Excitement surrounding Week I of the HITS Saugerties Spring and Summer Circuit reached a climax Friday afternoon when 26 riders took to the Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix Stadium to get grand prix competition underway at HITS-on-the-Hudson with the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Christine McCrea and Avenir, owned by Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables, Inc., pocketed the first high-performance blue of the 2013 season.
McCrea of East Windsor, Connecticut rode sixth in the first-round order and posted the second clear round after Peter Wylde of Wellington, Florida was first to leave the rails up on Lewin 5, owned by Societe Cirile de Necurie de Meautry. Eight others joined them for a 10-horse jump-off, which left McCrea as one of only two double clear rounds.
With the north berm of the grand prix stadium now boasting a new and improved VIP Club, exhibitors and spectators alike gathered to watch Marina Azevedo of Campinas, Brazil test both horse and rider. She built a 13-obstacle course with 16 jumping efforts, including a double early in the course at fence three and a triple combination at fence 12.
While fair for $25,000, McCrea noted that Azevedo offered some challenges, including tricky striding between fences seven and eight, and technical combinations. “I had a pretty fair plan when I entered the ring – I really slowed up coming into the triple (a vertical, vertical, oxer), got Avenir under control, balanced and it worked out great in the end,” she said.
Avenir, a 12-year-old Belgian-bred gelding, has been under the direction of McCrea for about three years and, according to her, is a horse that knows his job. “He is such a fighter,” she said. “He knows that the game is to go fast and clear, so as long as I ride him well he is always right there for me. He is in it to win it.”
McCrea returned second in the jump-off and set an early Great American Time To Beat at 34.95 seconds. Jonathan Corrigan of Oyster Bay, New York was quick to challenge in the next trip on Sagamore Farm’s Olympic De Chamant. They were clear, but couldn’t catch McCrea and Avenir. They posted a time of 35.92 seconds to settle for second.
Kevin Babington of Keene, Kentucky was the fastest of the four-faulters and rode Mark Q to third. Laura Chapot of Neshanic Station, New Jersey picked up four faults with Quointreau Un Prince, owned by Chapot and McLain Ward, and finished fourth. Heather Caristo-Williams of Saugerties, New York rounded out the top five with a single rail aboard Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Caristo’s Evening Star.
With Friday’s win under her belt, McCrea admits that she and her husband Jonathan have their sights firmly set on appearances in the fourth-annual Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix. “That’s a highlight of our calendar,” she said. “We have the horses and have set our goals. Now we just have to qualify.”
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