March 16, 2024 – Ocala, FL – The energy was high at HITS Post Time Farm on Saturday morning as spectators and exhibitors anxiously anticipated the day’s featured event. Wrapping up its final few weeks of competition, the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit has seen fierce riding across all disciplines and that continued to prove true in the $75,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix. Out of the jump off field, Sharn Wordley (NZL) emerged victorious, again, on Hagelin. Catsy Cruz (MEX) designed both the first round and short course which saw just over two dozen entries in the starting field. That number dwindled to eight and Wordley managed to qualify two of those entries, giving himself a good shot at the title. While four combinations posted a double clear effort, Wordley’s time of 39.97 seconds on Della Wordley’s 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Stolzenberg) , bested the rest. 

“Hagelin is a new horse for me,” explained Wordley. “He’s done two grand prixs here and he’s won both of them. He’s incredibly fast. To beat Kristen and Frosty, when she didn’t really leave much on the table, is really hard to do and this is the only horse that I’ve ridden in a long time that could get it done.”Wordley’s winning execution of the course came partially from Hagelin’s footspeed and partially from strategy, having watched Vanderveen and devising a plan that he hoped would be enough. 

“I figured if I went wider to the nine strides then my footspeed would be faster down the line,” he explained. “That was the only place I could see to beat her.” Hometown hero Kristen Vanderveen (USA) and Bull Run Jumpers Five LLC’s 19-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion (Berlin), Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili, gave it their best but clocked in mere milliseconds over Wordley’s time to take the runner up position with a time of 40.14 seconds. Amateur competitor Hayley Waters Wear (USA) earned the final spot in the victory gallop after she crossed the timers with Dana Waters’ 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Lux Z), Over Lux, in 40.70 seconds. 

The final day of jumper competition during the ninth week of the circuit will resume on Sunday, March 17, 2024 as athletes prepare for a wide array of junior and amateur jumper classics as well as the $24,500 Horseflight Jumper Classic. For a full list of the day’s results, please visit www.showmanagementsystem.comMorgan Ward Wins $5,000 SmartPak USHJA National Hunter Derby with MTM Coconut

On the heels of the $40,000 Great American USHJA International Hunter Derby, two more hunter derbies took to center stage of Hunter One on Friday afternoon. Seventeen pairings participated in the $5,000 SmartPak USHJA National Hunter Derby and an equal number of junior and amateur riders then followed in the $5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby. Each derby was held in the classic format which invited all competitors into the arena for their classic round followed by a handy round from the top twelve highest-scoring combinations. The afternoon featured the open derby first where young professional Morgan Ward once again took the leading call, this time aboard MTM Coconut. 

Ward brought forward both her longtime derby mount Comissario as well as Ariella Gesthalter’s 10-year-old Westphalian mare (Capilano), MTM Coconut, but it was the latter that managed to achieve the highest score. Still never one to be counted out, Comissario came forward with another beautiful trip to take third in the class. “This is a new ride for me so I just wanted to have a good round,” explained Ward. “I only got her two weeks ago but she is just super smooth and easy; she jumps fantastic and with great expression but I think what helped me most in the first round is that her rhythm never changes.” 

While Ward has been a staple in the winner’s circle with her 19-year-old Warmblood gelding (Calido) Comissario, she has high hopes for the mare to join them in the spotlight. “She’s similar to Comissario in a way,” she added. “They are both a little lazy but so brave to the fences that I always know I can take a chance. I trust him [Comissario] a little bit more in the handy rounds right now because I know him better, but I think she will be a top contender in future classes right alongside him.”

Splitting the difference was Abigail Davenport’s 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Casall Ask), MTM Exceptional, and Dorrie Douglas as the pair produced an all-female victory gallop and earned the reserve honors. 

Junior/Amateur competition also congratulated an all-female podium led by Sophia Welniak and Denero. The pair put forward the best performance over the two rounds of competition to earn the blue ribbon and the largest portion of the prize. 

“Denero is one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden, and we’ve grown a very special bond,” Welniak gushed of the Ssam Equine LLC’s 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (De Niro). “He is amazing and incredibly smooth. 

“The course today was lovely and everything came up so nicely,” she continued. “The handy round was super fun because there were some challenging elements but it really made it eventful. I made sure to watch the open class first, especially the handy round, to know what path to take.”

Finley Mattos and her eight-year-old KWPN gelding (Diarado), Liarado J.P., jumped into second place, while Chelsea Kasper piloted her 16-year-old Holsteiner mare (Cristo), Miss Mo, into third.

Derby competition continued into Saturday afternoon as the final two junior and amateur level events took place. Maylie Gowe and Canterbury Farm’s 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Tenerife VDL), Donder, dominated in the day’s Bit O’Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby.

Seventeen combinations rounded out the day in the Tiny Bit O’ 2’0” Hunter Derby, presented by Mrs. Pasture’s Cookies, where Clara Mass and her own Tuck Me In once again led the final lap of honor.