Boasting the richest prize in show jumping, the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix is only two weeks away and riders are now looking to punch their ticket for the showdown in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium. Tracy Fenney of Flower Mound, Texas made herself a top contender for the March 24 title with her fifth grand prix win of the circuit on Friday in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. She piloted MTM Centano, owned by MTM Farm and trained by Michael McCormick, by zipping through the timers to best the field by more than 2.5 seconds.
The course, designed by Danny Foster of Milton, Ontario in the expansive Ocala Horse Properties Stadium, challenged 31 contenders with open gallops, a liverpool, big oxers and a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination. The triple and the clock, with a time allowed of 87 seconds in the first round, proved to be the most troublesome.
Twelve returned to jump off and four went on to double-clear rounds. First to return, having qualified both of her mounts for the jump-off, was Callan Solem of Glenmoore, Pennsylvania and VDL Wizard for Horseshoe Trail Farm, LLC. With a time of 49.56 seconds and four faults, she finished in sixth. Her second mount Cortender finished in seventh place.
Next to returned was three-time grand prix winner at HITS Ocala this circuit, Lisa Goldman and the strapping chestnut Centurion B for Mary Goldman, both of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois. They set the Great American Time to Beat at a fast 48.26 seconds and no faults. This time would hold first place for several more trips, until Fenney and MTM Centano showed up. With a time of 45.19 seconds and no faults, they took a commanding lead. Goldman and Centurion B held on for second place.
"The brisk wind today had Centano wound up and he was a handful," said Fenney. "Usually he is like a carousel or merry-go-round horse to ride. It was his agility and ability to jump from any distance or angle that saved us a couple of seconds on this course."
Harold Chopping of Southern Pines, North Carolina rode Basje for owner Kendra Bullington and took third place with a clean round in a time of 50.86 seconds. Melissa Rudershausen of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania was fourth, jumping clean in a time of 51.60 seconds. Conthendrix with Andre Thieme of Plau Am See, Germany in the irons was the fastest of the four-faulters, with a time of 48.33 seconds for fifth.
Grand prix action returns on Sunday as the HITS Ocala Winter Finals continues with the $50,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, as excitement builds for the first-ever Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. The Great American Million will debut as the second jewel in the HITS Triple Crown of Show Jumping Monday, March 24 in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium.
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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