Of the six jump-off contenders in Sunday's $75,000 HITS Grand Prix presented by Zoetis, four boasted the colors of Ireland. Ronan McGuigan, Darragh Kerins, with two horses, and Jonathan McCrea made their home country proud as they bested a field of 29 starters. Try as they might, ultimately neither Kerins nor McCrea could catch McGuigan and Capall Zidane.
First to crack Bernardo Cabral's (Lisbon, Portugal) course in round one, McGuigan and his ten-year old Dutch Warmblood Gelding were the obvious crowd favorite as cheers erupted from the sidelines. A trip later, Kerins guaranteed a jump-off with Delia Van Het Molenhof, owned by Jan Van Tricht. They were eventually joined by Peter Wylde of Lake Worth, Florida on Zorro for Frederico Fernandez, McCrea with Candy Tribble's Aristoteles V, Kerins in the irons of Zerro Leone and Alexa Lowe-Wiseman of Upperville, Virginia aboard Windsor Farm Sales' November.
While McGuigan has seen his share of success already this summer at HITS Saugerties, he took a new approach this weekend. "He [Capall Zidane] has been going very well lately – clear in the first round in his last six grand prix, but I've been pushing him too hard in the jump-off," said McGuigan. "Today, I was careful with the first three jumps then took a chance at the end and it paid off. He really stepped up his game today."
With 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts, Cabral's track was big, technical and flashy – the perfect formula for $75,000 in prize money. "The double was difficult and the triple tall," said McGuigan – it was just right for the money." And the money seemed just right for McGuigan as he pocketed his biggest grand prix check to date with Capall Zidane.
Returning first in the jump-off, the crowd was on his side again, whistling, gasping with every jump and shouting McGuigan to a Great American Time to Beat of 41.82 seconds. The rides that followed were conservative and it appeared there was no chance they could beat McGuigan and Capall Zidane on the clock. Kerins broke the beam in 48.83 seconds for second as the only other double-clear effort of the day.
Alexa Lowe-Wiseman was the fastest of the four-fault rides, galloping November to third with Peter Wylde and Zorro fourth. McCrea and Aristoteles V rounded out the top five on four faults and Kerins saved Delia Van Het Molenhof for another day after a knock-down at the fourth fence of the round.
McGuigan has been riding Capall Zidane since he imported him as a five-year old in 2009 and is excited about the horse's future. "I know him inside and out," he said. "He has a big career ahead of him and it helps that we have formed a partnership over these five years."
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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