Peter Leone put the antics of nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, My Pleasure, to good use on Friday when he jumped to win the first of 16 grand prix offered during the 2014 HITS Saugerties Spring Circuit – the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis.
"My Pleasure is a character," said Leone. "He preserves his energy and when it's time for him to do his job, he is full of it."
My Pleasure, sired by For Pleasure – the mount of Germany's Lars Nieberg in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics – came alive at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, according to Leone. While still an inexperienced jumper, Leone introduced My Pleasure to the top tier of the sport this winter, competing him in the debut of the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. Despite being out of the money, Leone recognized the foreshadowing of a bright future.
"I jumped against For Pleasure in the 1996 games and this horse's technique is just like his father's," said Leone. "This is his first year jumping consistently at the grand prix level and he's turned many impressive corners lately, winning two of the last three grand prix he jumped in."
Leone was eighth in the order of 32, and returned fourth in a 14-horse jump-off. Marina Azevedo of Campinas, Brazil set a technical track of 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts, including a one-stride double combination, long triple combination line across the center of the ring and vertical-oxer bending line for the last two fences.
Ten double-clear rounds left the final results to the clock. Darragh Kenny of Wellington, Florida pocketed a clear round as the first go in the original order and was first to return on Hyperion Stud, LLC's Imothep. The pair set an early Great American Time to Beat at 40.44 seconds.
Two trips later, Leone was the first, and eventually last, to best his time with 38.73 seconds on the clock in a clear effort. Ten more tried to best Leone and My Pleasure, but couldn't touch their time.
Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, Florida was second and third after piloting Quality Group's Quality Girl to 38.88 seconds and Arino Du Rouet, owned by Two Swans Farm, to 39.13 seconds. Adam Prudent of Middleburg, Virginia rode to fourth aboard Patrick Flin & Plain Bay's Vasco with a time of 39.80 seconds, while Kenny and Imothep capped the top five.
The SmartPak Grand Prix kicked off qualifying for the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix, which will return to the HITS Championship September 3-7 alongside a host of year-end finals.
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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