Ocala, FL - The first half of the four-legged, annual $20,500 Marshall & Sterling Child/Adult Jumper Championship wrapped up on Sunday, with Hayley Waters and Molly Gasparini winning the respective first and second legs of the popular event.
On Friday afternoon in the first leg for $2,500, it was Hayley Waters from Sparr, Florida on Rocky taking home the win for the early lead. Waters also showed her green horse, Jordy, who took fourth.
"The course was hard, but pretty fair," said Waters, who looks forward to competing in the last two legs, which take place this weekend at HITS Ocala. "I thought I was in the lead with Jordy when I was going in with Rocky, so I just went as fast as I could." The plan worked, as her fastest trip and clean round earned her the top spot.
Taking second and third place in the first leg of the event were perennial contenders Mallory Vale from Morriston, Florida on Mi Phone and Isaac Leftkowitz on Alpha Pappa Tango.
The $4,000 second leg was a whole different story, as the team of Molly Gasparini of Winter Springs, Florida riding Salsa jumped the fastest with a clean round en route to the win.
"She saved me," said Gasparini, who was proud of seven-year-old Salsa. "I was nervous because it was a long course... she's usually a little temperamental but she was on it, she did everything I asked."
The win may be the momentum she needs as the third and fourth legs continue this week. "This is my first year doing it so I wanted to be competitive," said Gasparini. "I was a little apprehensive at times, but she didn't let that stop her."
Taking second and third place in the second leg on Sunday were Bryn Sadler from Santa Fe, New Mexico on Sirena, and Mackenzie Ryan of Longwood, Florida on Primata, who's no stranger to the $20,500 Marshall & Sterling Child/Adult Jumper Championship.
Prize money in the remaining two legs will be $4,000 and $5,000 respectively, with an additional $5,000 bonus going to the top finishers overall. With over 40 rider and horse combinations competing in each of the first two legs and $14,000 in prize money remaining, the championship is still up for grabs by many.
HITS exhibitors are invited to attend the HITS Ocala Exhibitor Part and Open House at The Sanctuary, located at 5590 NW Highway 225 and Highway 27, just down the road from HITS Post Time Farm this Friday, January 29 from 6-10pm. The Sanctuary is HITS Ocala 's Official Equine Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation Center for 2010. Come see what The Sanctuary has to offer for your equine athlete and enjoy heavy hors d'oeuvres, exhibitions, seminars and more!
The HITS Ocala Pre-Circuit concludes this week with the Ocala January Festival. After a week off, competition returns on Tuesday, February 9, with six consecutive weeks of AA-rated horse shows beginning with the Ocala Winter Classic.
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 will take the industry to new heights when it hosts the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties on September 12. For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com.
Photo Credits: Molly Gasparini and Salsa jump their way to a blue ribbon in Sunday's $4,000 M&S Children's/Adult Jumper Championship at HITS Ocala. © ESI Photography
Winners of the second leg of the M&S Children's/Adult Jumper Championship, Molly Gasparini and Salsa at HITS Ocala. © ESI Photography