Jan. 27, 2024 – Ocala, FL – Another sunny day set the stage for Saturday’s premiere event, the $75,000 Summit Joint Performance Grand Prix, during the second week of the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit as weekend competition commenced. Athletes and spectators made their way to the Grand Prix ring at HITS Post Time Farm where 16 pairings prepared to compete for the victor’s share of the prize money.

Six entries out of the original starting field managed to successfully navigate Ivan Tagle’s (ARG) first round track and make their bid for the jump off, while a large portion of the competitors fell victim to one unfortunate rail. A triple combination towards the end of the course caused noticeable challenges for a handful of those that didn’t move on, but seemed to present no threat to the athletes that ended their efforts fault-free including Lisa Goldman-Smolen (USA), Hayley Waters Wear (USA), and last week’s winner, Kristen Vanderveen (USA).

The jump off track proved to include more difficult questions and at the class’s end only two entries managed to find their way to a double-clean effort. Not known as the queen of speed for nothing, Vanderveen brought forward longtime partner Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili and easily collected the win with a six-second lead. The pair blazed through the timers in 40.85 seconds to easily overthrow Declan Egan’s (USA) previous leading time of 46.40 with Renkum A’toast. “I love today, I love winning,” Vanderveen laughed. “We had a smaller number of entries today, so I thought the course designer did a really nice job with getting the right amount clear and still putting enough careful objects in there where it still rode tough enough.

“I actually did think the triple combination was going to ride a little difficult, and it did prove to be the case,” she continued, “that was the only part that rose a little bit up inside the course and was maybe surprising at the end because the horses had to try quite hard at the B element.”While Vanderveen competes across the country, she calls Ocala her home base in the winter and has been happy to return to HITS.

“It’s really nice to come here,” she mentioned. “The footing was great and the horses like the atmosphere here. The morning class is really fantastic; it’s a great way to do a Saturday.”As the only other pair to come home fault-free, Egan and his own 12-year-old Warmblood gelding (Cheers Cassini) followed Vanderveen in the victory gallop. Goldman-Smolen and Barbara Disko’s 18-year-old Selle Francais stallion (Frontal), Sovereign, joined Vanderveen and Egan as the fastest four-falter with a time of 41.49 seconds.

The official standings for the STX Open Speed Series debuted yesterday as Madison Kondracki piloted Onyx into the lead of the $15,000 STX Open Speed class during Week II and therefore into the lead of the series. Running throughout the ten weeks of HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, the series awards points to the top six riders in each week’s class and will offer the winner a stunning new STX standing tack box!

MTM Truffle and Kristen Bumpus Take Top Call in $5,000 Smartpak USHJA National Hunter Derby

Friday’s hunter ring highlight at the HITS Post Time Farm came in the form of the $5,000 Smartpak USHJA National Hunter Derby where 30 combinations contested the Classic round track. Of the original starting field, twelve entries returned for the handy phase where Kristen Bumpus expertly piloted Cambrie Findeisen’s nine-year-old Warmblood gelding (Coleman), MTM Truffle to the prime position. Brick City Equestrian LLC‘s eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Stakkato Gold), Soundcheck, and Jennifer Jones took to the reserve honors, while Alexa Bayko piloted Lily Rusis’s 17-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Clinton), Set Sail, comfortably into third.

“I only rode this horse for the first time in last week’s derby,” she explained. “I had a little trouble keeping him straight, so today I focused more on his straightness and that seemed to work out well because he was fabulous in the first round.

“I was a little conservative in last week’s handy round, but knowing how good he was in round one today I had a feeling I could be a little more slick,” she continued. “The course rode beautifully and I had a definite plan for him.”

Hunter competition continued into the weekend with the Bit O’ Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby and the Tiny Bit O’ 2’0” Hunter Derby. Clare Friedlander produced a beautiful effort aboard  Earl Grey to take home the highest honors in the $750 Bit O’ Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby.

Baccarat Rouge led the lap of honor in the $500 Tiny Bit O’ 2’0” Hunter Derby with Alice Giannetta in the irons as derby competition concluded for another weekend.