Thirty contenders showed up to challenge the difficult track set by course designer David Ballard of Tottenham, Ontario, Canada in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, on Sunday at HITS Ocala. It was, however, Aaron Vale of Williston, Florida and Spirit of Alena that took the victory. The time allowed was set at 77 seconds, and the course included a triple combination at fence six, a double at fence eleven and several oxers for a total of thirteen obstacles.
The course proved to be formidable with consistent knock-downs and time faults as Ballard tested the competitors. Lisa Goldman was first to post a clear round and later have four join her for the jump-off.
Goldman rode 12-year-old Belgium Warmblood Centurion B to a double-clear performance for owner Mary Goldman, both of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, establishing the Great American Time To Beat at 35.75 seconds. They would ultimately finish third.
Next to jump off was Tracy Fenney and her 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding, MTM Centano. They completed the track in 35.52 seconds for second place. Grant Wilson of Palm Beach, Florida in the irons of Watch Me for owner Emmanuelle Mille posted a time of 43.30 seconds to take fourth place. Fenney piloted MTM Timon to fifth with a time of 34.74 seconds and four faults.
It was, in the end, impossible to catch the 'Spirit'. Last to jump was professional rider Vale and Spirit of Alena, owned by Campos & Miranda Investments. They wowed the crowd and put the hammer down in an all-out effort with a time of 34.82 seconds for the win. It was grand prix jumping as it was meant to be.
When asked about the eye-catching big, red, sport horse stallion, Aaron commented, "He is one of those horses with a good mind, combined with an amazing stride. He has a great feel to him. For a big horse, he is very quick and has plenty of jump."
Vale began riding the horse in 2013 and has been bringing him along slowly. "I am very happy with his performance today. Hopefully we will get to the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix on March 24."
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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