Andres Rodriguez Leads the Way at HITS Ocala Winter Festival

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Ocala, FL- February 23, 2012 - The road to the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix took an exciting turn last week at HITS Ocala when Andres Rodriguez of Wellington, Florida and ARAO Enterprises, LLC ‘s Caballito captured both the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix and the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, both presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Kate Conover of Ocala, Florida highlighted the hunters when she won the $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix aboard Redfield Farm’s Peron and Caroline Sykes of Garrison, New York clinched the $1,500 HITS 3’ Hunter Prix as qualifiers for America’s richest show jumping continue to grow in popularity.

The Road to the Pfizer Million

America’s richest Grand Prix has drawn the awe of riders from around the world and are now eager to qualify for the most historic jumper class in history. Venezuelan rider Andres Rodriguez has seized the opportunity to qualify at HITS Ocala and his attempts have been enormously successful with back-to-back wins last week.  “I really want to qualify for the Pfizer Million,” said Rodriguez.  “I have only watched it online and it looks so beautiful. I think I have some really good horses for that class.”

There are still eight more Grand Prix qualifiers remaining at HITS Ocala, including the $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group, which will take place on Sunday, March 18 as the season finale.

Hunters Shine in the Field

Redfield Farm had another successful week at HITS Ocala when professional rider Kate Conover picked up the blue ribbon aboard their own Peron. Conover, the third place finisher at the inaugural Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final last September has every desire to “win the big one” this year.

“I’m really proud of my horse since we’ve been bringing him along since he was a baby,” said Conover. “Last year that class [Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final] meant so much to me and making it into the fourth round was one of the most exciting moments of my career. I’m just happy my horses are doing well and I’ll be ready for the Final again this year no matter what!”

There are four more Devoucoux Hunter Prix qualifiers remaining at HITS Ocala, held each Sunday for Juniors, Amateurs and Professionals to pave their way towards the world’s richest Hunter class.

Amateur riders found themselves in the spotlight on Saturday with the $1,500 HITS 3’ Hunter Prix as Caroline Sykes cruised to a victory aboard Violet Fludzinski’s Aston Martin. Each class is a qualifier for the $250,000 HITS 3’ Hunter Prix Final which will coincide with the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final and Pfizer Million as part of HITS Championship Weekend at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York, September 7-9.

Qualifying Continues
This week, Andres Rodriguez made his debut in the 2012 Pfizer Million Rider Rankings after his two wins at HITS Ocala. He now sits comfortably in seventh place with $22,500 in prize money. Tracy Fenney jumped into first place after two second place finishes, which bumped Jill Henselwood to second. Two riders have already banked the eight Grand Prix required to become eligible for September's finale. Derek Petersen and Aaron Vale are the first riders in the country to reach the benchmark and will continue to bank prize money throughout the season in order to punch their ticket to Saugerties, New York.

In Hunter action, John Bragg leads the 2012 Devoucoux Rider Rankings with 202 points and has his sights set on making a first-time appeareance in the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final during HITS Championship Weekend. Brandie Holloway made a significant jump in the standings from 10th to second place while Kate Conover and Megan Edrick moved into the top ten. Both Holloway and Amanda Steege have collected their five necessary Devoucoux Hunter Prix and are sitting pretty in the top ten.

Jodi Czaplick leads the way with four HITS 3' Hunter Prix under her belt and 175 points as first-year qualifying for the $250,000 HITS 3' Hunter Prix Final heats up. The top six spots remained steady during the third week at HITS Ocala, but Caroline Sykes' win boosted her from 10th to seventh in the standings. Karin Binz also made her debut into the top ten and sits in ninth.

$7,500 U-Dump Junior Jumper High Classics
International Course Designer Martin Otto of Munster, Germany challenged up-and-coming stars as they jumped their Sunday best. Junior rider Matthias Tromp of North Salem, New York dominated the event as he captured the first, third and fourth place ribbons in the $7,500 U-Dump Junior jumper High Classic aboard Sandra Z, Renoir du Buisson and Casey, all owned by Beyaert Farm, Inc.

“It was a great class,” said Tromp. “The course was built really well and I was happy with how well my horse [Sandra Z] jumped the open water. It’s been a really good season so far for the horses; they’re feeling great. I’d like to thank Shawn Mack and my sister, Emmy [Tromp] for all their help.”

Meg O’Mara of Rumson, New Jersey aboard Aragon Rouet, owned by Walstib Stables LLC took home the second place ribbon. Aragon Rouet is no stranger to success - he was the proud winner of last year’s Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix with Andre Thieme in the irons. Now with O’Mara, the new combination is on a path to success with plenty of talent to keep them climbing the ranks.

$7,500 U-Dump Amateur-Owner Jumper High Classic
On Sunday, Melissa Rudershausen took the top honors in the $7,500 U-Dump Amateur Jumper High Classic aboard her own Gunner. Rudershausen, of Ocala, Florida, is one of the brightest Amateurs in the show ring today.

“I was so excited for us today, he’s [Gunner] such a good boy,” she said. “This circuit has been really good – I also finished fifth today in the [$5,000 Animo Amateur-Owner] Medium Classic with my other horse, Ducati. “  The duo has found their niche in the Amateur-Owner High Jumper division. “I just moved to a new farm in Ocala this year and my horses just love it here,” she commented.

