Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hunters: Ladies Reign in Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Thermal, Ocala, and Arizona as Winter Show Season Heads into Final Weeks

© Flying Horse Photography.
Hope Glynn and Sabrina Hellman's Woodstock in the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Thermal.
SAUGERTIES, NY (March 2, 2011)--The Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final is the talk of the town this season and its key to qualifying, the Devoucoux Hunter Prix, continues to be one of the most popular offerings at the HITS Winter Circuits in Ocala, Florida, Thermal, California, and Tucson, Arizona. Never before has a purse of this magnitude been offered for hunters, and never before have so many talented riders at all levels of their careers had the opportunity to aspire to such a lofty goal.

United States Chef d’Equipe George Morris was on-site at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California this past weekend and got to witness first-hand the excitement and energy of the Devoucoux Hunter Prix.

During his visit, Morris shared in the enthusiasm that’s sweeping the sport. "Doing the Hunter Prix series at 3’3” was genius. It really crosses over to so many different riders and is sure to continue to be overwhelmingly popular. I look forward to being back in Europe and asking my European horse colleagues ‘what sort of prize money is Europe offering now?’ We are jumping for a half a million in the Hunters in the States. I can’t wait to see their faces," Morris said with an approving smile.

Over the past two weeks, as the HITS Winter Circuits shifted into high gear, the Devoucoux Hunter Prix saw record numbers of entries in Ocala and Thermal, while entries in Arizona remain steady. So far, the winners of the Devoucoux Hunter Prix at all three locations have been a combination of Professional, Amateur, and Junior riders, which demonstrates the broad appeal of this all-new Hunter extravaganza. For the first time this season, the Devoucoux Hunter Prix at all three HITS locations was won by a female rider.

Thermal, California - $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix

On Sunday afternoon, with the legendary Morris in the crowd watching from the all-new White & Company Private Client Group Hospitality Tent, Hope Glynn of Petaluma, California and Sabrina Hellman's Woodstock put on a show when they captured the top prize in the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix to conclude Desert Circuit IV.

Glynn and Woodstock topped the field of 34 starters to show over course designer John Manning's (Shelburne, Massachusetts) first-round course and the top 15 that came back for the second round. "Hope is such a smooth rider," said Manning. "She has a connection with every horse that she rides and is a top contender to win the Diamond Mills $500,000 3'3" Hunter Prix Final."

With the victory and four of the five classes needed to become eligible, Glynn seems to be on the right track to qualify for the all-new Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final, which takes place the same weekend as the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties, New York. In fact, the accomplished equestrian leads the way in the preliminary Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final Rider Rankings with 153 points and has already indicated that she intends to ride Woodstock in the historic Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final.

If Glynn does qualify for the richest hunter purse in the history of the sport, she will show in front of a familiar face as Mike Rosser will serve as one of the four judges for the big event. Rosser got a sneak peak at Glynn and Woodstock in Sunday's class when he awarded the pair an 89 in the first round to lead the way.

"I was honored to be selected as one of the judges for the Diamond Mills $500,000 3'3" Hunter Prix Final," said Rosser, after Sunday’s Devoucoux Hunter Prix. “It's a big deal! Hope rode so well today and was a deserving winner in this class. I am sure we will see her down the road."

In the second round, Glynn and Woodstock took control of the class scoring an 87 which brought their total to 176. John French of Woodside, California was propelled into second place after scoring a 91 in the handy round aboard Davlyn Farm's Come Monday to bring their tally to 173. French also finished in third aboard Yellow Dog Farm's Crown Affair. French is currently tied for the number five spot with 122 points in the Diamond Mills Rider Rankings, and has done three of the five classes needed to become eligible.

Exhibitors in Thermal will have two more opportunities to qualify for the Diamond Mills Hunter Final when the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix highlights the schedule on Sunday, March 6 followed by the big-ticket $25,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix which finishes out the season on Saturday, March 12.

© Flying Horse Photography.
HITS Senior Vice President Tony Hitchcock joins Ned Glynn and Heather Rhodes in congratulating Hope Glynn after winning the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Thermal.

Ocala, Florida - $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix

On a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon in Ocala, Florida, Amateur Jane Gaston rode her own Lumiere to victory in the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix. Gaston of The Plains, Virginia was one of 59 riders to navigate the course designed by Tennessee’s Tim Hott.

“I saw a few of these events in Culpeper last year and I was really interested in trying them,” said Gaston, whose home in The Plains is a short distance from HITS Commonwealth Park in Culpeper, Virginia. “I think there’s a lot more excitement this year with the big [Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix] Final that everyone wants to qualify for.”

