloted Reus De La Nutria to a 35.983-second finish, just three-tenths of a second behind Fenney for the third place prize.

Fourth in the ribbons was Isabelle LaPierre of Canada and her own Cesha M. LaPierre and Cesha M have been consistent contenders in the Grand Prix Ring at HITS Ocala this season, including a win in the Week IV $50,000 HITS Grand Prix. Their clean time of 37.073 earned them their spot in the top five when the class was finished.

Rounding out the top five was Lillie Keenan riding Be Gentle, owned by Chansonette Farm, LLC. They powered through the course but an unfortunate rail would give them four faults as they crossed the finish. Their quick time of 35.365, however, would settle them with the fifth place prize.

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Lauren Hough and Ohlala Are Victorious in Great American $1 Million Grand Prix

(C) ESI Photography. Lauren Hough and Ohlala.

Ocala, FL (March 27, 2017): Spectators filed into the grandstand at HITS Post Time Farm to witness a world-class line-up of national and international riders battle for the blue in the fourth annual Great American $1 Million Grand Prix, sponsored by Great American Insurance Group. Just one week after the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix in Thermal, California, the richest prize purse in show jumping returned to the Horse Capital of the World in Ocala, Florida.

With a bustling grandstand, thousands watching from a live webcast on HITS TV, two sold out VIP tents, and the grass berm surrounding the stadium filled to capacity, it was a day packed with family-friendly fun and world-class show jumping competition.

The final lineup was stacked with previous HITS $1 Million Grand Prix winners, but the team to beat was USA equestrian Lauren Hough and Ohlala, owned by The Ohlala Group. Hough returned to HITS Ocala after competing for Team USA at the FEI Nations Cup™ earlier in February. Hough also placed fourth in the Great American Million in 2015 and 2016. They topped the leaderboard, and 49 other show jumping stars, to take home the day’s top honor by less than a one-second margin over second place finisher Aaron Vale and Finou 4, owned by Thinkslikeahorse and Don Stewart.

“I was lucky enough to come back to Ocala after the Nations Cup, and I was so impressed with how the footing was,” said Hough. “My horse is happier here, and so I really made coming back a priority in my schedule.”

Coming back to HITS Ocala certainly paid off for the decorated equestrian of Wellington, Florida. Hough’s round held up over the 14-horse jump-off, going seventh in the order, right in the middle of the pack. Vale was not far behind, finishing less than one-second behind Hough for second place.

“Everything I did with my horse this winter was aimed at this class,” said Vale. “This second place finish is worth more money than any win I’ve ever had, so I’d say it was a pretty good day!”

Third place went to Germany’s Andre Thieme, winner of the inaugural 2014 edition of the Great American Million.

“This Million dollar class is a very good thing that HITS does for our sport,” said Thieme.  Thieme also won the 2011 Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix.

Thieme rode Conthendrix to the third-place prize in just one second behind Vale for the yellow ribbon and his slice of the million dollar pie.

Forty-nine riders, including World Cup champions, Olympic Gold Medalists and Grand Prix stars tested a course of 17 fences set at up to 1.60 meters. The meticulously decorated course, designed by Werner Deeg of Germany would yield 14 clear rounds ensuring a competitive jump-off.

“Here in Ocala we have the best footing, and it’s amazing how well the horses jump here,” said Deeg. “We had some top riders here, like the ones sitting next to me [at the press conference]. We also had some less-experienced riders at this level, so I built this course being aware of everybody.”

First of the top five to challenge the shortened course was Great Britain equestrian, Ben Maher, piloting Don Vito, owned by Poden Farms. They set down a fault-free trip in 50.874, which would ultimately slide them into fourth place.

American rider, McLain Ward, was next to try his luck in the jump-off riding HH Callus, owned by Double H Farm. Ward, a two-time HITS Million Grand Prix winner, competed alongside Hough in the FEI Nations Cup™ Ocala earlier this season, and both were a part of the winning Team USA at Nations Cup Ocala last year.

Ward steered his mount through the course with precision and skill. To the sound of cheers from the crowd, they crossed the timers clear in 51.379, eventually settling them in the final spot of the top five for the fifth-place prize.

Hough and Ohlala followed Ward. They took to the course at an all-out gallop, zipping through the turns.  The excitement from the crowd grew throughout the round and cheers erupted as they crossed the timers in a blazing fast 48.966, setting the Great American Time to Beat and topping the rankings, where they would remain for the eventual win, an impressive feat going in the middle of the order of 14 challengers.

