(C) ESI PHOTOGRAPHY. Marilyn Little and Venus.
OCALA, FL (February 20, 2016): Day one of the FEI CSIO4* week at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida, ended on a high note for Marilyn Little, of Frederick, Maryland, who took home first place with Venus, owned by Raylyn Farms, Inc. and third place with Clear Water owned by Karen O’Connor in the FEI Welcome Stake. Excitement for Friday’s main event, the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup CSIO4*, presented by Edge Brewing Barcelona, filled the air as competition got underway.
Forty-two riders hailing from across the globe tested the 1.40m speed course set by Ireland’s Alan Wade. First in the order and with determination fueling their game, Little and her bay mount Venus dominated the course from the moment they stepped foot inside the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium. Fiercely attempting each obstacle, the pair zipped through the course to clock in clear, and in a time of 59.43.
“It was a really fast course, and the footing was great. Alan Wade did a good job building a nice introductory course and there were a lot of people in the class – many who were prepping for what’s to come later in the week, and some really taking a shot,” said Little. “I had to go first in the class so I knew I had some fast ones coming behind me, especially Andy Kocher. True to form, he was very quick, but Venus is a speed racer.”
Seventh in the order, Kevin Babington, of Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, and his own Mark Q followed Little’s lead with a crisp, clean round, but were just over the 79 second time allowed, clocking in at 81.86 for one time fault.
Babington remained in second until the twelfth entry, Diego Jose Muyshondt, riding for El Salvador, and Val d’lsere, owned by Paulo Santana, cleared the course in 80.47 for one time fault and the second-place spot.
Muyshondt held his own until known speedster and a familiar name in the HITS Ocala winner’s circle this year, Andrew Kocher, of Lake St Louis, Missouri, appeared at the in-gate. Kocher, aboard Ciana, owned by Eagle Valley Partners, LLC, delivered a quick round in a time of 61.58, moving him up the leaderboard to second.
Little, piloting her second of two entries, Clear Water, was twenty-fourth in the order and she had her eye on the prize again. They sailed through the course for a clear round finishing with a time of 62.18, just one second behind Kocher for third.
Thomas Feigel, of Pompano Beach, Florida, and Analyze This were twenty-sixth and ready to chase the clock. Zipping through the course with precision and finishing clean with a time of 73.74 to secure the fourth-place finish.
Anchoring the order of go, Paulo Sergio Mateo Santana Filho of Wellington, Florida and his own Talubet was the fifth and final rider to give a clean round. Finishing in a time of 77.59, Filho took home fifth place.
Hometown Hero Claims the Victory in the $34,600 FEI Thursday Prix at HITS Ocala
The $34,600 FEI Thursday Prix went off without a hitch on Thursday as an impressive field of 76 riders and horses challenged the course set by course designer Alan Wade, of Tipperary, Ireland. Not only were competitors vying for a prestigious FEI victory as the prelude to the 2016 Nations Cup at HITS Post Time Farm on Friday, but the class also served as a qualifying opportunity for the $100,000 City of Ocala Grand Prix on Sunday, February 21.
Aaron Vale of Williston, Florida has been a force to be reckoned this Circuit. With two Grand Prix victories and multiple top-five finishes already under his belt this circuit, the Hometown Hero of Ocala Show Jumping did not disappoint, winning the race against the clock. “My goal was to be fast everywhere,” said Vale. “You had to be; the jump-off just got quicker and quicker, and it was a great class.” Indeed, all five top finishers jumped double-clear out of the 17 in the jump-off, and the time to beat seemed to get faster with every round.
The jump-off was designed around three lines that allowed riders to gallop and utilize their speed skills. Excitement burst in the stands as riders galloped to the in-and-out before turning to the last line which could be done in seven or eight strides, but where many a heartbreak came as rails fell and dashed the hopes of would-be winners. Of the top five in the jump-off, the first to return Ali Wolff and Brianda, co-owned with John Wolff. They were the first to finish fault-free taking the lead as they crossed the timers in a brisk 39.77 seconds.
Lisa Goldman of Hawthorne Woods, Illinois, also a multiple Grand Prix winner this circuit, entered the ring a few trips later aboard Centurion B, owned by Goldman’s mother and trainer Mary Goldman. Hunting for another victory, Goldman attacked the course, angling fences and galloping across the ring to the final in-and-out before the homestretch line. They crossed the marker in 38.57 to take the lead but the ensuing rounds would only get faster.
Mexico’s Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado and Tino la Chapelle, owned by IIan Ferder, galloped to the in and out, taking a tight turn before the final line to shave time off the clock and putting in a clear 37.25-second round to clock in almost a full second ahead of Goldman to top the leaderboard as the Mexican Team cheered in enthusiasm.
Vale and Finou 4, owned by Thinkslikeahorse and Donald Stewart, checked back in to the ring and the crowd was electric and chomping at the bit as Vale took up a gallop to the first fence.
“I didn’t get to watch Zendajas Salgado, but I knew if he had been faster than Lisa [Goldman], I had to be really, really fast if I was going to win.”
Vale took advantage of his horse’s big stride, leaving out strides in all three lines. “It felt like we were flying in that last gallop towards the in-and-out. I just kept going until I saw the spot where I could relax and my horse just softened and mentally slowed down to jump up quite nicely.”
Vale kept the momentum going to the last line, doing the seven strides, edging out Zendejas Salgado just a tenth of second on 37.01 to take the lead.
Many valiant efforts followed Vale, including Christian Heineking and AJE Cluny, with a heartbreaking rail at the final fence for ninth place and Molly Ashe, jumping clear to round out the top five with a time of 40.97.
The deal was sealed and Vale took home the win putting Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado and Tino la Chapelle in second place and Lisa Goldman and Centurion B in third.