Callan Solem admits that she feels at home at HITS Ocala and she staged quite the homecoming today when she rode Torlando Group’s VDL Torlando to a win in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Solem of Glenmoore, Pennsylvania and VDL Torlando, of which she is part owner, topped 25 contenders over a course designed by Germany’s Olaf Petersen, Sr. The course, which included 13 obstacles, utilized a triple combination at fence six and a double at 11. “Olaf [Petersen] Sr.’s courses are always very challenging, so I was prepared. It’s really important to always have control on the landing over his tracks and, overall, I was really pleased with how my horses performed,” said Solem, who was also fifth with her own VDL Wizard. “I always feel like I’m part of a family when I show at HITS and I’m really happy that I get to keep coming back here each winter.”
Petersen Sr. had five go clear in the first round – a perfect result for this level class at this point in the season, according to Solem. Joining her in the jump-off was Megan Wexler (Edrick) of Reddick, Florida with Cadence, owned by Procedures, Inc.; Adam Cramer of Pittstown, New Jersey on Equi-Sport, LLC’s Luke 54; and Lisa Goldman of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois aboard Mary Goldman’s Centurion B.
Solem and VDL Torlando were second to go in the first round and returned first for the jump-off, setting the eventual winning time at 38.35 seconds. “I was lucky that Tracy Fenney didn’t jump off because she is terribly hard to beat with speed, but I knew that Lisa Goldman has seen a lot of success so far this year in Ocala, so my strategy was to really push it,” said Solem. “I was using a little more bridle than I usually do, so I was able to go faster and set up for the jumps quicker.”
With the cushion of one more horse in the wings, Solem laid all her cards on the table, which proved to be the right move when her trip went unbeaten. “I am just crazy about this horse,” said Solem of the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion that she started riding in 2006. “He’s really the first horse that I can call my own and it’s nice to have one that you can spoil and show on your own terms.”
Wexler and Cadence were one of three double clear pairs and finished in second place with a time of 38.89 seconds – just fractions off Solem’s winning time. Cramer and Luke 54 were also double clear and posted a final time of 41.19 seconds for third. After going two-for-two in a break-through performance in last week’s grand prix at HITS Ocala, Goldman and Centurion B were on their way to the blue when a rail at the last fence came down. They finished with four faults in a time of 37.48 seconds for fourth. Solem and VDL Wizard rode to a time of 40.65 seconds, but picked up four faults to finish in fifth.
High-performance competition will return to the Grand Prix Ring Sunday when the EMO Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, offers $50,000 up for grabs. HITS Ocala will continue to offer two weekly grand prix events as riders take aim at qualifying for the coveted Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Championship Weekend this fall in Saugerties, New York.
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