“I was not feeling very confident in actually winning the class, because there were seven more behind me [in the jump-off],” said Hough in the post-victory press conference. “I rode the fastest round that I could with [Ohlala], and tried to keep the pressure on the ones to follow – and of course, you always hope to have a bit of luck on your side at events like this. I had all of the above.”

Andre Thieme was next of the top five to complete his jump-off round. He and Conthendrix valiantly fought for speed towards the finish. As they crossed the timers in a cool, clear 50.086, they stepped up the leaderboard over Ward, but were not quite quick enough to overtake Hough.

“I watched Lauren’s round at the gate, and I knew her horse was very fast, and my horse is not so quick across the ground,” said Thieme. “He’s an amazing horse and partner, but I know him well enough that if the jump-off starts to get really quick, I will probably not win it. So with that in mind, I did everything that I could and am very happy with this result.”

(C) ESI Photography. Aaron Vale and Finou 4

When hometown hero, Aaron Vale, stepped into the ring with Finou 4, he had his eyes on the prize. He laid down a speedy ride through the jump-off course, galloping at every opportunity to shave time off the clock. The talented pair crossed the timers clean, but they were unable to catch Hough’s time as they finished in 49.442, good enough for the coveted, second-place payout.

“Following Lauren, I got to watch the first seven go, so I had an idea of what my horse could do,” said Vale of his jump-off round. “I was hoping to get one less stride from the first fence to the second, which I did, and I almost got exactly what I wanted the whole way, aside from one extra stride in the middle. I felt like I made up for it in the turn to the last line, and leaving out a stride to the last jump. I got the best round that I think I could have, it just wasn’t quite good enough today.”

Several big contenders followed in the jump-off including Todd Minikus, winner of the 2014 Saugerties Million riding Valinski S, owned by Michael Dorman and Wyndmont, Inc.  Although he had the fastest time in the jump-off, 46.660, a rail and four faults earned him in sixth.

Last to go in the jump-off was last weekend’s AIG $1 Million Grand Prix winner, Mandy Porter and Milano, owned by Abigail Weese.  As she started the course, it looked like she might be the first back-to-back Million Grand Prix winner, and she carried a clean round all the way to the last fence getting the crowd to their feet to cheer. The stadium let out a collective sigh as the last rail came down for four faults, giving Porter the purple ribbon for seventh.

It was unanimous amongst the top finishers that the prize purses offered by HITS are remarkable and HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri gave full credit to the event’s title sponsor.

“We’re fortunate to have one of the best sponsors in the world, Great American [Insurance Group], and lucky to have them again for the fourth consecutive year,” said Struzzieri. “The fact that we can host two $1 Million classes back to back, for several years in a row, speaks volumes as to what HITS does, and that caliber of competition will certainly carry into the future.”

As ten weeks of show jumping competition at HITS Ocala came to a close with a $1 Million Grand Prix to remember, riders are already looking ahead to the HITS Championship in Saugerties, New York later this year. Boasting the richest weekend in show jumping and with the Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix returning as an FEI CSI-5* class, riders from around the globe await another opportunity for their chance at international bragging rights and the quintessential prize purse.

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Kim Farlinger Wins $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix

(C) ESI Photography. Kim Farlinger and Charming Force B.

This week is Great American Million week at HITS Ocala, where the best of the best will travel from near and far to compete for the sport’s richest prize purse in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium.

Last Sunday, there was still plenty of competition to witness in the $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix. Canadian equestrian Kim Farlinger took home the win in a thrilling 11-horse jump-off aboard Charming Force B, owned by her own Kim Farlinger Stables Ltd.

Farlinger has ranked consistently among the top finishers at HITS Ocala this season, and each week, she and Charming Force B have climbed up the ranks to snag their blue-ribbon finish. They swooped in for the victory with a time of 40.430, a full two seconds ahead of the field of their peers.

Second place went to Harold Chopping of Southern Pines, North Carolina. Chopping rode Basje, owned by Kendra Bullington. They are no strangers to the ribbons at HITS Ocala, having won several Grand Prix during the HITS Holiday Series. They stopped the clock fault-free in 42.391 for the second-place prize.

