Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jumping: Hunter: HITS’ Kachina Classic Caps Off with Grand Prix Win for Elani Rager, while Devoucoux Hunter Prix Goes to Mark Mead

Elani Rager and Castor on course in Sunday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at the Kachina Classic in Tucson, Arizona.
     TUCSON, AZ (February 17, 2011)—During last week’s Kachina Classic at the HITS Arizona Winter Circuit in Tucson, Arizona, New Mexico’s Elani Rager made it two in a row when she captured the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, aboard Lisa Upplegger’s Castor for the second consecutive week.

Sunday’s class featured a course set by Cecilia Galvan of Katy, Texas that challenged riders with a triple combination and a water jump early in the track, and finished with a line that had an oxer requiring a tight turn to a double combination to a high vertical to a wide oxer. Galvan put 88 seconds on the clock for the first round.

Bjorn Ikast of Laredo, Texas and his own Iz’s Viva La Vida were the first pair to take to the field and had a rail down at the second fence for four faults, which kept them from advancing. Ikast had four other mounts in the class and would be back to the ring soon enough for more shots at the course.

The first clear effort came five trips later after the next few riders to take to the field suffered numerous faults throughout Galvan’s course. Allison Kroff of Green Valley, California and her own Washington made their way around the course flawlessly, in what seemed like it was going to be the only clear round of the afternoon.

Two trips later Ikast returned on Brave Heart and appeared to be on his way to forcing a jump-off, but heartbreak came for the pair at the final fence when the rail came down as they crossed the timers in 83.789 seconds. When the class was complete, Ikast and Brave Heart finished in fourth place.

Rails continued to fall, and just when the crowd began to doubt the possibility of a jump-off, Rager and Castor, high from their victory last week, entered the ring next. The team navigated the course with ease, ensuring a jump-off with just one rider left to show in the first round.

Ikast finished the first round strong with his first clear effort of the afternoon aboard Bovee Limited Liability’s Colorado, making it three in the jump-off.

Galvan’s short course featured seven obstacles, including the water jump, and the double combination that proved so troublesome in the first round, with a time-allowed of 47 seconds.

Kroff and Washington went first in the jump-off and raced through the track in 39.537 seconds setting the Great American Time to Beat.

Rager and Castor followed and were able to shave more than two seconds off Kroff’s time to take the lead.

Ikast and Colorado followed but were unable to take the lead when they had a fault at the water jump, opting to retire from the course they settled for third place.

“I wasn’t really sure how we’d do on Sunday, because earlier in the week we had a bobble in the Welcome,” said Rager. “But he seemed to bounce right back and we were able to ride a little harder on Sunday and he rose to the occasion.”

Rager purchased Castor in Germany as an unbroken 3-year-old for her clients, the Uppleggers, as a project horse for Lisa. “I thought he had enough scope and she wanted to have the experience of a young horse.”

Rager had the benefit of having two horses in Sunday’s class and used her first trip to feel out the course “My horse Chamonix is much bigger and more of a four-faulter, whereas Castor wants to be clean. I didn’t watch too many others go. I got my plan at the walk and decided to stick with that. The first-round course rode the way I planned. In the jump-off, I went to plan B because Allison [Kroff] was able to take a stride out on the first line and I wasn’t able to hit that first fence right, so I had to stick with seven strides, instead of six. Instead, I did an inside turn to pick up the time and it still worked.”

Rounding out the top five was Mark Mead of Longmont, Colorado and Marianne Marshall’s Balthazar.

With the win, Rager now has $15,000 in prize money on Castor and two of the eight Grand Prix needed to become eligible for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. The current Pfizer Million Rankings has Rager in seventh place with Ikast and Colorado in the number 19 spot. Oregon’s Rich Fellers currently holds the number one spot aboard famous World Cup mount Flexible, owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman.

Elani Rager and Castor in the winner's circle after their victory in Sunday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at the Kachina Classic in Tucson, Arizona. Julia Dotoli joins owners Lisa Upplegger, Jurgen Upplegger and Bonnie Livermore for the presentation.

