Saugerties, NY - Marie Hecart rode Top Stallion's Norton de Vains to a victory during the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, in the Strongid® C 2X Stadium on Friday afternoon to kick off the week for High-Performance Riders at the NY Horse & Pony Show at HITS-on-the-Hudson, in Saugerties, New York.
Hecart (Ridgefield, Connecticut) and Norton de Vains outlasted an impressive field of 46 starters to challenge course designer Jose 'Pepe' Gamarra's (Ellenton, Florida) first-round track and the 16 horse-and-rider teams that advanced to the jump-off round en route to collecting the first-place check of $7,500.
Seven pairs posted double-clear efforts including Hecart and Norton de Vains, who set the tone right from the start when they jumped clean in 30.150 to establish the Great American Time to Beat. "I love this horse," said Hecart. "He loves to go really fast and because I was the first to come back in the jump-off we had no choice. We really had to fly!"
"This horse, like all my horses, was raised in France and trained by my Dad, who is also my trainer. I have only had this horse for a month and we seem to be making a great pair," continued Hecart.
Hecart and Norton de Vains are a relatively new team. The horse arrived in the United States in June and was second in the Grand Prix last Sunday at HITS Saugerties. The dynamic duo will show in tomorrow's $125,000 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, as they look to inch closer to the eight Grand Prix classes needed to qualify for the historic Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix that will take place at HITS-on-the-Hudson on Sunday, September 12.
"I only started to qualify for the Pfizer Million recently, so I have to work hard to get all my eight classes done. Maybe I will have to win the Wild Card Class [on September 11] just to be sure," said Hecart.
Hecart and Norton de Vains' time received its biggest challenge when Kate Gerhart (Sellersville, Pennsylvania) posted a double-clear effort aboard Cathy Gerhart's Timo in 30.345 to secure second place.
Also jumping double-clear was Kent Farrington (Chicago, Illinois) aboard Haity McNerey's Valhalla. The pair crossed the timers in 30.981 to secure third place. For Farrington, it’s shaping up to be a nice week at HITS-on-the-Hudson as he rode Hillary McNeary's Vanhattan to the blue in the $10,000 Brook Ledge Open Welcome on Wednesday afternoon.
Finishing in fourth place was Sarah Segal (New York, New York) who rode Robert Segal's Ramses to a clear effort in the jump-off in 31.732. Andrew Bournes (Wellington, Florida) rode his own Gowran Park to a fifth-place finish when they stopped the clock in 31.852 to round out the top five placings in Friday's feature class.
Candice King (Wellington, Florida) and AAA Equestrian LLC's Toronto and Anne Kursinski (Frenchtown, New Jersey) and Carol Hoffman's Shibumi each jumped double clear to finish sixth and seventh, respectively. "I have been riding in the [Strongid® C 2x] Grand Prix arena all week and I think that [Course Designer] Pepe has done a great job with each of the courses he has set. They have been just right, not too hard for the younger horses but still challenging," said Hecart.
Hecart now has four of the eight Grand Prix classes needed to become eligible for the Pfizer Million and $17,000 in prize money won on her leading mount Myself De Breve. For several other riders Friday’s class marked their eighth Grand Prix of the season and they now enter the Pfizer Million Eligible Rider Rankings. McCrea enters the Top 40 in 16th, Farrington now ranks at 26th, Peter Leone (Greenwich, Connecticut) sits in 34th place, while Patty Stovel (Chester Spring, Pennsylvania) is just outside the Top 40 with $2,700.
Hecart’s win also pushed her to fourth place in the Catena Watch Leading Grand Prix Rider Award rankings with a total of 32 points. However, with 108 points, it will be difficult for anyone to displace current leader Margie Engle in the race to take home the coveted Catena Watch on Sunday, September 12.
High-Performance riders will have one more chance to qualify for the Pfizer Million at HITS Saugerties this summer, followed by two more chances at HITS Culpeper in August. The final two qualifiers for the Pfizer Million will take place at HITS Saugerties during Week VII, September 1-5. Week VIII at HITS Saugerties, September 8-11, will feature the one and only Wild Card class in the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier/Pfizer Million Wild Card Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. The winner of that class, if not already qualified, will earn a spot in the field for this historic class.
Show jumping at HITS Saugerties continues this weekend with an exciting lineup of classes and events, including the $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby on Saturday, August 7, the $10,000 Platinum Performance Equitation Classic on Sunday morning, and the $125,000 Strongid® C 2X, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, takes the center stage at 2 pm, on Sunday, August 8. HITS Official Radio Station WRWD will be onsite for Sunday's Grand Prix from 11 am until 1 pm with giveaways and prizes!
Socially speaking, exhibitors will be treated to a very special party tonight at Fletcher Gallery in Woodstock, New York as HITS celebrates the Gallery Opening of the inaugural HITS-on-the-Hudson Equestrian Art Exhibition & Auction. Equestrian themed artwork from 59 artists will be on display at the famed Woodstock art gallery from 6 to 9 pm this evening as Fletcher Gallery kicks off a month long gallery show of the Exhibition leading into the Pfizer Million weekend when the collection will move to HITS-on-the-Hudson. The Equine Art Auction will take place Friday evening, September 10 at the show grounds to raise money for FAMILY of Woodstock, Inc. and the participating artists. For more information or to request an invitation to the September 10 Auction, please contact Fletcher Gallery.
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, including ticket prices that include the special concert by music legend John Fogerty, 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 OWNER RIDER PRIZE MONEY RD 1 FAULTS JO FAULTS JO TIME
1 Norton De Vains Top Stallion Marie Hecart $7,500 0 0 30.150
2 Timo Cathy Gerhart Kate Gerhart $5,500 0 0 30.345
3 Valhalla Haity McNearney Kent Farrington $3,250 0 0 30.981
4 Ramses Robert Segal Sarah Segal $2,000 0 0 31.732
5 Gowran Park Andrew Bournes Andrew Bournes $1,500 0 0 31.852
6 Toronto AAA Equestrian LLC Candice King $1,250 0 0 32.431
7 Shibumi Carol Hoffman Anne Kursinski $1,000 0 0 34.326
8 UTAH The Utah Group Leslie Burr Howard $750 0 4 29.523
9 HH Manrique Double H Farm Quentin Judge $750 0 4 30.390
10 Balbout Junior Z Candy Tribble Christine McCrea $500 0 4 30.853
11 Athena The London Group Charlie Jayne $500 0 4 35.062
12 Victor E Candy Tribble Jonathan McCrea $500 0 4 35.434
Photos: Marie Hecart and Top Stallion's Norton de Vains in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. © ESI Photography.
Marie Hecart and Top Stallion's Norton de Vains are congratulated by HITS' Senior Vice President Tony HItchcock and HITS' Account Executive for Corporate Sponsorship Lisa Engel after winning the blue ribbon in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. © ESI Photography.
Kent Farrington and Vanhattan on course in Wednesday's $10,000 Brook Ledge Open Welcome at HITS Saugerties. © ESI Photography.