Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jumping: Ocala: HITS: 30th Anniversary Season of HITS Ocala Ends with a Win for Kent Farrington in the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group

© ESI Photography.
Kent Farrington and Top Gun on course in the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group.

OCALA, FL (March 22, 2011)--Sunday’s $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group, was not only the season finale to the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, but also the 36th Grand Prix of the 2011 HITS Show Season, which marked the virtual mid-way point for the qualifying period for this year’s Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. Kent Farrington felt the need for speed, when he and Iron Horse Farm’s Top Gun captured the win, to conclude the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit.

“Yesterday was an extraordinary finish to the Ocala Winter Circuit,” said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO. “Similar to our shows in Thermal, we’ve been blessed with some incredible weather in Ocala this season, which always adds to the enjoyment of the show. I’m very pleased that we had the opportunity to welcome so many new faces this year, which helped contribute to some really exciting competition. I was particularly impressed by the number of exhibitors that participated in, and the number of spectators that came out to watch, our Parade of Champions ceremony. Those riders should be proud of their accomplishments, and it was very nice to see the community from both within and outside the horse show acknowledge their efforts.”

Just 10 weeks into the 2011 show season, the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra class was the 36th Grand Prix hosted by HITS and with 22 classes remaining, including two more $100,000 Grand Prix in Saugerties this spring and summer, and of course the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix on September 11, things are about to really heat up!

On Sunday, Farrington of Chicago, Illinois placed on all three of his mounts, which included a second-place finish aboard R.C.G. Farm’s Uceko and a fifth-place finish aboard Haity McNerney’s Valhalla.

“It was awesome,” said Farrington. “My goal for coming to Ocala this year was to bring horses that I thought would be competitive in order for me to get a start on qualifying for the Pfizer Million and it’s worked out well so far.”

Farrington is considered one of the best American riders in show jumping today, having represented the United States in World Cup Finals and Nations Cups, with countless victories on his resume. He and Top Gun finished 14th at the 2010 Pfizer Million, and with three of the five Grand Prix needed to become eligible for this year’s Pfizer Million Farrington is well on his way to punching his return ticket to Saugerties for the class in September.

Sunday’s course was designed by International Course Designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Muenchen, Germany, and challenged 36 starters.

“I think Olaf [Petersen] Jr. is one of the best course designers in show jumping, today,” said Farrington. “He builds a very intelligent course, and to get six clean for a $100,000 class was probably close to exactly what he wanted.”

© ESI Photography.
Cathy Stringer of Great American Insurance Group, Bill Morrison and Frank DeLuca of DeLuca Toyota, and HITS' Lisa Engel presented the awards, a cooler courtesy of Shires Equestrian Products, and a bottle of Chardonnay, courtesy of Sonoma Cutrer, to Kent Farrington and Top Gun in the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group.

Matthias Hollberg of Apex, North Carolina, aboard Apex Equestrian Center’s Wadisson were the second to show and got the crowd fired up with a clear round. Petersen’s course put the pressure on, as many riders failed to follow Hollberg’s clean lead, and succumbed to the triple combination at fence nine, as well as at the vertical that followed, which saw rail after rail come down. Six clear efforts emerged from the first round, which included Farrington on three mounts, Hollberg, David Tromp of North Salem, New York aboard Beyaert Farm Inc.’s Casey, and the winner of Thursday’s Grand Prix, Andre Thieme of Germany aboard Seth Vallhonrat’s Coco 135.

In the jump-off, Hollberg returned first, and set the pace in 44.488 seconds with four faults. “I was extremely pleased with today,” Hollberg commented, after the class. “I thought we jumped really well in the jump-off and just had a cheap rail there. The course was tough, but this horse has a lot of talent and has been such a great ride for me.”

Farrington returned next on Top Gun, and flew around the course, clear in 40.805 seconds, which set the Great American Time to Beat.

“He’s [Top Gun] like riding a big pony,” said Farrington. “He’s very brave and so easy to ride. This horse has always been very consistent for me and he’s won a lot of big classes. In the jump-off I was just trying to stay within his comfort zone, put in a competitive round, and set a good pace for the rest of the group to follow.”

Tromp and Casey returned third and had two rails in 45.259 seconds, which would ultimately finish sixth.

The anticipation grew as Thieme and Coco 135 attempted the short-course next. Thieme has been on quite a streak as of late, making his presence felt by placing in every Grand Prix he’s shown in this season at HITS Ocala, including a victory in Thursday’s Grand Prix aboard Uvalier, and the win in last Sunday’s $50,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, aboard Coco 135. He attempted to win his third Grand Prix in a row as the crowd silently watched him navigate the jump-off. The duo appeared to be en route to claim the lead; however, a slip after fence ten cost them precious time. They quickly recovered and gallantly passed through the finish line with no faults in 42.265 seconds and with the respect of the crowd, sitting just behind Farrington and Top Gun.

Farrington returned for his final ride aboard Uceko and with the victory already in his pocket, they cruised through the track in 42.146 seconds, which was a hair quicker than Thieme, to capitalize on a triumphant day.

Frank DeLuca, of DeLuca Toyota, was on hand to watch the competition and present the awards to the top-place finishers. "As a business owner in Ocala I am proud to be a major sponsor of the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit for the past several years,” said DeLuca. "I congratulate HITS on putting together another successful season here in Ocala. Each year this is a great event for our community, and attracts a large amount of people to Ocala, and their presence adds additional revenue to the area and local businesses, which is important. I wish the best of luck to all the competitors every season.”

Sunday's competition was the bow on another great season at HITS Post Time Farm. The focus now shifts north to the spring and summer shows in Culpeper, Virginia and Saugerties, New York where the road to the Pfizer Million continues on!

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