First Time Is a Charm for Darragh Kenny and Alpha VDL at HITS Ocala

©ESI Photography. Darragh Kenny and Alpha VDL’s on their way to a win in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix.

OCALA, FL (February 18, 2014) – With no faults and the fastest time, Darragh Kenny of Wellington, Florida and Alpha VDL bested a large field of 51 top tier horses and riders to win the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis at HITS Ocala. The nine-year-old gelding, Alpha VDL, was purchased by Eva Castegren at the VDL Auction in West Palm Beach last March and has been shown lightly until making his grand prix debut with Kenny this weekend.

Most grand prix competitors felt the track designed by course designer Martin Otto of Muenster, Germany to be challenging. The time allowed was set at 71 seconds, but later raised to 73, the course included a total of twelve obstacles and fifteen jumping efforts with a tricky triple combination at fence ten. The course was consistent with knock-downs and time faults as Otto’s track tested the competitors. First to post a clear round was Lazaro and Jordan Coyne of New Port Richey, Florida and only four others would follow them to the jump-off.

Returning first, Lazaro, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood and Coyne finished with four faults at fence seven and a time of 37.7 seconds, which was good for fourth. Quality Girl, a 12-year-old Warmblood mare, with professional rider Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, Florida in the irons finished second in the Zoetis Million at Saugerties last year and pulled a rail at 10b for four faults and finished with a time of 38.28 seconds for fifth place.

Third to jump and making it look easy was the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Viriato ridden by professional Scott Keach of Reddick, Florida, with two double-clear rounds during the class for owner Southern Cross Equestrian. Keach established the Great American Time To Beat at 44.90 seconds with Viriato. This would ultimately give them a third place finish. Next to jump off was Fernando Cardenas of New Hill, North Carolina aboard his 10-year-old Oldenburg stallion Quincy Car. With no faults and a speedy time of 43.75 seconds, they finished seconds.

Kenny was definitely the underdog on a horse with no grand prix experience, but he and Alpha VDL prevailed in the thrilling five-horse jump-off, going clear with a time of 42.24 seconds for the win.

“He’s a big, easy-going horse I’ve shown him a few times now and nothing fazes him,” said Kenny. “He has a big stride and for a big horse he is amazingly light on his feet.”

There will be more grand prix action next Sunday as HITS VI – the Ocala Masters kicks off with the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix and later the $50,000 Strongid C 2X Grand Prix, both presented by Zoetis. The excitement is building for the first-ever Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. The Great American Million will debut as the second jewel in the HITS Triple Crown of Show Jumping Monday, March 24 in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium.

About Zoetis
Building on 60 years of experience as Pfizer Animal Health, Zoetis delivers quality medicines and vaccines, complemented by diagnostics products and genetics tests and supported by a range of services. They work every day to better understand and address the real-world challenges faced by those who raise and care for animals in ways they find truly relevant. Zoetis produces a comprehensive range of safe and effective products, including equine vaccines, dewormers and sedative analgesics, to help professionals and individual horse owners keep their animals healthy. Both veterinarians and horse owners know and trust the Zoetis will help their horses live longer, healthier lives.

©ESI Photography. Haley Gassel and Werner 61 jump to the blue in the $7,500 U-Dump/SJHOF Amateur-Owner High Jumper Classic
©ESI Photography. Haley Gassel and Werner 61 jump to the blue in the $7,500 U-Dump/SJHOF Amateur-Owner High Jumper Classic

$7,500 U-Dump/SJHOF Amateur-Owner High Jumper Classic, presented by Bayer’s Legend

With two entries in the class and hopes of qualifying for the Bayer’s Legend (hyaluronate sodium) Injectable Solution $250,000 High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Prix in, Haley Gassel of Lenoir City, Tennessee and Werner 61 rode to win in the $7,500 U-Dump/SJHOF Amateur-Owner High Jumper Classic, presented by Bayer’s Legend. With a ‘better get it done or you’re going to get left’ attitude, Gassel and Werner 61, a big grey Warmblood, attached the track set by Otto in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium.

Perched ring-side, accomplished professional David Jennings commented on the course: “This stadium has wonderful footing and the course is big enough without being ‘trappey.’ I have jumped lots of courses set by Martin and I know first-hand he is one of the best.”

With an order of go including 23 starters, six moved on to the jump-off. First, Acrobat with Robert Lee of Old Saybrook, Connecticut in the irons for Brook Run Farm, LLC rode to no faults and set The Great America Time to Beat at 34.55 seconds. They ended the class in second.

Gassel returned next and carved out a time of 33.21 seconds for the win. Third place was awarded to Laura Linback of Mundelin, Illinois with four faults and a time of 31.83 seconds. Fourth place on his second entry El Grecco was Lee who returned to best his own time to beat, but clipped a rail to settle with four faults in a time of 33.64 seconds. Michelle Stopford of Reddick, Florida and Zilano M, riding for Hardford Farm M&M, capped the top five with four faults and a time of 34.89 seconds.

$7,500 U-Dump/SJHOF Junior High Jumper Classic, presented by Bayer’s Legend

The Junior section of the High Jumper Classic was able to also jump for their share of prize money over the weekend. It was Dakota Schramer of Holmes Beach, Florida riding No Autographs Please that was the pair to beat and the only one to post a double-clear round.

First to return in the jump-off was Kady Abrahmson of Loveland, Ohio on Basco, trained by Scott Keach of Reddick, Florida. Unfortunately, they pulled a rail at the second element of fence four to pick up four faults, with a time of 31.99 seconds. Their time was eventually the fastest in the jump-off, an effort good enough for second place.

©ESI Photography. Dakota Schramer and No Autographs Please win the $7,500 U-Dump/SJHOF Junior High Jumper Classic
©ESI Photography. Dakota Schramer and No Autographs Please win the $7,500 U-Dump/SJHOF Junior High Jumper Classic

Next in the ring was Schramer and No Autographs Please. With trainer Kris Di Carlo looking on, Schramer was flawless with a clear-round in a time of 32.83 seconds for the win. Third place went to Hayley Waters on No Double with four faults and a time of 38.56 seconds for owner/trainer Chuck & Dana Waters.

With the win came an ample amount of cheering from Schramer’s ring-side fan club and a few tears of joy from her very happy mother. “We have had our problems – he doesn’t like to get deep to the jumps, but he’s getting better and better, and today he was perfect,” said Schramer. “I am gaining a lot of confidence as we go.  I really liked the openness of the stadium and am excited to try to qualify for the Bayer’s Legend Jumper Prix in Saugerties.”

About U-Dump
Since 1980, U-Dump has been manufacturing the finest dump trailers in the industry.  Built strictly from top-grade materials, all of their trailers are made with the latest construction techniques to eliminate bending and breakage in all stress areas.  U-Dump Trailers has built their reputation on manufacturing state-of-the art trailers of the highest quality and endurance. For more information on U-Dump, visit

About Bayer Animal Health
Bayer Animal Health is amongst worldwide leaders in animal health. Bayer has attained this leadership position by continuously researching and developing products for animal health since 1919. A responsible relationship between humans, companion animals and livestock requires ensuring the health of animals. For more information on Bayer Animal Health, visit

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