(C) ESI PHOTOGRAPHY. Hunter Holloway and Cassevel.
Ocala, FL (March 26, 2016): Now in its final week, the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit continued with Thursday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, which brought out thirty-four competitors including Olympian Beezie Madden in preparation for Sunday’s Great American $1 Million Grand Prix.
Hunter Holloway, from Topeka, Kansas, fresh off her win in last week’s SmartPak Grand Prix with VDL Bravo S, scored her sixth victory of the circuit, Cassevel’s first Grand Prix win. Owned by Hays Investment Corporation, Cassevel has a local connection, having been discovered in Germany by Marcus Gruenthal of Morriston, Florida and imported by Derek Petersen of Archer, Florida.
“We think ‘Casey’ is special,” said Holloway’s mother and trainer, Brandie Holloway. “Hunter wants to represent our country someday and we think Casey will be her 1.60-meter horse; he has so much scope.”
This week’s SmartPak Grand Prix was a hard-earned victory for Holloway. Twelve horses jumped clear first rounds over a 16-effort course designed by Alan Wade, of Tipperary, Ireland, which included three double combinations and two liverpools.
Holloway and Mathew Williams, from Wellington, Florida, each had two horses in the jump-off, giving them an advantage with their second rides of the day. The first six horses in the jump-off all rode the same track and chose to do the same striding options. Michael Hughes, of Allendale, New Jersey, riding McLain Ward’s Torgal de Virton, set the tone for the class with a fault-free round in 42.013. Isabelle La Pierre from Levis, Quebec was right on his heels in 42.040 on Cescha M.
When local favorite Aaron Vale, of Williston, Florida, stepped into the ring on Carlo, owned by Amatoville Enterprise, he knew he had to pull something out of his hat to earn the victory. He angled the first fence and galloped across to the oxer in seven strides instead of eight, and opted for the tight turn inside a display of flowers to continue to the next fence. After clearing the final two obstacles, they sped through the timers in 41.258 to take the lead, and their time would hold for the fourth place prize.
Next to go clear was Williams returning on his second horse, Zephyr, owned by Wyndmont, Inc. and Michael Dorman. They galloped the first line in seven strides as well, and opted to go around the flowers, angling the combination to make up time. They left out a stride in the final line, doing six instead of seven, edging Vale out of the top spot and temporarily taking the lead in a speedy 40.326.
Next up was Dorothy Douglas of Flower Mound, Texas and S&L Elite. They did seven strides in the first line, turned inside the flowers and then left one out in the final line, but they did not quite catch Williams and Zephyr. Their round, clean in 41.116 would ultimately garner them third place.
The pressure was on and the route was mapped out when Holloway stepped into the ring with Cassevel. Executing every shortcut possible, they not only did the seven in the first line, but left out a stride in the turn from the second jump to the combination.
“After I went on Bravo, I knew I could leave out strides in three different spots. ‘Casey’ has such a big step that you can really make up ground,” said Hunter. “We are still a new partnership, but we are building on it and starting to really go for it.”
Opting for the inside turn they left out a stride to the final fence, breaking the 40 second barrier with a double-clear round in 39.917 for the win.
Holloway’s final question to her mother before the jump-off was, “Should I get ready for the Million or try to win?”
Arguably, she did both, her mother saying, “What better way to get ready for the Million. If you want to win, be a winner!”