plethora of talented starters filled the Order of Go as the crowd descended upon Ocala Horse Properties Stadium on Sunday, February 28 to witness who would conquer the course set by Danny Foster of Ontario, Canada and take home the crown in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix.
The day would belong to Sparr, Florida, equestrian, Hayley Waters and Qurint, owned by Chuck and Dana Waters. The 19-year-old dominated the field in all three classes held in Ocala Horse Properties Stadium on Sunday, also winning the $7,500 U-Dump Jr/A-O Jumper Classic and the $5,000 NAL Jr/A-O Jumper Classic.
“Tom has been the best in supporting the Junior/Amateur divisions throughout the year and definitely with the $250,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Prix [at the HITS Championship] that she won last year,” said Dana Waters in regard to HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri. “The prize money that is offered in the jumper divisions is the reason we moved to Ocala, and we’ve lived here for 20 years. We might even qualify her for the Great American Million this year, you never know what will happen.”
Ten would go clear in the first round to return for the jump-off and six would put in double clear rounds. The first to contend the shortened course was Isabelle LaPierre of Quebec and her own Cesha M. They crossed the timers in a fault-free 44.672 to set the tone for the jump-off.
New Jersey equestrian Amanda Flint, hot off a win in Thursday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, and her own VDL Wittinger entered next to challenge the shortened course. They put down a speedy round, taking the tight rollback turn from the mid-course combination to a vertical leading to a gallop across the arena to the last set of fences. They set the Great American Time to Beat as they crossed the markers fault-free in 44.240.
Flint’s lead would be short-lived, however, as Germany’s Andre Thieme, previous winner of two HITS $1 Million Grand Prix, followed with his own Cellisto. They turned tightly through the rollback, and upon landing Theime and the big strided bay kicked it into high gear as they galloped towards the last two fences. They clocked in at 42.046 to take the lead by more than two seconds
Three more trips would go before Thieme’s time would be tested. Waters and Qurint came in next, with their sights set on a trifecta of wins in the Stadium. As cheers poured out from the stands, urging the young, talented rider to the finish, Qurint and Waters blazed through the course. The mare’s ground-covering stride proved helpful as they galloped to the last set of fences, crossing the timers in a fault-free 41.915 and setting the new Great American Time to Beat.
“My plan was to go as fast as I could in the open areas. I got pretty lucky to A of the combination, I was going a little fast, but we made it through,” said Waters. “After the rollback turn, the goal was to go quick in that area to shave off time.”
Ocala’s own Ian Silitch followed Waters with Cordovo. The round would not be enough to take the lead from Waters, as they clocked in clear in 44.647, which would eventually earn them fifth-place. Zilano M and Michelle Stopford and Amanda Flint on her second ride, Superbad, also returned to contest the course, but none could beat Waters’ time.
Waters has grown up on the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, participating in lead-line at the very same venue, making the victory all the more sweet. The up-and-coming equestrian certainly wowed the crowd on Sunday after an impressive three-peat win in Ocala Horse Properties Stadium.
-Source: HITS Horse Shows
Top 12 – $50,000 HITS Grand Prix: