Kevin Babington and Shorapur were on the brink of their second grand prix win in a row at HITS Saugerties as they approached the fifth fence of Sunday's jump-off. They were on track to best 15 contenders when Babington's martingale got caught on his rein. "Once I got my tack sorted out we had already added three strides," said Babington. "I knew her [Shorapur] time was faster until that point." Redemption came six trips later for Babington of Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, as the dependable Mark Q carried him to the top. The pair won the $100,000 Strongid© C 2X™ Grand Prix presented by Zoetis, taking home a $30,000 check.
Mark Q, a 12-year old Irish Sport Horse gelding, has been Babington's ride for three years, but the best may still be yet to come. "He's an extremely sensitive horse and always been tricky to ride," said Babington. "But recently he's come into his own and mellowed out. He knows his job now."
Aki Ylänne of Finland set Sunday's course with 16 jumping efforts, including a triple, double, water obstacle and sizeable stand-alone fences. "His approach requires a different strategy from the rider," noted Babington. "We get used to technical-related distances, but he uses so much of the ring it was nice to ride off your eye and rely on feeling."
Laura Chapot of Neshanic Station, New Jersey jumped clear in the first go of the class aboard Mary Chapot's ISHD Dual Star and set an immediate Great American Time to Beat in the jump-off. Their time of 45.28 seconds stood for nine rounds until Babington and Mark Q returned to rival.
"I saw the trip before me – fast with a couple down – and knew if I stayed on that track I would have a chance," he said. In it to win it, Babington's plan proved perfect as he stopped the clock at 44.84 seconds.
Four more would challenge Babington, but none could crack Ylänne's course quick enough to take the lead. Callan Solem of Glenmoore, Pennsylvania was close though, piloting VDL Wizard to a time of 45.06 seconds for Horseshoe Trail Farm, LLC. Solem settled for second, while Chapot landed third. Babington and Shorapur ended fourth on 46.07 seconds, adding another ribbon to their Week VI collection. Christine McCrea of East Windsor, Connecticut rounded out the top five in the irons of Candy Tribble's Wannick WH in 49.92 seconds.
Mark Q and Babington placed in five of their last six international grand prix and have their sights set on the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Saugerties this September.
Sunday's grand prix was the final Zoetis Million qualifying opportunity of the summer series before moving to HITS Culpeper August 13-17 and 20-24. Qualifying returns to HITS Saugerties August 27-31, presenting million-dollar hopefuls with the final two chances to punch their tickets to the HITS Championship before Week VIII's Wild Card Grand Prix.
Source: Press release from the HITS Media Team
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