Second place went to Jared Petersen of Archer, Florida aboard Derek Petersen’s Titus 2:11 and third place went to Erin Haas of Ocala, Florida aboard North Face Farm’s Casino Van de Helle.

Marshall & Sterling Junior Medal
As the Marshall & Sterling Junior Medal Final anticipates its debut at this year’s HITS Championship Weekend in the new covered arena at HITS-on-the-Hudson riders are looking to qualify early. Excitement has been building for the class and Medal classes are attracting full rosters each week at all HITS Winter locations.

Redfield Farm added another big win to its resume as Alyssa Bokor captured the blue ribbon aboard Redfield’s Carafino. Second place was awarded to Kendall Casaccio aboard Valedictorian, owned by Chansonette Farm, LLC and third went to Vanessa McCarthy aboard her own Ralph Lauren.

HITS Ocala offers weekly Marshall & Sterling classes and those looking to qualify for the Marshal & Sterling League National Finals have made HITS Ocala a must on their show calendar. This year, the finals are set to take place HITS-on-the-Hudson September 12-16.

Secretariat Races to HITS Ocala!

HITS Ocala was proud to pay tribute to Secretariat, the most beloved and memorable horse in American history last weekend.

Saturday, Kate Chenery-Tweedy, author of Secretariat’s Meadow and daughter to the family who owned him, hosted a reception and book signing at the HITS Restaurant.  Chenery-Tweedy showed clips from the Triple Crown races that made history and talked about the horse, the making of the movie and the family who owned him. Guests were able to purchase books and receive a personal inscription from the author. Secretariat’s exercise rider, Charlie Davis, now an Ocala resident, was also a part of the festivities and spoke with the crowd about the horse that captivated the nation. 

Top Dog!

Lori Bidwell’s Ting won the Exclusive PMI Top Dog honors last week.  The two year-old Chaweenie (1/2 Dachshund and 1/2 Chihuahua) is originally from St. Kitts in the West Indies. Ting now makes his home in Lexington, Kentucky with Bidwell and was excited to take home a prize pack, courtesy of PMI Exclusive Pet Food.

At The Gate
Don’t miss one of the most anticipated special events of the season on Friday when the Arenus Rising Star Karaoke Challenge makes its debut  at the HITS Restaurant from 6-8 pm. Take a break from the saddle and pick up the microphone as the crowd awards winners in the following categories:

  • "Best Brand Song" - Awarded to the person who sings the best song incorporating an Arenus product in it (i.e. SORE-NO-MORE or Assure)
  • "Charisma Award" - Awarded to the person who displays the best effort, most entertaining and most fun performance.
  • "Rising Star Award" - Awarded to the best overall singer.

Arenus will also be awarding its Arenus Overall Athlete Award to the top horse and rider team this Sunday, so make sure to fill out your nomination form today. Entry boxes are located in the Show Office, Restaurant and the VIP Overlook Club.

Saturday night, Pfizer Animal Health invites all horse owners to attend the Pfizer Horse Owners Event in the VIP Overlook Club from 6-9pm. Dr. Nathan Voris, DVM, MS Area Veterinarian at Pfizer Animal Health will present Preventative Equine Health Care, followed by a barbeque dinner with live entertainment. All those attending the presentation will be eligible to win a year supply of deworming for one horse. No credentials are required and all are welcome.

Then, Country 103.7 The Gator will kick off the Sunday celebration with a live on-site broadcast starting at 10am at the entrance of Post Time Farm as a prelude to the World of the Horse, which kicks off before the $50,000 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Horse lovers of all ages will delight in the parade of breeds which will include Paso Finos, Arabians, Peruvians, Lusitanos and Andalusians, all set to music. Come early so you won’t miss any of the action.

This week, the road to HITS Championship Weekend continues with the Ocala Masters. Qualifiers for the Pfizer Million, Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final and the $250,000 HITS 3’ Hunter Prix Final will all be held, highlighted by the $50,000 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, and the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix on Sunday.

Photos: Andres Rodriguez and Caballito edged out Tracy Fenney by a split second to win Thursday's $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Ocala. ©ESI Photography; HITS' Lisa Engel and Caitlin Howley present the awards to Andres Rodriguez and Caballito after they won Sunday's $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Ocala. Flowers presented to Andres Rodriguez compliments of Lilli's Flowers & Gifts, HITS Ocala's Official Florist;  Kate Conover and Peron on course in Sunday's $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Ocala. ©ESI Photography;  Caroline Sykes of Garrison, New York rode Violet Fludzinski’s Aston Martin to victory in Saturday's $1,500 HITS 3' Hunter Prix to be out 42 starters. ©ESI Photography; Kate Chenery-Tweedy, author of Secretariat’s Meadow and daughter to the family who owned him, hosted a reception and book signing at the HITS Restaurant; Lori Bidwell’s Ting is the proud winner of the PMI Exclusive Top Dog prize at HITS Ocala; Matt Dunn, Executive Director and Denise Alexander, Tourist Development Sales Manager of the Ocala/Marion County Visitors & Convention Bureau stopped by to check out the festivities. ©HITS Staff.