High-Performance riders showing at HITS Arizona this winter will have four more opportunities to get an early jump on qualifying for this year’s Pfizer Million, which will take place on September 11 at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.

$2,500 Devoucoux Hunter Prix
On Saturday, Mark Mead, who finished fifth in the Grand Prix, led the way in the $2,500 Devoucoux Hunter Prix when he piloted Linda Vellman’s Socrates to a victory in the featured Hunter class at the Kachina Classic. Brian Post of Phoenix, Arizona set a beautiful course that featured options with inside and outside turns, a split rail, hay bales and natural fences to replicate the elements from the traditional hunt field.

Mead and Socrates earned an 83 for the first round, the highest of the class, and a 79 in the handy for a total of 162 to win the class.

“It was a beautiful week here in Arizona and I’m happy to see all the horses going so well,” said Mead. “I think it’s fantastic that we have a weekly Hunter classic like this here in Arizona. It really adds to the schedule, and the fact that it’s a qualifier for the [Diamond Mills] Hunter [Prix] Final is incredible, it really gives us something to push for at the end of the year. It would be a long trip for us, but it would be great to be in Saugerties for that class!”

Socrates is a catch ride for Mead, who has only teamed up with him one other time before Sunday’s win. “He’s a great horse and really fun to ride, so to get that win together was icing on the cake. Hopefully, we can continue to perform well here in Arizona and that will set us up for a possible attempt at the Final in Saugerties.”

Gretchen Lof of Cave Creek, Arizona scored an 80 aboard her own Dresden in the first round, paired that with a score of 79.5 in the handy, for a total of 159.5 for the second-place honors.

Third place went to Colorado’s Michael Dennehy and Sir Topham Hat, owned by The Cottonwoods LTD, after they earned a score of 80 in the first round, a 78 in the handy, for a total of 158. Katherine Pitts of Centennial Colorado took fourth place with a total score of 141 aboard her own Agassi, and Meredith Houx-Remiger of Albuquerque, New Mexico finished in fifth with a total score of 134 aboard McKinnon Roberts’ Capiche.

Mark Mead and Socrates in the $2,500 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Arizona.

The $2,500 Devoucoux Hunter Prix is a new addition to the HITS Arizona schedule and is a qualifier for the all-new Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final which will take place September 10-11 in Saugerties, New York. In all, HITS Arizona will host a total of six Devoucoux Hunter Prix qualifiers for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final, including the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix which takes place on Saturday, March 12, during Week VI of the circuit.

Joe Dotoli of HITS presents the award to Mark Mead and Socrates for their win the $2,500 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Arizona. Joining for the presentation are trainer Tracye Ferguson and owner Linda Vellman.

The all-new Diamond Mills $500,000 3'3" Hunter Prix Final is another innovative offering from HITS that has equestrians from around the country eager to earn their spot in this historic event, which takes place the same weekend as the Pfizer Million in Saugerties, New York. In order to become eligible for the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final a rider on any horse/horses will need to compete in five or more Devoucoux Hunter Prix at any combination of HITS Shows during the qualifying period. Once a rider has competed in five Devoucoux Prix, they will become eligible and the points on their leading horse will place them in HITS Hunter Prix Final Rider Rankings. For more information on the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final, including complete qualifying specifications, please click here.

About Devoucoux
Devoucoux, makers of fine French saddles, is proud to be the title sponsor of each and every qualifying Hunter Prix leading up to this year's phenomenal Diamond Mills $500,000 3'3" Hunter Prix Final. The Devoucoux Hunter Prix will be a featured event at all HITS horse shows this season as riders from around the country set out to qualify for the historic Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final, which will take place September 10-11 at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.
HITS, Inc. produces high-quality, international-level hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS has been producing shows since 1982 and is now a nationwide company with world-class circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia. In 2010, HITS took the industry to new heights when it hosted the first-ever Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. HITS will once again offer the most innovative weekend in show jumping history in 2011 when it hosts the second annual Pfizer Million and the inaugural Diamond Mills $500,000 3'3" Hunter Prix Final, September 10-11, at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.

For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit Stay connected with HITS, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

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