Saugerties, NY: The grand finale of an exciting first week at HITS-on-the-Hudson commenced with the $75,000 HITS Grand Prix.
A talented field of exhibitors tested the course designed by Marina Azevedo of Campinas, Brazil, but only two would advance to the jump-off to compete for the blue. The victor would prove to be Leslie Burr Howard of Darien, Connecticut, and Up and Blue Chappelle, owned by Peter and Gabriel Guerra Howard.
“The course designer, Marina, has been doing a great job this week,” said Howard. “This course was laid out thoughtfully; today wasn’t too big but it was tricky enough, especially for this amount of prize money, which is great to jump for. All the classes have been super—it’s not too big, not too little, and it’s planned well in where the jumps were placed.”
Sarah Segal of Flemington, New Jersey, was first to challenge the first round of jumping efforts with Ubris, owned by Chartwell. A rail at the vertical immediately following the mid-course triple combination kept them out of the jump-off, but as the fastest pair with four faults in 77.209, they ultimately landed in third-place.
Three trips passed before Wellington, Florida, equestrian Jimmy Torano piloted Daydream, co-owned with Danielle Torano, to the first fault-free trip of the first-round, proving the course could be conquered.
Following Torano’s first round, several valiant rides took their chance at the course, including fourth-place Matthew Williams of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, aboard Cuchica, owned by Wyndmont, Inc. Williams clocked in with four faults in 78.840.
Christine McCrea of East Windsor, Connecticut, also made the top five piloting Wannick WH, owned by Candy Tribble and Windsor Show Stables, Inc. They passed the timers with four faults in 79.025 just behind Williams for the fifth-place prize.
It looked as though Torano had it in the bag with a clear round, until Howard took her turn at the course. The crowd cheered with excitement when they clocked in clear, providing the class with a jump-off.
It was down to Torano and Howard, both seasoned competitors with a plethora of grand prix wins and titles under their belts. Howard, an Olympic Gold and Silver medalist and Torano, with two prestigious rides in the 1999 and 2000 FEI World Cup Final would battle it out for the win.
Torano returned first, navigating the course efficiently as he and Daydream crossed the timers in 41.43.
Howard followed suit, knowing she and her mount needed to be clear and just a hair faster to take home the $22,500 winner’s share.
“My plan at first was just to watch Jimmy and if he was super-fast, I was not going to jump-off and just settle for second because she is young,” said Howard of her plan with Up and Blue Chapelle. “He was careful but not too quick—she was great.”
It was certainly a rewarding choice. Howard and her mount blazed through the timers fault-free in 39.884 to capture the win.
“She is a super mare,” said Howard after her victory. “She is very powerful and is settling into her prime. This was a great win.”
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com