April 2016 - Winner's Circle
Written by CRM
Thursday, 31 March 2016 03:03

Aubrey Kahlua and trainer Scot Lico after a strong showing in the Childrens/AA Classic. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Thermal Finale

East Coasters make their treks worthwhile with wins in the big jumper and hunter classes that closed the HITS Thermal Desert Circuit. McLain Ward and Sagamore Farms’ Rothchild logged the win in Sunday’s AIG $1 Million Grand Prix and Kelley Farmer rode three horses to the one, two and three spots in Saturday’s $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.

The weather was hot and sunny, the crowds were large and appreciative and the competition top notch to close out the winter circuit on a high note.

McLain Ward & Rothchild win and take $350,000 in prize money. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Charlie Jayne and Chill RZ race to a red ribbon and $200,000 purse. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Two-time Olympic gold medalist, McLain Ward, and Sagamore Farms’ Rothchild, rose to challenge a top-notch field of 33 riders, including Ocala’s 2015 Great American Million winner Charlie Jayne, to claim a prestigious victory by going double-clear on a challenging course in the first Jewel in the HITS Triple Crown of Show Jumping, the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix. This is Ward’s third HITS Million Grand Prix win: the first was with his long-time partner Sapphire in Saugerties in 2010 and the second two years later on Antares F.

The 2016 HITS Desert Circuit was in its final week of the season as an electric crowd descended upon HITS Desert Horse Park to witness the grand finale of the winter show circuit. A large spectator crowd filled the grandstand.

Complete with a sold-out VIP club and thousands viewing a live United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Network webcast, featured on HITS TV, competitors did not disappoint their fans as the showdown for an AIG $1 Million Grand Prix win unfolded.

“I try to be fair to everyone, and a Grand Prix of this magnitude should have a sense of achievement,” said course designer Alan Wade of Ireland in regards to his 17-effort course built for both the seasoned competitor and Million new-comer. “The distances for the most part are straight forward but whether you jumped clear or had a rail, I want riders to walk away feeling like they learned something or their horse learned something.”

Third place finisher Jonathan McCrea and Aristote les V. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

7th place finishers Kristin Harding and Firestone. Like several but not all riders, Kristin is wearing one of the polo shirts provided by sponsor AIG to combat the 95 degree heat. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Ward, Jayne and Jonathan McCrea were the only three to go clear, and they wound up 1, 2 and 3 after the jump-off. The highest placing West Coast-based pair, Eric Navet and Catypso, was almost among them but for a time fault that left them out of the jump-off and in fourth place. Ward took home $350,000 for the win; Jayne $200,000; McCrea, $120,000, and all three were then off to the next stop in HITS’ Triple Crown, another Million Grand Prix in Ocala, FL, the very next Sunday, March 27. The exciting series culminates in Saugerties in September. Both are available for living viewing via HITS-TV.

Those who watched the Thermal AIG Million from home had the fun treat of Rich Fellers joining veteran commentator Mike Moran in the announcer’s booth. Rich was set to leave for the World Cup Finals in Sweden the following week, so not contesting the class, but his low-key, wise observations enhanced at-home viewership greatly.

Kelly Farmer Rides Top Three Hunters

Hunters enjoyed their equivalent of the big jumper class on Saturday, March 19, with the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Virginia-based Kelley Farmer garnered all top three spots just a few weeks after making the same sweep in the Derby at the HITS Ocala Masters.

Farmer garnered the win with Baltimore, owned by Jane Gaston, who herself is an accomplished amateur hunter rider. Baltimore was Farmer’s second-place mount of the Derby at the HITS Ocala Masters. At Thermal, Farmer also placed second with Publicized, owned by Amanda Hone and third-place with Kensel, LLC’s Mindful, the winner of the Derby at the HITS Ocala Masters.

Kelley Farmer and Baltimore on their way to a $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby win. Photo: ESI Photography

Rian Beals of Saugerties, NY set a beautiful course in the HITS Grand Prix stadium with 13 all natural-type hunter jumps elegantly decorated. An extra-long natural tree jump across the middle of the ring, which horses jumped beautifully, was an eye-catcher and spectator and rider favorite. Larry Glefke, the trainer of all three winning mounts said the course “was one of the best Derby courses we have seen” this year.

“When we came out for the Derby in Thermal in November, it was one of the nicest classes we’ve been to and the Ocala class was exceptional also,” said Glefke. “The footing is beautiful, the accommodations have been great, and we’re grateful to [HITS President and CEO] Tom Struzzieri for stepping up and doing these classes—it’s a wonderful thing for the industry.”

West Coast horses and riders had good showings in the field of 39 contenders. Nick Haness and West Coast Equine Partners’ Spot On were fourth; Hugh Mutch and Naomi Rubin’s Bunistar were fifth; and John French and Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Gesture were sixth. Hunter ring stars Hope Glynn and Karen Trione’s Full Circle and Jennny Karazissis and Gail Haft’s Tip Top also finished in the top 10.

Report excerpted from HITS press releases. For complete results, visit www.hitsshows.com.


Gregoire Solente and his Hunter Derby winner, Broadway Bound (owned by Nancy Coker) at the SCHC Valentine Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.









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