CULPEPER, VA (August 19, 2001)--Mark Leone, 39, of Oakland, New Jersey, riding Casino, won the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix at the Winston National Horse Show in Culpeper, Virginia, today, besting a field of 31 entries. In a four-horse Jump-Off, Leone was the faster of only two double-clears, beating Lynne Little of Frederick, Maryland, on Comtessa X by more than a second. Leone, a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team, has represented the USA at 10 World Cup Finals and 28 Nations Cups. Casino, a 15-year-old German-bred gelding by Polydor, earned $15,000 for his owner, Leone's Ri-Arm Farm. Buddy Brown of Wellington, Florida, designed the course. The Winston National is the fourth of six shows in the HITS Culpeper series held from May to September at Commonwealth Park.
On the Round One course, Brown allowed riders 94 seconds to jump 16 obstacles that included three double combinations--Fence Nos. 4, 8, and 10. The highest jump on course was the 5' 3" triple bar at No. 9. Riders had rails down at every fence except No. 7, the water. Fence No. 11 caused the most faults--12 horses were unable to clear the 5' wide oxer with its uneven rails set at 4' 9" and 4' 10". Two riders voluntarily withdrew on course. Three riders were eliminated in falls, including Todd Minikus who rode four horses in the class and qualified one for the Jump-Off, and Lynne Little, who rode three horses and qualified two for the Jump-Off.
Leone had two entries in Round One and accumulated the most faults of any horse that completed the course with his first ride on Safari owned by Ri-Arm Farm, tumbling lumber at five fences for a total of 20 faults before posting his clear round on Casino. Leone said that there were some experienced horses in the class and some developing ones and that he knew it would be a tough course for Safari, who was the first horse to try the course. "The reality is, I knew it was a lot of course for him," said Leone. "Fence 4AB was a tricky double. Fence 6 was an airy vertical to open face water that got everybody unsettled. It was very tough. Horses stared right through it. At the triple bar some horses and riders became disunited. Fence 10AB caused a lot of trouble. On my first horse I mis-rode 10AB, the yellow in-and-out. It's hard to go from a poor performance, but I've been doing this for 20 years and was able to move on to the next horse. This is my fifth year with Casino. We've been to the World Cups and Nations Cups, so it's like putting on an old pair of loafers--very comfortable. The in-and-out didn't faze him."
Brown's nine-obstacle Jump-Off required riders to complete the test in 50 seconds. The shortened course began with Fence Nos. 1, 2, and 3 from Round One, then turned sharply left to pick up the course at No. 9 and continued with the Round One track--a rollback to the double at No. 10, a short gallop to the oxer at No. 11, a long gallop to the 4' 11" vertical at No. 12 and a final run to the 5' wide oxer at No. 13.
First to go in the Jump-Off was Little on Comtessa X who set the pace with a clear round in 43.580, which ended up being second place. Comtessa X earned $11,000 for her owners, Little's Raylyn Farm and M. Sayanne. Leone was next in the order of go and snatched the lead from Little with his clear on Casino in 41.934, which proved to be unbeatable. Minikus of Loxahatchee, Florida, was the third rider on course and challenged the leader with What Nu, but after incurring faults at No. 9 and No. 10, he voluntarily withdrew on course, relegating him to fourth place and a paycheck of $4,000 for owner Amy Lefferdink. Last to go was Little who returned to the ring this time with the stallion Lassango owned by Raylyn Farm and Marilyn Little, Lynne's daughter. Little went all out to recapture her lead, but Lassango had a rail at the second-to-last fence for four faults in 43.639, earning third place and $6,500.
"I saw some of Lynne's first ride when I was finishing schooling," said Leone. "For sure I knew I could get the time. Her time was not unbeatable. Casino gave me everything I wanted. I also had Todd Minikus right behind me who has been winning a lot lately. I had to put pressure on Todd. He had a misstep at the triple bar and that was it. Lynne took a stab at it with her last ride, but didn't catch me."
Leone purchased Casino in 1996. "I've won four Grand Prix, won two World Cup qualifiers, competed for the USET in two World Cups and seven Nations Cups with him," said Leone. "He had an injury in mid-1999, so he was out for nine months. He came back and we went to Florida, but then he was out on injury from the end of March to July. Our first competition was here at HITS Culpeper in July. He's feeling good now. Both horse and rider were a little rusty at first."
Leone said that he has been keeping track of his standings in the Cosequin® U.S. Grand Prix League and was aware that he had been borderline to qualify for the $100,000 Cosequin® USGPL Invitational Grand Prix to be held on September 30 at Commonwealth Park. "Now I'm qualified for the Final," he said. "I'm pleased and anxious to compete." Leone added that he had not selected which of three mounts he would ride in the Final--Casino, Aalsmeer's Enterprize, or Pinkata de Longpre, the horse that he rode in last year's Final in which he placed 10th.
The next horse show in this series is the Constitution Classic from August 22-26. HITS Commonwealth Park is located on Rte. 522, 3.5 miles south of the junction with Rte. 3 in Culpeper, Virginia. During HITS Culpeper horse shows, telephone 540-825-7469 for more information.
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$50,000 HITS Grand Prix, August 19, 2001 HITS Culpeper IV, Culpeper, Virginia
Course Designer: Buddy Brown
Pl#/Horse/Rider/Owner/Prize Money/Rd 1 Faults/J-O Faults & Time
1/Casino/Mark Leone/Ri Arm Farm/$15,000/0/0-41.934
2/Comtessa X/Lynne Little/Raylyn Farm & M Sayanne/$11,000/0/0-43.580
3/Lassango/Lynne Little/Raylyn Farm & Marilyn Little/$6,500/0/4-43.639
4/What Nu/Todd Minikus/Amy Lefferdink/$4,000/0/VW
5/Oh Star/Todd Minikus/Todd Minikus Ltd./$3,000/4/NA
6/Darling Star/Christopher Cawley/Robin Hammel Johnson/$2,500/4/NA
7/Hidden Creek's Limerick/Margie Engel/Hidden Creek Farm/$2,000/4/NA
8/Argus/Tracy Bartko/M&M John Bartko/$1,500/4/NA
9/Freedom Z/Robin Sweely/Acorn Hill Farm Inc./$1,500/4/NA
10/Lancelot Z/Joe Fargis/Mary B Schwab & Oeji Farms LLC/$1,000/NA
11/Lancier 4/Jimmy Torano/Sir Ruly Inc/$1,000/4/NA
12/Graf Rossini S/Mary Nicholson-Leffler/M&M Bruce Chovnick/$1,000/8/NA
Number of horses who competed in this class: 31
Class Prize Money: $50,000