OCALA, FL (February 20, 2012) – Venezuelan rider Andres Rodriguez had an unbelievable week at HITS Ocala. On Thursday, he won the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, and came back three days later to take first again in Sunday’s $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Both wins came aboard Caballito, owned by ARAO Enterprises LLC. Rodriguez seems to have his sights locked on making it to this year’s Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix.
Rodriguez, now of Wellington, Florida, was one of 37 competitors to navigate the course designed by International Course Designer Martin Otto of Munster, Germany.
Reigning Pfizer Million champion Andre Thieme of Plau am See, Germany and his own Quonschbob were first to show and posted a beautiful round leaving all the fences intact. Unfortunately, they suffered one time fault to the crowd’s disappointment, which kept them from advancing to the jump-off.
Sunday’s difficulty was far greater than Thursday’s course, which saw 17 clear rounds. On Sunday, Otto challenged the riders significantly harder in the final stretches of the course, designing a test of endurance which many riders failed to conquer. At the end of the first round, a well-rounded eight horse-and-rider teams advanced to the jump-off.
A couple of trips in, Patty Stovel of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania aboard her own Carigor Z and Tracy Fenney of Flower Mound, Texas aboard MTM Farm’s MTM Timon got things rolling when they each posted back-to-back clear rounds to ensure a jump-off.
At the end of the first round, Sharn Wordley of Ocala, Florida aboard his own Corino; Hector Florentino of Wellington, Florida aboard Stransky’s Mission Farm LTD’s Ultimo; Katherine Frame Dewar aboard her own Spitfire-W; Jordan Coyne of New Port Richey, Florida aboard her own Lazaro; and Aaron Vale of Morriston, Florida aboard Wodka L, owned by Thinkslikeahorse set the stage for an exciting second round.
Stovel and Carigor Z were the first to show in the jump-off and easily set the Great American Time to Beat at 46.139 seconds with no faults. The duo ultimately finished in third place.
The lead quickly changed hands as Fenney and MTM Timon shaved two seconds off the clock in 44.967 seconds with no faults. Fenney and MTM Timon have had a tremendous season thus far with a win and several top-place finishes, week after week.
Wordley and Corino were next to show and finished with four faults in 46.261 seconds after they dropped a rail on the second effort of the 10B-C combination.
Florentino and Ultimo also had four jumping faults, in 44.997 seconds.
The jump-off proved its difficulty as Dewar and Spitfire-10 had 16 faults of their own on the field. Coyne and Lazaro followed and had an unintentional dismount at the in-and-out.
Rodriguez and Caballito were second to last to show and went clear in 43.344 seconds to take the lead from Fenney.
“Tracy was in front of me and I knew Aaron was behind me,” said Rodriguez. “Tracy is so fast and I knew Aaron was another fast one. Even though my time was better than Tracy’s, I knew Aaron could get the job done, so I really didn’t know I won it until the last horse left the ring.”
Vale and Wodka L. had the coveted last to show opportunity and blazed through the jump-off, eager to catch lead time. Their time was impressive; however, the very last fence came down in 43.621 seconds in a heartbreaking finale. As the fastest of the four faulters, the team finished the day in fourth place.
Thanks to Rodriguez’s impressive performance this week he has banked $22,500 in prize money and now has two qualifying Grand Prix for the Pfizer Million, which he hopes to be a part of this September.
“I will be back this season for the $100,000 [Sullivan GMC Truck] Grand Prix, [presented by Great American Insurance Group], and the Pfizer Million – I really want to qualify. I have only watched it online and it looks so beautiful. I think I have some really good horses for that class.”
Rodriguez added, “I really wanted to thank my owner [Cervalez] and he is my best friend. We went and bought horses last summer and this horse came along after we already bought all the others but I really liked this one. I kept saying, ‘this is the one!’ I really want to thank him for having that trust in me. And I’d also like to thank my groom Danielle Burns. She is so hard working and way too many times I have to kick her out of the stables. She doesn’t leave the barn and she works so hard and takes such great care of the horses, she deserves a lot of credit.”
The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit continues this week with the Ocala Masters, as the competition continues to grow in numbers and excitement. High-Performance riders will highlight the action in the Grand Prix field on Thursday with the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, and the $50,000 Strongid C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, both qualifiers for the Pfizer Million. HITS Ocala is one of the premiere locations on the road towards HITS Championship Weekend, which will take place September 7-9 at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York and will present the Diamond Mills $500,000 3’3” Hunter Prix Final, the $250,000 HITS 3’ Hunter Prix Final and the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix.