The HITS Ocala grand prix ring has seen many new faces over the last several years with the heightened excitement of qualifying for the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix, formerly the Pfizer Million. However, few have had the impact that Lisa Goldman has. The young professional from Hawthorn Woods, Illinois captured her fifth grand prix ribbon in two weeks, was first and second in last Thursday's $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, and avenged her second-place finish during Week II with the blue ribbon in yesterday's $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, aboard Mary Goldman's Centurion B.
Goldman and Centurion B have created a unique bond that many never find and it seems to be working to their advantage. "I've had him since he was two years old," she proudly recalled. "He's an American bred Belgium Warmblood and I jumped his first jump ever with him."
It was another perfect day as course designer Doug Russell of Ocala, Florida prepared one of the most exciting tracks of the season. Twenty-seven horse and rider combinations started the class and the contenders soon rose to the top as a five trip jump-off emerged after the first round.
"It was very big," said Goldman of the course. "It was really challenging and there were a few traps in the first round that got a lot of people."
Russell's first round course included 15 efforts with an early double combination and a triple in the home stretch. The first fence, a tall oxer, was not so inviting and ruined any hope of a clear round for several riders. But what seemed even more daunting were the incredibly long distances and bending lines in between fences. They not only made it difficult to leave the jumps up, but also survive the clock.
Mike McCormick, husband to Tracy Fenney and co-owner of MTM Farm commented, "This was a big, galloping course – lots of galloping." McCormick has trained Fenney to countless victories spanning several decades and he was certain this would not be one of the easier classes for many competitors to ride successfully.
The starting list for the jump-off wrote an exciting story of its own. The crowd favorite Tracy Fenney of Flower Mound, Texas - a familiar face at the top of high-performance competition at HITS Ocala returned with both MTM Timon and MTM Centano, both owned by MTM Farm. Junior Michael Hughes of Allendale, New Jersey, who made his $1 million debut last September at HITS Championship Weekend also piloted two mounts to the jump-off with Luxina and Mac Arthur, both owned by Christina Fried. And then there was Goldman, who made the journey to HITS Ocala for the first time this year and quickly threw her cards on the table.
Russell's jump-off course made sure to keep everyone on their toes with nine efforts that required lots of galloping and finished over a tall vertical with all planks sitting right in front of the in-gate.
Fenney and MTM Timon returned first and were en route to being double-clear before a plank from the last fence came down. They ended with a time of 45.88 seconds. Hughes was up next aboard Luxina and emulated Fenney's trip nearly to the exact second. Again, a clear effort until the last fence reared its ugly head and delivered four faults. Hughes finished in 46.44 seconds to sit second.
Fenney returned next aboard MTM Centano and she was sure to approach the last line conservatively. They finished clear in 48.89 seconds to set The Great American Time to Beat and take over the lead. Goldman was next to show and she delivered, galloping from one end of the ring to the other, leaving every rail up. As the last fence approached, Goldman conquered the biggest obstacle of the day, leaving the plank up with a time of 46.23 seconds.
"That plank at the end was a trap for sure," said Goldman. "It was really tough because you had to gallop fast on this course, but there were a lot of places your horse had to be careful too, so you couldn't be super fast everywhere."
The win was not intact just yet, however, as Michael Hughes and Mac Arthur had the coveted last-to-go spot. Hughes and Mac Arthur had no trouble galloping fast and gave Goldman a run for the money, approaching the last line slightly faster, but clipped the top plank for four faults. The duo finished two seconds faster, in 44.41, but the jumping faults earned them the third place ribbon for the day.
"I thought for sure Michael [Hughes] had it at the end," said Goldman. "He was so fast and he's an amazing rider. I have so much respect for him and especially Tracy [Fenney]. She is a great rider and it's been an honor to watch her ride and show against her."
Goldman is certainly the breakout star of the season thus far and hopes to add a few more weeks of showing at HITS Ocala to her schedule this year. She and two mounts will return this week for the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix and the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix, both presented by Zoetis, in hopes of making a debut appearance in this year's Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix.
Fenney ended up second with MTM Centano and fourth with MTM Timon. Hughes was fifth with Luxina.
High-performance competition during the HITS Ocala Weeks I-III quickly showed who some of the power players will be this season. Aaron Vale dominated HITS I with back-to-back wins aboard Amen Corner Farm, LLC's Palm Sunday. HITS II saw the winning ways of Tracy Fenney who also went back-to-back aboard MTM Timon, while rising star Lisa Goldman proved that doubles seem to be the trend with her two wins aboard Centurion B to close out HITS III.
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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