Four more would go double clear to seal their spot in the top ribbons, including a rare tie between two riders who clocked in at the same time down to thousandths of a second: Mattias Tromp and Candice King. Tromp rode Avon, owned by Swede Ventures, LLC, and King piloted Calisto 26, owned by Ross Smith. Their time of 42.543 was just two-tenths of a second behind Chopping for the third-place tie up.

Hometown hero Aaron Vale garnered the final spot in the top five with Bonzini S, owned by Thinkslikeahorse. Their cool, clear round of 42.949 earned them the pink ribbon for the fifth-place prize.

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Sparks Fly for Mandy Porter and Milano Winning AIG $1 Million Grand Prix

(C) ESI PHOTOGRAPHY. Mandy Porter and Milano.

Thermal, CA (March 20, 2017): Dynamite equestrian Mandy Porter, of Encinitas, California, rose to the occasion against a top-notch field of fifty-four riders, in the most popular AIG $1 Million Grand Prix class to date. Porter rode Milano, owned by Abigail Weese, to a thrilling finish as the second-to-last rider in a six-horse jump-off. The starting order included several prior victors of the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Desert Horse Park including 2016, 2015 and 2014 winners: McLain Ward, Charlie Jayne and Ashlee Bond.

“It’s an honor to win this class, coming into this I always hoped that this result would happen,” said Porter after her blue-ribbon victory. “I always try to go into an event like this hoping to do the best that I can – I think it’s great that the ‘West Coast’ won this one.”

New for the 2017 class was a 1.50-meter course height and the Top 20 qualified riders had the opportunity to enter two horses into the class for a second shot at the money. Of the top three, two West Coast riders walked away with the top portions of the prize purse: Porter and second place rider, Tamie Phillips, who rode Cristar, owned by Merle Gardner.

“I want to say thank you to Tom and the HITS staff – I was very pleased with the new [1.50m] course height, it gave me a lot of confidence coming into this class,” said Tamie Phillips in the post-Million press conference. “My horse was just absolutely on fire today. I put down the best round that I could, and almost hung in there, but Mandy just got it in the end. It was a really fun class. I loved it.”

Third place went to Cian O’Connor who has shown tremendous success at HITS Ocala this year in the FEI Nations Cup™ and the $100,000 City of Ocala Grand Prix. The Irish Olympian traveled west to try his luck in the desert for the first time, and his double-clear performance aboard Good Luck, owned by Adena Springs, did not disappoint.

“I’m delighted to be here; it’s my first time to be here and I have to compliment the show organizers for setting the height at a 1.50m this year to really give people a chance to jump in a class like the Million,” said O’Connor. “Everyone jumped very well, as you can see from the line-up, and I’m very happy to be a part of it and to have jumped double clear.”

Every few trips, the six riders that would eventually compete for a slice of the biggest prize purse in show jumping, would punch their ticket to the jump-off with a clear round.

A large spectator crowd filled the grandstand, complete with a sold-out VIP club and thousands viewing a livestream on HITS TV. Competitors brought the heart for their fans as the showdown for the 2017 AIG $1 Million Grand Prix title unfolded. An electric crowd looked on as the top six began their return to the Grand Prix Ring to challenge the jump-off course set by Alan Wade, of Tippery, Ireland.

“A lot of people were worried about dropping the height down to 1.50 meters, Tom [HITS President and CEO] told me there would be six in the jump-off, so I was just doing what I told,” Wade joked. “I believe a lot of riders had some unlucky faults, and sometimes the money offered can be extra pressure, but I keep that out of my mind. I build the course for the people that are here and for the sport – we are lucky to have this amount of prize money in the sport though, so hats off to AIG for supporting that. This was an exciting class and I was very happy to be here.”

“We are very thankful to AIG for their support, they’re a super sponsor – we also have just fantastic clients,” said HITS President and CEO, Tom Struzzieri. “The results, for those who organize events, couldn’t have been better. We have Cian who is a good friend and great competitor, and then my friend McLain Ward, and other riders from the East who travel out to compete with HITS here – it’s great to have that support. However, it’s no coincidence that the West Coast riders, Mandy and Tamie, are sitting up here with us. They rode with us here all winter, and did great. They came out here and had a chance to ride two in the AIG Million and that worked out beautifully; that’s what we wanted to see happen.”

