Monday, May 30, 2011

Jumping: Saugerties: HITS: McLain Ward and Oh’ D Eole win the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix

© ESI Photography.
McLain Ward and Oh' D Eole on course in Sunday's $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.

SAUGERTIES, NEW YORK (May 30, 2011) — Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist McLain Ward is on the road to the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix after a big win aboard his own Oh’ D Eole in Sunday’s $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, to highlight HITS-on-the-Hudson I. Ward, of Brewster, New York, won the inaugural Pfizer Million last year and has his sights set on this year’s event on Sunday, September 11.

“This was a good class,” said Ward, moments after his victory gallop on Sunday afternoon. “It was difficult enough with a lot of technical questions, but it was intelligent and rode nicely. I think the weather was great and a little on the warm side, which can make a big difference.”

The course for Sunday’s $50,000 Grand Prix was designed by Jose “Pepe” Gamarra of Ellenton, Florida, who made his debut this week at HITS-on-the-Hudson. “I think the footing in this ring [Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix Stadium] is the best footing I’ve ever seen anywhere,” said Gamarra. “The horses have improved all week long and the footing has played a big part in that.”

Gamarra accomplished exactly what he planned for the class. “I expect between six to eight in the jump-off,” he said prior to the start of the class, which eventually saw seven riders return after the first round. “There were a lot of young horses here so, with that in mind, it was a fair course.”

Ward was the first to return in the jump-off and right away set the Great American Time to Beat at 33.760 seconds, which would go untouched. “This mare [Oh’ D Eole] is still a bit young but she’s been doing really well lately, winning two out of her last three Grand Prix,” said Ward. “I didn’t want to do anything insane going first in the jump-off, I just wanted to put up a good fast time and I knew she could do that, she’s a very fast horse.”

Fellow U.S. Olympian Peter Leone of Greenwich, Connecticut, aboard Select, owned by Lionshare Farm and Ger Poels, posted a clear effort two trips later in 35.270 seconds, which earned him a second-place finish in the end. Germaine Edelmann of Rexford, New York was next to show and produced the last clear effort in 41.645 seconds aboard Carotino, owned by Blue River Farm Sales, which earned her third place. The duo got their start together this past winter at HITS Ocala, earning a second-place victory in the Week IV $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, as well as numerous ribbons throughout the circuit.
© ESI Photography.
Lisa Engel and Tony Hitchcock of HITS present the awards to McLain Ward and Oh' D Eole after their victory in Sunday's $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
Ward made it clear that he plans on qualifying once again for the richest jumper class in the world, the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. “Winning the Pfizer Million last year was very special to me,” said Ward. “It’ll always be something that will stand out in my career and I’m excited to compete in it again this year. Today was a great day to get started on earning some prize money in order to get qualified.”

Rounding out the top five in the class were Kate Levy aboard her own Starlight in fourth, and Alexa Lowe aboard Windsor Farm Sales’ Amicello in fifth. Ward also finished eighth and ninth in Sunday’s class aboard Seth Vallhonrat and Anne Hamilton’s Coco 135 and Blue Chip Bloodstock’s Domino, respectively.

Show jumping will continue this week with HITS-on-the-Hudson II, as High-Performance riders will have two more opportunities to qualify for the Pfizer Million with the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, which will serve as a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on Friday, June 3. Then on Sunday, June 5 the stakes get even higher with the $75,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.

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 Hunter Prix Final, September 10-11, at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.

Eventing: Australia's Olympic legend Bill Roycroft passes away aged 96

Australian Olympic legend Bill Roycroft passed away early yesterday morning at age 96 at Camperdown in Victoria.

A legend of Equestrian sport in Australia, James William George Roycroft OBE, known as “Bill”, was one of Australia’s greatest Olympians and one of only five Australians to have competed in five consecutive Olympic Games. He represented Australia in Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976 and became Australia’s oldest medallist and oldest competitor at 61 years and 31 days.  He was Australia’s oldest living Olympian.

It was at the 1960 Olympic Games that Roycroft together with his team mates won Australia’s first-ever Equestrian medal, a gold medal in Eventing.

Equestrian Australia’s Chairman, Paul Cargill, said Roycroft was a pioneer in the sport and paved the way for Australia’s Equestrian athletes.

“The Equestrian community is deeply saddened by the loss of Bill, a true legend of our sport.

“Our thoughts at this time are with Bill’s family and friends, especially Wayne, Barry and Clarke,” said Mr Cargill.

“Not only have we lost one of our most celebrated Olympians, but we’ve lost a man who was truly passionate about Equestrian and together with his family has given so much to our sport.

“His performance as part of the 1960 Rome team is legendary and inspired the next generation of Equestrian athletes.

“Their performance catapulted Australia’s reputation as one of the best Eventing teams in the world and his legacy will continue to be felt right throughout our sport for many years,” he said.

The story of 1960 Rome Team was one the captured the hearts of a nation. A team of outback horseman won two gold and one silver medal. Roycroft secured the team gold by defying doctor’s orders and leaving his hospital bed to ride in the show jumping phase. With the use of just with one arm he rode a perfect round to claim gold for Australia.

Lifetime friend and 1960 Olympic team mate Neale Lavis said, “Bill was just a great mate, he always stood beside you no matter what was happening.

“As a horseman he was second to none.  Bill was a character and life was never dull where he was.

“As a competitor he always kept you on your toes, and let you know it too,” added Neale.

Memorial details will be made available by the family in the coming days.

James William George “Bill” Roycroft OBE
Olympic Record:        
1960 Rome                               Gold Medal
1964 Tokyo                              
1968 Mexico City                       Bronze Medal (Australian Team Flag bearer)
1972 Munich                           
1976 Montreal                           Bronze Medal
Other achievements:
Roycroft became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1969 for his service to sport, and was awarded an Order of Merit by the Australian Olympic Committee in 1978 for his outstanding achievement in sport. He helped carry the official Olympic flag into the stadium at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games along with seven other Australian Olympians.

Bill, patriarch of a legendary riding family, competed at Olympic Games alongside each of his sons, Barry, Wayne and Clarke.

In May 2011, Bill was inducted in Equestrian Australia’s inaugural Hall of Fame.

Harry Gordon, AOC historian tells the story of the infamous 1960 Rome Team.

On the last day of the Three-Day Event, Australia faced a grim predicament. Two riders, Laurie Morgan and Neale Lavis, were doing well, however Brian Crago’s horse was out of the competition due to injury, and the fourth member of the team, Bill Roycroft, was in hospital - concussed, sedated, with extensive bruising and muscle damage. Doctors refused to sanction his release from hospital. The problem was that, if Australia was to win the team event, it needed three finishers. Roycroft had fallen during the cross-country the previous day after his horse, Our Solo, somersaulted over and landed on him. He had climbed groggily back, finished the course, then been given oxygen (and whisky) and flown by helicopter to a hospital outside Rome.

Next morning, with the final phase, the show jumping, due to start soon, Roycroft insisted on signing himself out of hospital. The doctors said no, and refused to give him his clothes; he then threatened to leave in his underpants. Finally, he signed a document taking responsibility for his safety, and was allowed to go. He was 45, laced heavily with pain killers, unable to bend, and his comrades had to dress him for the last ride. He was virtually folded onto Our Solo, and the reins were placed in his hands. Stiffly yet flawlessly, he completed the round, ensuring team gold for Australia.