Holly Shepard and H J Hercules Triumph in $50,000 HITS Grand Prix at Equifest III

Wayne, Ill. – August 14, 2022 – The final week of Equifest at HITS Chicago ended with an exciting finale for Holly Shepard, who hastened to victory with H J Hercules in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix. The duo topped the two-horse jump-off ahead of Shannon Sullivan and Downtown’s Main Event. Shepard also took home the third-place prize with Warmachine as the fastest 4-faulter during the first round.

This marked the biggest win of H J Hercules’ five-year career with Shepard, who began riding the 8-year-old Argentine gelding when he was just 3. “We’ve brought him along this whole time,” explained Shepard. “He just started doing the grand prixs at the beginning of last year, but just really small ones. This year has been really his first serious grand prix year.”

Holly Shepard and H J Hercules. Photo by: Alison Hartwell

Jack Robson’s first-round track tested riders with an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination before they headed to some of the larger fences on the track, including a vertical-oxer double combination next to the gate before the final, airy vertical. Only two riders advanced to the jump-off, where the double combination was reversed, and they finished with a long bending gallop over the last two verticals.

Shepard was the first to return with H J Hercules and the duo was focused on being quick, but it came at the expense of a rail at the ‘B’ element of the combination. The pair put on the gas for the final three fences to cross the timers in 36.416 seconds.

“During the jump-off, I was trying to be clear and fast,” noted Shepard. “I jumped one and two and just got a little disorganized on the way to the in-and-out. He was a little green and didn’t back up enough. Then we just hustled around. He’s a little bit slow, but he covers the ground great, so I could just run him as fast as I could go. He really stepped up to the plate.”

Shannon Sullivan and Downtown's Main Event. Photo by: Alison Hartwell

Sullivan and Downtown’s Main Event were the next to return. They were able to catch Shepard’s time, but in doing so they lowered the height of the combination and the final vertical for 8 faults in 35.761 for second place. During the first round, Shepard was quick enough with her second mount, Warmachine, to be the fastest 4-faulter and secure the third-place award.

Holly Shepard and Warmachine. Photo by: Alison Hartwell

For Shepard, having H J Hercules’ first grand prix win at Lamplight Equestrian Center was extra special because she has not missed the show in 12 years. “I love this horse show,” she smiled. “It’s such a wonderful boutique horse show. The people are very nice, the facility is beautiful, and the weather has been great. It’s my favorite horse show!”

Only one week of competition remains for the 2022 show season at Lamplight Equestrian Center. Riders will return September 14-18 for the Lamplight Fall Classic, which will feature the M&S Insurance League Finals – Midwest, as well as the USHJA Zone 5 HITY Championship and the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix. For more information or to submit your entry click here.

Holly Shepard and H J Hercules. Photo by: Alison Hartwell