First to return to contest the abbreviated course was O’Connor and Good Luck. They laid down a solid, clear trip right out of the gate, stopping the clock with all of the rails up in 43.986, a time that would hold up through the rest of the jump-off.

Following O’Connor was Germany’s Andre Thieme, also a past HITS $1 Million Grand Prix winner. Thieme piloted Conthendrix through the technical, shortened course.

An unfortunate rail at A of the combination would earn them four faults as they passed the finish in 42.086, a round that would ultimately give them the fourth place prize.

(C) ESI Photography. Tamie Phillips and Cristar

Calgary, Alberta equestrian, Tamie Phillips, has been a force to be reckoned with all season at HITS Coachella. This class was no exception to Phillips’ dynamite skills, as she put down a thrilling ride to step into the temporary lead.

Phillips and her mount, Cristar, powered through the course, taking each fence by storm. The crowd cheered as they galloped home to stop the clock with a fault-free trip in 41.954.

The sun shined down on HITS Desert Horse Park and three riders still had to try their hand at the jump-off course. The anticipation was high in the stands to see if anyone could overcome Phillips’ ride or if the victor had already been crowned.

Uma O’Neill and Clockwise of Greenhill Z were next to step into the ring. Their feet touched the earth with four faults, after also having a rail at the A element of the combination, in 45.664, still good enough to eventually settle them into sixth place.

Following O’Neill were the victors, Mandy Porter aboard Milano. They knew what they had to do to move into the top place on the leaderboard. They put the pedal to the metal and took every chance they could to shave the second off of the clock.

The crowd rose to their feet as they pushed ahead to their eventual winning round. They crossed the timers in 41.600, a few fractions ahead of Phillips to the sound of cheers from the spectators. Milano and Porter also showed success during the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal CSI3* week with a win in the $36,400 Desert Classic win and a $25,000 FEI SmartPak Grand Prix win.

“This horse is just amazing,” Porter said of Milano. “I have a feeling this is just the beginning for him. He definitely hasn’t reached his peak and we are excited to see what the rest of his jumping career holds.”

The last rider to enter the jump-off was France’s Eric Navet, who consistently shows at HITS Coachella and stacks up the ribbons in the Grand Prix. Navet had the final shot at taking the leading round away from Porter. He rode Catypso, owned by Signe Ostby, through the course with skill until a heartbreaking rail at the final fence in the course thwarted their shot at the win. Their round in 43.391 would be good enough for the final spot in the top five.

The sun set over the mountain ridge on HITS Desert Horse Park as a West Coast victor walked away with her well-deserved slice of the Million-dollar pie.

Looking ahead, all industry eyes turn to the East Coast for the second jewel in the HITS Triple Crown of Show Jumping, the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. Will Mandy Porter make it two in a row? Will Cian O’Connor get the luck back on his side for a Million-dollar win in the east? Will Beezie Madden return to claim her second $1 Million Grand Prix victory, or will a new winner be crowed? Only time will tell.

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David Beisel Wins First and Fourth in $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at HITS Ocala

(C) ESI Photography. David Beisel and Ammeretto.

Ocala, FL (March 18, 2017): Week IX at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit continued on Thursday with the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium at HITS Post Time Farm.

David Beisel has been quite successful in Grand Prix this season at HITS Ocala, including two wins so far $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, making this week’s victory his third of 2017. Beisel rode Ammeretto, owned by Equine Holdings LLC., to the win in a 12-horse jump-off, where seven would go clear in contingency for the blue.

Beisel would take hold of lead going eighth in the order over the shortened course designed by Anderson Lima of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Beisel also garnered the fourth place ribbon with Call Me Hannes, owned by Harlow investment Enterprises, LLC.

First to claim a clear round in the jump-off was Emanuel Andrade riding Bon Jovi. They clocked in with a fault-free 35.898-second round right out of the gate, and their round would eventually settle them in third place. Andrade would also claim second place in the class aboard Reus De La Nutria with a thrilling ride as the second-to-last in the order.

The next clear round came third in the order with Hyde Moffatt of Canada and Granturo, owned by Western Sales & Development. They valiantly chased Andrade’s temporary lead, stopping the clock in 39.892, which would ultimately settle them into fifth place.

A few rounds would pass before another fault-free trip was delivered by Kelley Robinson, also of Canada, entered with Blue’s Yer Daddy seventh in the order. They snagged a clear round, but their time of 40.349 could not edge out the rest of the pack, putting them in seventh.