The team scored an 87.5 in the first round, and then an outstanding 89.5 in the second round, for a total of 177 points, which secured the win. “It was a nice course that rode really well,” she commented. “I enjoy jumping in and out of the ring! It was a good ‘thinking course’ for the horses.”

Gaston made the trip to HITS Ocala on Sunday just to compete in this event. “This is the one class I wanted to show in and it was a lot of fun to do so. There seemed to be a lot of excitement from the riders and also from the people who were watching. The entire facility in Ocala is just a great place, and there’s nothing artificial looking here, which is so nice.”

As two more Devoucoux Hunter Prix qualifiers remain at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, Gaston hopes to return and compete again. “I’m going to try and make it back here for at least one more qualifier. If not, I plan on showing at Culpeper and maybe Saugerties in order to try and qualify. I think the class is such a great alternative to what the bigger derbies offer. This height really levels the playing field for the juniors and amateurs who are in there with the professionals. I’m glad everyone is getting the opportunity to be a part of this class.”

Second place was awarded to Hunt Tosh and Emily Allen’s CR Haribo, while third place went to Cindy Cruciotti of Elizabeth, Colorado and Leanne Acuff’s Noble C.

With the win and one Devoucoux Qualifier under her belt, Gaston broke into the preliminary Diamond Mills Rider Rankings in 12th place, while Tosh earned himself a seat at 15th in the Rankings. Mary Lisa Leffler, with 144 points, currently enjoys the number two spot in the Rankings, with two other Ocala riders Cathy Inch and Callie Morgan Smith in third and fourth, with 135 and 129, respectively. Inch and Morgan Smith have the distinct honor of being the first two riders to officially become eligible for the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final as they each have met their five Devoucoux Hunter Prix requirements.

The next Devoucoux Hunter Prix returns to HITS Ocala on Sunday, March 6, with a $10,000 purse at stake.
© ESI Photography.
Jane Gaston and Lumiere on course in Sunday's $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida.
© ESI Photography.
Jane Gaston and Lumiere enjoy their moment in the winner's circle after capturing the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida. In addition to the blue ribbon and a beautiful, engraved silver tray, Gaston also received a cooler courtesy of Judy's Tack Shop.

Tucson, Arizona - $2,500 Devoucoux Hunter Prix

The Devoucoux Hunter Prix has been a welcome addition to the schedule at the HITS Arizona Winter Circuit. And while overall the Arizona shows are historically the smallest of the three HITS Winter Circuits, one thing that’s not small is the excitement shared by the riders looking to pave their way to the big Finale in September.

Brian Post of Phoenix, Arizona set the course for Saturday’s feature class which was won by Renae Coates of Gilbert, Arizona and Madison Crum’s R’Mani. The duo had a great trip in the handy round to receive a score of 84, which propelled them into first place, with a total of 162.

"This class is a great addition to the schedule and there's lots of excitement about it here in Tucson," said Coates, who runs RCR Farms and is a regular at the HITS Arizona Winter Circuit. Saturday's win was even more special for Coates who just returned to showing after taking a break to have a baby. Her daughter Sofia is just two months old. "It's a nice class to get back into the swing of things for me. R'Mani is a new horse for us and this is really his first time doing the hunters. He's just right for these classes and we'd like to qualify for the Final with him."

Following Coates in second place was Johnathan Williams of Redwood City, California and Rebecca Suppes Impetra. Abbygale Funk of St. George, Kansas rode Naomi Weirens’ Desiree to third-place honors, while fourth place went to Julia Finn of Scottsdale, Arizona and Actuality, LLC’s Illux. Finishing in fifth was Kaddie Stephens, also of Scottsdale, and KK & M Enterprises, LLC’s Dina Bella. Stephens trains with Coates and enjoyed finishing in the top of the class alongside her trainer.

"Kaddie was thrilled," said Coates. "She's a long-time student of mine who has been out of the ring for a year because of an injury to her horse. She's just getting back to Junior Hunters, so this was a nice finish for her."

Coates found her way into the preliminary Diamond Mills Rider Rankings for the first time this week, while fellow Arizona exhibitors Gretchen Lof, Mark Mead, Ali Cost and Michael Dennehy each hold a spot in the list.

HITS Arizona will host two more Devoucoux Hunter Prix Qualifiers this season. Next week’s $2,500 Devoucoux Hunter Prix will take place on Saturday, March 5, while the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix will close out the season on Sunday, March 13.

Renae Coates on course with Madison Crum’s R’Mani in the $2,500 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at the HITS Arizona Winter Circuit.
Renae Coates is joined in the winner's circle by Madison Crum, Julia Dotoli, and Emiliano Colin after riding R'Mani to a first-place finish in the $2,500 Devoucoux Hunter Prix.

For complete results from all three HITS Winter Circuits please visit:

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