SAUGERTIES, NEW YORK (July 23, 2011) — With competition taking place in 10 different show rings and more than 1,600 horses on the premises, the opening week of the HITS-on-the-Hudson summer series is going like gangbusters, proving that Saugerties, New York is the place to be this summer.
Olympian Margie Engle picked up right where she left off upon her return to HITS-on-the-Hudson when she piloted Ashland Farms’ Lord Spezi to an exciting victory in Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Engle and Lord Spezi had a very successful start to their season in Saugerties back in June when they won the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix and finished sixth together in the $100,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix during HITS-on-the-Hudson III.
“He [Lord Spezi] had the winter off and we showed together here Week III where we did really well together,” said Engle. “We’re back for the summer and looking to qualify for the [Pfizer] Million. He’s a funny horse, he has a cocky attitude, but in a good way. He knows when he does a good job. Sometimes, after a jump he’ll let out a little buck, showing off like ‘Wow! Look what I did’. He’s not a very big horse, but he has a very big personality.”
Friday’s win did not come easy for Engle as 39 other starters stood in her way at the outset of the class, including fellow Olympians McLain Ward, Peter Leone, Todd Minikus, Kevin Babington and Manuel Torres. International Course Designer Marina Azevedo of Brazil set a challenging course in the roomy Strongid C 2X Stadium that included a double combination early in the track, a water jump mid-way through the route and a triple combination at the second-to-last fence, which proved to be the downfall of many riders on the course.
The first clear ride came early in the order when David Raposa of Clinton, New York put down a flawless effort aboard Don Stewart’s Tebow. Ten trips later, Ohio’s Ali Wolff jumped clear aboard John Wolff & Blacklick Bend Farm’s Lanoo but had two time faults which kept them from advancing to the next round. Three trips later, Gemma Paternoster of Wellington, Florida rode her own Osiris to a clear round to force a jump-off. By the end of the first round, Raposa and Paternoster were joined by seven others for an intense battle to the finish.
Azevedo’s jump-off course consisted of seven efforts, including the double combination from the first round, with a time allowed of 55 seconds. Raposa wasted no time setting the pace when he and Tebow went clear in a quick 34.82 seconds to establish the Great American Time to Beat.
Paternoster and Osiris followed and had a rail down at the second effort to finish the class in eighth place. Ward of Brewster, New York was up next aboard his own Oh’ D Eole, the first of his two mounts in the jump-off. They went fast and clean in 34.22 seconds to take the lead from Raposa with six left to show.
Katie Dinan of New York, New York followed next aboard Grant Road Partners, LLC’s Couletto James and finished the round with 13 faults (8 jumping, 5 time) and the ninth-place check. Colombia’s Manuel Torres followed with a clear ride aboard TG Show Stables Chambacunero in 35.87 seconds which would earn them the fifth-place ribbon at the end of the class.
Connecticut’s Jonathan McCrea was next to show aboard Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables’ Colorado. The pair finished clean in 40.62 seconds which was good enough for sixth place.
With just three riders left to show and Ward still holding on to first place, Engle entered the ring aboard Lord Spezi with a fire in her eyes and only one thing on her mind, the win. The duo cruised through the course with perfection and managed to shave just over a tenth of a second off of Ward’s time to take the lead in 34.09 seconds to the delight of the crowd.
As the cheers subsided, the intensity grew when Ward returned with his second mount Poker. A rail down in the combination would put them in seventh place.
All eyes turned to Jimmy Torano and Bynum Farms’ Vince, who enjoyed their very first Grand Prix win together at HITS-on-the-Hudson last summer when they won the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix during Week V. Looking to repeat that performance where they used their last-to-go spot to pull ahead for the victory, the pair gave it their all and went clean but with a time of 35.57 seconds they had to settle for fourth place.
“The course was pretty perfect,” said Engle after the win. “The designer did a good job, making it challenging enough, but keeping the heat we had today in consideration. She designed it so that we had a nice number return for the jump-off, and set it so that it was not too big of a jump-off round, but perfect considering the heat.”
Engle has the distinction of being the winningest Grand Prix rider in the sport and has been known to have a perpetual fire in her belly each time she goes into the ring. Her focus and intensity can be felt for miles. “Well, I’m competitive and I want to win,” she added with a smile. “I’ve stayed hungry for it.”
$10,000 Brook Ledge Open Welcome
Earlier in the week, Aaron Vale of Morriston, Florida rode Bonnie Smith’s Tibor to an exciting finish in the $10,000 Brook Ledge Open Welcome. Vale beat out 33 other starters to take the win on the opening day of competition at HITS-on-the-Hudson IV. Second place went to Engle and Betsy & Gladewinds Green’s Starnato and New Jersey’s Laura Chapot finished in third place aboard Mary Chapot’s Umberto.
During the next two and a half weeks, HITS Saugerties will host five more Grand Prix qualifiers for the Pfizer Million, including the $100,000 Strongid C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, on Sunday, August 7 to close out the series.
Competition continues through the weekend with Saturday’s $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix and Sunday’s $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, where Engle will have her next opportunity for another big win. The sold-out HITS-on-the-Hudson V will kick off on Wednesday, July 27 followed by the return of the USEF National Junior Hunter Championships – East Coast on Monday, August 1 and then HITS-on-the-Hudson VI on Wednesday, August 3.
About SmartPak Equine
Founded in 1999, SmartPak Equine is the country’s largest online and catalog retailer serving the needs of the active and engaged horse owner. The patented SmartPak supplement feeding system has simplified the process of feeding horse supplements and medications, making it easier for thousands of riders to keep their horses healthier by ensuring their supplements are being fed correctly. SmartPak’s diverse and expansive product offering includes its own line of supplements, tack, and horse blankets as well as an extensive selection of leading brands of equine health, apparel, tack, and equipment. SmartPak is a six-time Inc. 500/5000 honoree and is the only equine company ever named to the Inc 500 list. SmartPak is backed by Waltham, Massachusetts-based North Bridge Growth Equity.
$25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
|1||Lord Spezi||Ashland Farms||Margie Engle||$7,500||0||0||34.09|
|2||Oh’ D Eole||McLain Ward||McLain Ward||$5,500||0||0||34.22|
|3||Tebow||Donald Stewart||David Raposa||$3,250||0||0||34.82|
|4||Vince||Bynum Farms||Jimmy Torano||$2,000||0||0||35.57|
|5||Chambacunero||TG Show Stables||Manuel Torres||$1,500||0||0||35.87|
|6||Colorado||Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables Inc||Jonathan McCrea||$1,250||0||0||40.62|
|7||Poker||McLain Ward||McLain Ward||$1,000||0||4||46.59|
|8||Osiris||Gemma Paternoster||Gemma Paternoster||$750||0||4||52.35|
|9||Couletto K. James||Grant Road Partners LLC||Katie Dinan||$750||0||13||59.00|
|10||Lanoo||John Wolff & Blacklick Bend Farm||Ali Wolff||$500||2|
|11||Bottom Line||Karen Polle||Karen Polle||$500||4|
|12||Wannahave||The Wannahave Group||Darragh Kenny||$500||4|