Following Robinson were the victors David Beisel and Ammeretto. They stormed through the course, taking each fence with force. The crowd cheered as they passed the timers in a cool, clear 34.755, a full second ahead of the leading time, where the lead would remain.

Melissa Rudershausen followed with Charmeur Ask for another clear round, and their time of 40.239 put them ahead of Robinson for the ultimate sixth place position.

There were only two left in the starting order, but only one chance to take the win away from Beisel, as he had one more horse left to show.

It was all down to the battle of the quickest between Andrade and Beisel. Andrade went first with his second mount of the jump-off, Reus De La Nutria. They came in hot, stopping the clock in 35.607 to step into second place.

The win was Beisel’s, but he still had one more ride. He followed with Call Me Hannes, putting in a clear round, but their time of 37.213 was not enough to overtake Andrade’s second and third place trips, settling them into fourth place for the white ribbon.

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Andy Kocher Conquers $50,000 KindredBio FEI Grand Prix at HITS Ocala

(C) ESI PHOTOGRAPHY. Andy Kocher and Ciana.

Ocala, FL (February 27, 2017): The grand finale of another FEI week at HITS Post Time Farm ensued on Sunday beneath a beautiful, sunny sky. Forty-three competitors turned out for a shot at the top title, including seasoned Grand Prix vets and a new blend of young, talented equestrians.

After two Grand Prix wins and several top ribbon placings in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium during the Ocala Winter Circuit, Andy Kocher of Lake St. Louis, Missouri returned to the iconic stadium to once again snag a win, this time in the $50,000 KindredBio Grand Prix.

Kocher piloted Ciana, owned by Eagle Valley Partners, LLC, to the win in a nine-horse jump-off over the course designed by Manuel Esparza of Mexico. Five would produce clear rounds over the abbreviated course in contingency for the win.

Most of the top five would go back-to-back in the jump-off setting the top scores within the first half of the jump-off, aside from one speedy round as the second-to-last challenger.

First to tour the jump-off course fault-free was Jonathan McCrea riding Special Lux, owned by Candy Tribble. McCrea, a season Grand Prix vet and top-three finisher in both the 2016 AIG $1 Million Grand Prix and the 2016 Great American $1 Million Grand Prix, laid down a quick, clear round to set the tone for those who followed.

McCrea and Special Lux crossed the timers with all of the rails up in 36.32, which would ultimately give them the second-place prize.

Immediately following McCrea in the order were victors Kocher and Ciana. They took to the course no holds barred, chasing McCrea’s time and determined to put in a quicker clean effort. They did just that, stopping the clock in a blazing-fast 35.31, where the lead would remain.

Next in was Andrea Torres Guerreiro, a fiery, Columbian-equestrian with several top finishes in HITS Ocala’s featured Grand Prix. Torres Guerreiro proved herself a force to be reckoned with, powering through the course aboard her horse, Fifty Shades. They passed the timers in 37.44, a few seconds shy of the lead, but a round that would hold up for the rest of the class to ultimately give them fifth place.

Devin Ryan and Eddie Blue, owned by LL Show Jumpers, LLC, won last week’s $5,000 FEI Welcome Stake during the CSIO4* Nations Cup week at HITS Ocala. This week they scored a fourth-place prize in the $25,000 SmartPak FEI Grand Prix, and returned to once again claim fourth place in Sunday’s Grand Prix. Ryan and Eddie Blue stopped the clock in 36.88 with no faults for the white ribbon.

Another clear round would not be seen until the second-to-last horse in the order, Conthendrix, owned and ridden by Andre Thieme of Germany. Thieme and his mount laid down a valiant effort to catch Kocher’s leading time, leaving all of the rails up. Their time of 36.54 moved them ahead of Ryan and Torres Guerreiro and into the third-place slot.

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Harold Chopping Wins $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix – FEI

(C) ESI PHOTOGRAPHY. Harold Chopping and Basje.

Ocala, FL (February 25, 2017): After an exciting finish to the FEI Nations Cup CSI4* week at HITS Ocala, FEI competition continued at HITS Post Time Farm. Riders and horses from the US, Canada and abroad met in the Horse Capital of the World for a shot at blue ribbon status. Harold Chopping of Southern Pines, North Carolina grabbed the win in the $25,000 FEI SmartPak Grand Prix.

