Ocala, FL- A weekend packed with competition ensued with Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix during Week I of the HITS Holiday Series. The order of go was stacked with talent, but the team to beat would prove to be Andrew Kocher of Lake Saint Louis, Missouri, aboard Ciana, owned by Eagle Valley Partners, LLC.
Seven advanced to the jump-off where four would jump clear and the top contenders would only be separated by mere seconds.
First to challenge the shortened course was Aaron Vale piloting Spirit of Alena, owned by Thinkslikeahorse. Vale and the stallion set the tone for the remaining field with a cool, clean round in 42.905 seconds. The round would ultimately earn them the third-place prize.
The next three rounds would not top Vale on the leaderboard, including the eventual fifth place, Charlie Jayne and Tou La Moon, owned by Alex Jayne and Maura Thatcher. Jayne and his mount nearly conquered the second round, but a single time fault stopped them.
The last three trips would all jump clear and it was a hair-raising race to the finish, where speed and efficiency were of the upmost importance. Jared Petersen and Titus 2:11, owned by Derek Petersen, entered next to contend the shortened course. They clocked in with all of the rails up in 41.970.
Following Petersen was Kocher and Ciana. They powered toward the finish where they would stop the clock in 41.303, just fractions of a second ahead of Petersen for the eventual victory.
Kocher also grabbed several wins during the FEI CSI-4* at National Sunshine Series at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California, in November.
Lauren Hester and Lorstakov, owned by Hester Equestrian, LLC. were the final pair to enter the ring. Their clear, 43.754-second round would earn them fourth place.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com.