When Kevin Babington first laid eyes on Shorapur he knew there was something special about the mare. Despite being told she was too hot for his liking, he had to try her. That first ride was a year and a half ago. Yet, Friday they won the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix presented by Zoetis as if they'd been together forever. "I was like a kid in a candy store the first time I sat on her," he said of the now nine-year old Hanoverian mare by Stakkato Gold. "I knew I had to own this horse," he added. Babington's instinct proved spot on. Shorapur was one of the least experienced horses in Friday's field of 34 contenders, but won.
They were met with a challenging test by Finland's Aki Ylänne. Thirteen obstacles and 16 jumping efforts boasted tall verticals and tricky distances. Nevertheless, Babington noted, "It looked big when I walked it, but this horse has recently picked up some mileage and I knew she was ready."
While clear skies and summer breezes kept spectators and competitors happy, only four conquered Ylänne's first-round track. Candice King of Wellington, Florida was first clear in the irons of Combina for Bellissimo, LLC. Jonathan McCrea of East Windsor, Connecticut secured a jump-off four trips later with Candy Tribble's Aristoteles V. Darragh Kerins of Wellington, Florida was looking to upgrade Sunday's second-place ribbon as he and Delia Van Het Molenhof, owned by Jan Van Tricht, made it three before Babington joined the group.
The lead changed with every effort in the jump-off as King set the Great American Time to Beat at 40.23 seconds before McCrea bumped her to second with 39.57 on the clock. Kerins was determined and shaved three more seconds off the time to beat in 36.79. "I saw Darragh go and knew I had to take every chance I could," said Babington. He left the ground at the second fence fractions behind Kerins, but landed perfectly positioned to attack the third effort on an inside track.
"I was slow from one to two, but it set me up at a better angle," he added. The tighter angle and a perfectly executed turn to the last line pushed Babington to break the beam in 36.32 seconds for the blue. "Shorapur is naturally fast but gets strong. She was pulling too much in the first round, so we changed her bit and she was right back with me for the jump-off," said Babington. "She's still a firecracker, but we've finally figured each other out."
Kerins collected another red ribbon, McCrea landed third, King fourth and Amanda Flint of Long Valley, New Jersey fifth after a single time fault in the first round kept her and The Coverboy Group's Superbad from the jump-off.
Babington has a confidence advantage going into Sunday's $100,000 Strongid© C 2X™ Grand Prix presented by Zoetis and hopes Shorapur continues her recent trend of success. "She gets better all the time," he said. "The jumps are never something I have to think about with her – she's good in front, unbelievable behind and quick off the ground. As long as I keep her relaxed between fences, she's game for anything."
With the final week of the HITS Saugerties Summer Series well underway, qualifying for the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix at the HITS Championship September 7, is heating up. Grand prix qualifying opportunities will continue throughout the HITS-on-the-Hudson Circuit. This Sunday, the $100,000 Strongid© C 2X™ Grand Prix presented by Zoetis takes the stage in the Strongid® C 2X™ Grand Prix Stadium. The event will be live via webcast at HRTV.com and iEquine.com.
Source: Press release from the HITS Media Team
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