Fifty-one challengers tested the course designed by Manuel Esparza of Mexico and nineteen would advance with first-round clears to contest the abbreviated course in the jump-off. Twelve produced clean jump-off rounds, leaving it all down to the quickest time to bring home the victory.

Chopping, who originally hails from Canada, piloted Basje, owned by Kendra Bullington, through the jump-off, laying down a blazing-fast ride in 38.20 to eventually take home the win.

Brandie Holloway ultimately garnered second place in the thrilling class aboard Lucky Strike, owned by Hays Investment Corp. Their final time of 39.06 after a fault-free round in the jump-off gave them the red-ribbon slot on the leaderboard.

Coming in just behind Brandie Holloway was Germany’s Andre Thieme riding Conthendrix. Just fractions of a second divided Thieme’s time from Holloway, a 39.34, settling them third in the ribbons.

Devin Ryan took home fourth place riding Eddie Blue, owned by LL Show Jumpers, LLC. Ryan and Eddie Blue also grabbed a win in Ocala with first place in the $5,000 FEI Welcome Stake. Their time of 40.24, gave them the white ribbon.

Brandie’s daughter, Hunter Holloway, would also capture a seat in the top five. Hunter won the $41,200 FEI Thursday Prix at HITS Ocala with VDL Bravo S, owned by Hays Investment Corp, and the pair showed they are still in top form. They earned fifth place with their clean round in 41.13.

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Aaron Vale Flies to the Win in the $41,200 HITS Jumper Classic

(C) ESI PHOTOGRAPHY. Aaron Vale and Quality on Top.

Ocala, FL (February 19, 2017): The CSIO4* Week continued at HITS Post Time Farm on Saturday with the $41,200 HITS Jumper Classic. Riders from several countries, including USA, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, El Salvador, Colombia and the recent winners of the $100,000 FEI Nations Cup™, Ireland, took their turn over the course set by Marina Azevedo of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The rider to beat would be hometown hero, Aaron Vale riding Quality on Top, owned by North Face Farm. They would indeed finish on top by an impressive three seconds. Third place rider from Venezuela, Pablo Barrios, made Vale work for it though, entering immediately before Vale in the jump-off order, setting down a time Vale had to chase.

“My horses have jumped great all circuit; I just haven’t had luck on my side. Today, it was,” said Vale. “This was this horse’s first ribbon in an FEI class, and for it to be a blue one is pretty special.”

The course was winding and included two roll-back turns and two exciting galloping points that riders could hustle across the ring to shave the seconds off of the clock.

First to return to the shortened course was McLain Ward riding Quinta, a 10-year-old Holsteiner mare he co-owns with Francois Mathy. They laid down a clear round right out of the gate, clocking in at 42.48 to set the tone for the class. The trip would ultimately settle them in sixth place, with the remaining contenders, aside from Vale, all finishing within a few fractions of a second of each other.

Pablo Barrios grabbed the next clear round of the eventual top five placings, going fourth in the jump-off order aboard Zara Leandra, owned by ZL Group, Inc. Cheers rang out from the Venezuelan team supporters as they watched them laid down a cool, clear round in 41.17.  They’d ultimately take home the third-place prize.

Vale followed next, taking care to ensure the lead did not stay in Barrios’ hands for long. Vale and Quality on Top powered through the course, flying across the arena from the fifth fence on course to the combination, which required riders to gallop to the opposite end of the ring then change direction.

“I got to watch McLain go, and I thought he was quite fast so I knew I had to be especially quick,” said Vale. “There were a couple of spots early in the course where I could have been faster, but I wanted to be careful too.”

The crowd gasped as they zoomed toward the finish, the lead imminent by their quick speed. They passed the timers in 38.43, a time no other could catch.

“We had a rub in the combination and I actually thought we had had a rail down.  I looked up at the scoreboard a couple of times waiting for the 4 [faults] to come up, but it didn’t – so then I just went as fast as I could to the last few jumps.  My horse is fairly quick-footed, so that really paid off.

Emanuel Andrade and Mattias Tromp both put in valiant efforts to catch Vale. Andrade, another speedy Venezuelan rider, powered home to a fault-free 41.33-second ride for the eventual fourth place, riding his bay gelding, U.

