Andre Thieme didn't think it was Contanga 3's day when they were one of nine pairs to return to jump off yesterday in the $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group, at HITS Ocala. "I wasn't sure I was going to be able to be fast enough, but when everyone started having rails, I reconsidered," he said. "I am very happy with my horse's performance."
Mexico's Florencio Hernandez built the track that 48 pairs rode on Sunday, which included 14 obstacles with three double combinations. In front of a packed VIP tent and exuberant crowd that stacked the grandstands at HITS Ocala for the richest class of the season, Thieme was first to return to the short course. He and Contanga 3 finished in 50.51 seconds, topping one of the largest grand prix fields HITS Ocala has ever seen.
Thieme was crowned Pfizer Million champion in 2011 after riding Aragon Rouet to a historic victory. Thieme knows good horses after he and Aragon Rouet rode to the richest prize in show jumping over one of the most difficult courses he will ever face, but he admits that Contanga 3 is rapidly becoming one of the best horses he has ever ridden. "She is young, but very experienced," he said of the nine-year-old mare. "She has had a very successful winter and I am so surprised at how far she has come."
While Thieme considers whether the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties September 8 is in the mare's future, he admits that she will need some more development. "I know that course. I know how hard it is," he said. "I will only bring her if she is absolutely ready and, with as scopey as she is, she might be ready in six months."
In the jump-off, the only rider to challenge with another clear round was Aaron Vale of Morriston, Florida. After winning Thursday's $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, Vale and Zippo II, owned by 2VR Showjumpers, were fifth to go in the second-round order and were just over a second shy of the win with a time of 51.73 seconds.
"My horse jumped great today. I just never quite found a rhythm in the jump-off," Vale remarked. He has seen much success in the big money at HITS Ocala and was also second in last year's $100,000 grand prix.
Third went to Megan Wexler of Reddick, Florida and Procedure, Inc.'s Cadence. They were the fastest in the jump-off with a time of 48.72 seconds, but picked up a heartbreak rail at the final fence, the plank coming home, for four faults. Wexler, however, wasn't the only one to find trouble at the plank. The diabolical fence also ruined clear rounds for Callie Morgan Smith of Bernardsville, New Jersey on Captain Krutzmann and Thieme with Seth Vallhonrat's Catharina 9.
Thieme had four horses in the grand prix and made it to the jump-off with three, finishing fourth on Catharina 9 with a four-fault, 51.48-second round. He was also seventh on Quanshbob and finished out of the money with Klitschko. Thieme owns both horses.
Capping the top five, 17-year-old Michael Hughes piloted Christina Fried's MacArthur to a time of 51.66 seconds with one rail down.
Thieme will return to Germany after a successful winter circuit and, and after some well-deserved time off, will again join the German Nations Cup Team. "I have had a great season in the states, but I miss my family and can't wait to get back to them," said Thieme who will make the trip back to Europe, $30,000 first-place check in hand, where his wife and six-year-old son wait.
This year's event is the second consecutive season that Sullivan Buick GMC has sponsored the richest grand prix of the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, making it possible for HITS to deliver significant prize money to East Coast competitors.
The $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group, wrapped up the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit on a high note as attention now turns north and riders take aim at qualifying for the Zoetis Million. The coveted million dollar class will take place during HITS Championship Weekend September 6-8 and will welcome some of the world's most accomplished riders for the fourth-annual event.
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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