The most prestigious week of the season at HITS-on-the-Hudson, The HITS Championship, commenced on Wednesday with the $34,600 FEI Saugerties Jumper Classic. Riders and horses from half a dozen nations descended on the Grand Prix Ring at HITS Saugerties to contend for the first big victory of the jam-packed week.
Many talented names filled the order of go, including 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist, Beezie Madden, but the team to beat would prove to be 26-year-old Ali Wolff of New Albany, Ohio, aboard Caya, owned by John Wolff.
“I’m glad that Caya has finally gotten the recognition that she deserves. I’ve had her for about four years now and she’s always had the heart to win,” said Wolff. “She is a very special horse, and this is her first CSI – 5* victory, so we’re very happy about that.”
A field of forty turned out to challenge the course set by German course designer, Werner Deeg. Twenty challengers would go clear to advance to the jump-off, with seven producing double-clear rounds in contingency for the win.
“The course was inviting which can be good for the first day so that people can get in the ring and build some confidence for the rest of this big week,” said Wolff. “A lot of people rode the horse they’d like to compete in the Million with, so it was nice to get their horses into the ring.”
The first four to re-enter the ring for the jump-off would put down cool, clear rounds to set the tone for the remaining competitors. First to test the shortened course was Emanuel Andrade, riding out of Wellington, Florida, and Boy IV. They stopped the clock fault-free in 50.45, a time that would earn them seventh place.
Catherine Tyree followed with Enjoy Louis, owned by Joseph and Mary Tyree. The Chicago, Illinois equestrian crossed the finish in a speedy 46.08 with all of the rails up, which would be good enough for the fifth place prize.
Next to enter was Irish equestrian Kevin Babington, riding out of Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, piloting Double O Seven 7. They angled a mid-course vertical and turned quickly and efficiently to the last outside combination, shaving crucial seconds off the clock. They crossed the finish in 46.02, just six-tenths of a second quicker than Tyree, for the eventual fourth place.
Babington also scored the second place spot aboard Mark Q with a clear, 43.88-second round.
The victors, Ali Wolff and Caya had the next clear round, which would ultimately take home the coveted blue ribbon.
“The jump-off was long, but it was set out on a winding track, so there were several different ways you could make up time – either galloping or turning,” said Wolff. “Caya does not have the biggest stride, but she’s fast across the ground and she’s even faster turning, which is one of our greatest strengths.”
Wolff and Caya turned in a solid round, stopping the clock in 42.82 to shoot to the top of the leaderboard, where they would remain.
Laura Chapot, with over 12 wins at HITS Saugerties this season, aboard Quiontreau Un Prince, co-owned with McLain Ward, put down another clear round, but their time of 46.17 was just shy of the top five ultimately settling them in sixth place.
Juan Manuel Gallego, riding out of Morriston, Florida, took home the final spot in the top five riding Coulash Van De Broy Z. They passed the timers clean in 45.86 for the third place prize.
Source: Press release from the HITS Media Team // Picture © ESI Photography
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