Tromp, entered behind Andrade in the order piloting Avon, owned by Swede Ventures, LLC. They put the pedal to the metal in the course, trying with all of their might to catch Vale’s leading time. Their finish in 40.33 would settle them in second place.

Ali Wolff would round out the top five riding Quirie, co-owned with John Wolff. They put in a clear round in 41.90 for fifth place.

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Cian O’Connor Wins $100,000 City of Ocala Grand Prix

(C) ESI PHOTOGRAPHY. Cian O’Connor and Seringat.

Ocala, FL (February 20, 2017): The curtain on the CSIO4* week at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida, came to a thrilling close on Sunday with a jump-off battle in the $100,000 FEI City of Ocala Grand Prix. Hot off the win with Team Ireland in Friday’s FEI Nations Cup™, Cian O’Connor prevailed aboard Seringat, owned by Ronnoco Jump LTD., with another top title in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium in Sunday’s Grand Prix.

“After winning the Nations Cup with the team and then coming back today to win again, it’s a great feeling. The course designer [Marina Azevedo] designed both courses that I won on, so I love her courses,” laughed O’Connor in the post-victory press conference. “I like the arena [in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium]; the ground is perfect. The jumps are different and impressive. Plus, there’s lots of room to work your horses in Ocala – it was no doubt a great week of competition.”

With a little luck, and a lot of skill, O’Connor returned as the final contender in the three-horse jump-off to once again take the victory under pressure. Olympic gold-medalist and Team USA rider Beezie Madden took home the second-place prize and young talent Ali Wolff, Team USA’s alternate rider in the Nations Cup, raked in third place.

Interestingly, both O’Connor and Madden were the only riders to garner double clear rounds for their respective countries in Friday’s FEI Nations Cup™.

“Having a great week of sport like this is pretty special, so my hats off to the HITS Team and to the riders sitting to my right [Cian and Beezie], two of the very best,” said HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri. “We’re lucky to have super sponsors, like The City of Ocala and Longines, and of course the support from Marion County.”

Forty-four decorated riders, including the likes of McLain Ward, Ian Millar, and Kevin Babington, tested the course of 13 jumping efforts set at 1.60m by Marina Azevedo of Sao Paulo, Brazil, but time would prove a factor early on in the class and the top three would prove themselves to advance to the jump-off.

The jump-off was speedy, with O’Connor, Madden and Wolff all claiming clear rounds but separated by only tenths of a second.

First to tour the abbreviated course was Madden riding Breitling LS, owned by Abigail Wexner. The pair had the first clear trip in the first round, slating them as the first trip into the jump-off.

“Going in first can be a difficult spot especially when there are only three in the jump-off, there needs to be a little strategy. If there’s 12 in the jump-off, you just go for it and go fast,” said Madden with a grin. “I wanted to set my trip up taking a few risks to be fast so it would be hard to catch us. In hindsight, I could have done the seven [strides] from the wall to the oxer safely, that might have cost me those four-tenths of a second.”

They finished their jump-off trip fault-free in 41.43, to the sound of the crowd’s cheers, to set the tone for Wolff to follow and then O’Connor.

Wolff entered next with Casall, owned by Blacklick Bend Farm. They powered toward the finish as the clock wound down, the crowd on the edge of their seats. They would stop the clock with all of the rails up but their time of 41.86 would ultimately settle them in a well-fought third place.

O’Connor was last to challenge, and just like his exhilarating anchor ride for the Irish on Friday, he and Seringat were back to perform under the pressure. There was one shot, and O’Connor laid it all on the line with his chestnut gelding. They opted for the seven strides from the wall to the oxer, the same track that Madden opted to play it safe in eight strides, shaving crucial time off the clock. They passed the timers in a cool, clear 41.22 to secure the win.

The crowd roared to life and a terrific week of FEI competition at HITS Post Time Farm had gone out with sparks in the air.

Fourth place went to Isabelle Lapierre [CAN] aboard Cesha M. They nearly passed into the jump-off with a single first-round time fault. Emanuel Andrade [VEN] would too be foiled by a single time penalty with his bay Holsteiner, Ricore Courcelle, settling them into fifth place.

Up next for the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit is an FEI CSI2* week, February 22-26. Then, the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix culminates the exciting circuit on Sunday, March 26. For more information on the Great American Million, please visit HitsShows.com.

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