Ocala, FL - The opening $25,000 HITS Grand Prix of the AA-rated six-week HITS Ocala Winter Circuit was captured by none other than Laura Linback and As Di Villagana, reigning champs from the 2009 $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group.
Linback, of Mundelien, Illinois, was joined by 24 other riders who were looking to take home the blue in the rated season's first Grand Prix. At the start of the class, all eyes were on Callan Solem and Allison who, during the pre-circuit, won back-to-back $25,000 HITS Grand Prix classes, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. The duo looked to continue their Grand Prix winning streak, but with seven faults in the first round they would have to settle for a 12th-place finish.
International Course Designer Leopoldo Palacios set a beautiful and challenging course that produced five riders for the jump-off.
The first of five to go in the jump-off was Andre Thieme of Germany, riding Aragon Rouet. Thieme unfortunately went off course, which left the four remaining riders a chance to take home the blue. Texas native Tracy Fenney and MTM Timon were next in line and, thanks to a quick and clean round, set the Great American Time to beat at 46.428 seconds. After Fenney set the Time to Beat, Michael McCormick of Flower Mound, Texas riding MTM Remington were looking to take the lead; however, they had a rail down on the second to last fence and had to settle for fourth place. Ocala's own Libby McKinney was next to go aboard Gus Du Desfi. The pair jumped clean in 48.041 seconds to secure third place.
Linback was last of five to show in the jump-off. Picking up right where they last left off, the pair raced through the course shaving just about three seconds off of Fenney's time to take the lead with a time of 43.479 seconds and the check for $7,500.
"This was a great win for us," said Linback. "We are very happy to be back in Ocala jumping outdoors after being inside for the past several months in Chicago. It was nice to get a win on the first real go of the season. As Di Villagana was spot on today, which was good because it was a competitive field. Tracy [Fenney] is hard to beat, so I just made sure to be forward and in a good position with poise. In the schooling ring I could tell my horse was feeling good and ready to take it. He likes the big ring here in Ocala. The footing was beautiful and the course was perfect."
Linback now has three Grand Prix classes toward the eight needed to initially qualify for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix which will take place on September 12 at HITS-on-the-Hudson, in Saugerties, New York. She has planned a measured approach to the season and will show in each of the remaining Grand Prix classes at HITS Ocala. Linback and the rest of the High-Performance riders at HITS Ocala will have 11 more opportunities to qualify for the Pfizer Million, starting with Sunday's $50,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
Missed the Grand Prix action? That’s alright – you can watch every Grand Prix at HITS this season on Galopando TV at www.galopandotv.com, either live during the event for a small fee or after the event for no charge. At any time throughout the year, viewers can watch select competitions from HITS Ocala.
$2,500 Brook Ledge Open Welcome
Maryland native Tracy Magness and Tarco Van Ter Moude took home the blue in Wednesday's $2,500 Brook Ledge Open Welcome. Happy to have escaped back-to-back snow storms that dumped a record 30+ inches in Maryland, Magness and her horses have been in Ocala since January gearing up for the rated circuit.
"This week, I used the Brook Ledge class as a Grand Prix warm up for Tarco and me," said Magness. "It was exciting to win on the first day of showing to get us started for the season. Leopoldo set a beautiful course in the Grand Prix ring. The footing was fantastic and the new jumps are terrific."
Magness plans to use the weekly Brook Ledge class to help her new horse EuroHorse Carrera gain experience. "She's my new horse and is eight years old. We earned our first ribbons together this week in the Level 5, 6 and the YJC 7 & 8 Year Old Class, so that was fun. Soon, I'm hoping to move her up soon to the Brook Ledge."
Derek Petersen and Heaven Bound took second, while Solem and Warsaw finished in third place.
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.
$25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
PLACING HORSE RIDER OWNER PRIZE MONEY RD 1 FAULTS JO FAULTS JO TIME
1 As Di Villagana Laura Linback Woodrun $7,500 0 0 43.479
2 MTM Timon Tracy Fenney MTM Farm $5,500 0 0 46.428
3 Gun Du Desfi Libby McKinney Libby McKinney $3,250 0 0 48.041
4 MTM Remington Michael McCormick MTM Farm $2,000 0 4 47.884
5 Aragon Rouet Andre Thieme Andre Thieme $1,500 0 Off-Course
6 Chambacunero Manuel Torres TG Show Stables $1,250 1
7 Marcus Aurelius David Jennings David Jennings $1,000 4
8 Nacorde Andre Thieme Andre Thieme $750 4
9 Cadence Megan Edrick Procedures, Inc. $750 4
10 Landos II Henri Kovacs Plain Bay Farm $500 4
11 Divine Diva Michelle Vandal Michelle Vandal $500 4
12 Allison Callan Solem Quiet Winter Farm $500 7
Photos: (Top) Laura Linback and As Di Villagana make fast work of Leopoldo Palacios' course in Thursday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, in Ocala.
(Center) Linback and As Di Villagana are congratulated by a husband Troy Linback, Amy Gillow, and a friend after winning the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
(End) Tracy Magness and Tarco Van Ter Moude enjoy their moment in the winners' circle with Lucy McKinney, Bruce Ginsberg from Brook Ledge and a friend after taking the blue in the $2,500 Brook Ledge Open Welcome at HITS Ocala.
All photos © ESI Photography.