OCALA, FLORIDA: The HITS Holiday Series continued last week with the Ocala Holiday Festival. Exhibitors from up and down the East Coast descended upon HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida, for this two-week series, offering extra preparation for the ten-week HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, beginning January 19, 2016.
It was down to the wire in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix on Sunday as competitors went head-to-head in the battle for the blue ribbon. Divided by mere seconds, horses and riders whizzed through the 13-fence course designed by Jerry Dougherty, of Bokeelia, Florida, to vie for their shot at glory.
The victory went to Christina Kelly of Keene, Kentucky, and Corona 93, owned by Raylyn Farms, Inc. Kelly navigated through a clear first round in true jumper fashion with precision and power to advance. The agile team moved swiftly through the jump-off to a fault-free finish of 43.634 to take home the $7,500 prize.
Laura Linbeck and Whittaker MVNZ, owned by Woodrun, claimed the second-place title and took home $5,500. The equestrian from Mundelein, Illinois, piloted her mount through the first round to proceed to the jump-off where the team finished in a cool, clear round of 44.780.
Third-place was Gemma Paternoster of Wellington, Florida, and her horse Zonneglans. They progressed to the jump-off, clocking in with a fractionally longer time of 44.796 behind Linback to secure the third-place prize of $3,250.
Andrew Kocher of Lake St. Louis, Missouri, secured two spots in the top five. Kocher and Uppie De Lis, owned by BTS Entertainment and Sales, finished fourth in the tight race for victory, finishing the jump-off fault-free in 45.578. The horseman also finished in fifth-place in 46.793 and no faults with his horse Le Conte, earning prizes of $2,000 and $1,500, respectively.
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