David Connors Wins the $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby at HITS Ocala

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Ocala, FL - The sun was shining bright on Sunday at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida, as David Connors and Nadia, owned by Carol Stillwell, jumped the best score in two rounds to win the $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby. "She was excellent today!" exclaimed an ecstatic Connors of Ocala, Florida. "She was really loose, forward and dialed in." Connors and Nadia have improved upon their performance each week in the Devoucoux Derby, as the pair finished fourth in the class two weeks ago, and third last week.

Starting off the first round was an eager Patty Stovel on Kenya, owned by Shoal Creek Stables, Ltd., of Joplin, Missouri, setting the pace of the class with an impressive first-round score of 84. Stovel, from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, was one of 45 riders to take to the field in Sunday's featured hunter class.

Two trips later, David Connors took the irons to gain the lead and remain on top of the class with a first-round score of 89.

Looking to continue their undefeated streak, Kristen Bumpus of Concord, Massachusetts, and Hannah Curran's Inspired, the winners of the $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby for the past two weeks, were in hot pursuit of Connors and Nadia with a first round score of 87, looking to go head-to-head for the win in round two.

The top 12 riders returned for the next phase. Catherine Maher and Montego Bay got things started in the second round, earning 85 points to add to their score of 84.5 from the first phase for a total of 169.5. Maher held the lead until Connors, the very last rider of the class, outscored her by 3.5 points, leaving her to finish in second place.

Lauren Kissel and Janet Salem's Water Music were next to take to the course and the pair earned 82 points, giving them a total of 162.75 points for third place. Greg Prince and Caroline Kelley's Aramis were next and earned 80 points in the handy phase for a total of 162.5 and the fourth-place finish.

Bumpus was one of the last riders to compete and gave every effort to make it three in a row; however, a second-round score of 40 points settled her into 11th place, retiring her title as the undefeated champion in the class. "He [Inspired] seemed a little confused today when I asked him to jump outside of the ring – he was like what!?" explained Bumpus, who was still very proud of their performance.

Showing last in the second round was the winner, David Connors, who went into panic mode when Nadia threw an unlucky shoe. "I was panicking when she threw a shoe and I knew I needed to get it fixed quickly," explained Connors, who was watching carefully alongside Nadia from outside of the ring as she got a new shoe tacked on. “I practiced it quickly, went out there, and she was fine,” said Connors.

The $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby is the only class of the week that Nadia competes in. “I look forward to keep competing in this class – it’s a really great event,” said Connors.

Rounding out the top five was youngster Taylor Ann Adams and Pin-up, owned by Hilary Sheer Gerhardt. The duo earned an even 161 points for their efforts.

This year, the all-new Devoucoux Hunter Derby will be a featured event at both the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit and the HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California, and represents the 13th division to count for points in the Marshall & Sterling League. In addition to the $10,000 classes at HITS winter shows in Ocala and Thermal, qualifying classes for the Devoucoux Hunter Derby will also be offered at the HITS Culpeper and HITS Saugerties shows this spring and summer. HITS has also invited a select number of additional horse shows in the Northeast to add the Devoucoux Hunter Derby to their show schedules in order to facilitate the growth of the class and to provide further qualifying opportunities for the Marshall & Sterling League National Finals. The Devoucoux Hunter Derby Finals will be offered at the 2010 Marshall & Sterling League National Finals on September 16-19 in Saugerties, New York. For a complete list of horse shows offering the Devoucoux Hunter Derby for Marshall & Sterling points, please click here.

Show jumping at HITS Post Time Farm continues this week with the Ocala Tournament from March 2 – 7, featuring a full lineup of exciting classes and two more qualifying Grand Prix classes for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, including Thursday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, and Sunday's $50,000 Ring Power Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. It also will be an exciting week for hunters as well with the $5,000 Children’s Hunter Classic on Saturday evening, followed by the next installment of the $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby on Sunday afternoon.

In order to qualify for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, a rider must compete in eight or more HITS Grand Prix classes. The top 40 riders, based on money won by horse/rider combination, will be eligible to ride for the Pfizer Million. For more detailed information on the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, please visit our website at HitsShows.com.

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 Credit: David Connors and Nadia on course in the $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby at HITS Ocala.
David Connors and Nadia are congratulated for their impressive win in Sunday's $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby at HITS Ocala.  © ESI Photography.