Ocala, Florida, USA – March 14, 2021 – The Ocala Winter Finals have long served to be a big week for Hunters at the Hits Ocala Winter Circuit, featuring World Champion Hunter Rider Week and showcasing hunters in the Grand Prix Ring and Main Hunter Ring. This week featured the third $25,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, $1,500 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby, and top-notch Hunter competition in the ‘Horse Capital of the World’®. Along with spectacular Hunter competition, the Ocala Winter Finals hosted the $7,500 Marshall & Sterling Children’s and Adult Jumper Classics, $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix and $50,000 HITS Ocala Grand Prix in the Stadium.
With just two weeks left in the Circuit, riders are giving it their all in an effort to earn points toward the Tack Shack of Ocala 2nd-Half Circuit and Pyranha Overall Circuit Awards, which will be presented at the Ocala Championship (X), Sunday, March 28, prior to the seventh Great American $1 Million Grand Prix – watch live on ShowHorse TV!
Sunday featured the $50,000 Hits Ocala Grand Prix where 14 riders jumped clear in the first round over a course designed by Oscar Soberon of Wellington, Florida. Marking another win in what turned out to be a very fast and exciting jump-off was Aaron Vale (USA) piloting M Lebron for Thinkslikeahorse. Vale crossed the timers in 36.260, slipping in to the leading position by a full second for his fourth Sunday Grand Prix victory of the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit.
Brian Feigus (USA) and Igor Van de Heibos (Lord Z x Lys de Darmen) were the closest ones, finishing second only due to their final time of 37.49 seconds.
The difference between the runners-up and the third-place finishers was even lower. Hunter Holloway (USA) and Eastern Jam (Lexicon x Monaco) had another double-clear day, rounding out the top three in 37.73 seconds.
Vale and M Lebron claimed the top spot in the $5,000 Open Welcome at the Huts Ocala Masters (VI) and Hits Ocala Tournament (VII), but Sunday’s Grand Prix was one of the biggest so far for the bay gelding. “Today’s course really suited Lebron,” Vale said. “He’s quick across the ground but is still learning to be fast in the turns. I was able to just gently guide him around the jump-off course, and he ended up faster than I expected. I’m really proud of how he performed today.”
Final Results – $ 50,000 Hits Grand Prix
1) Aaron Vale (USA) & M Lebron – 0 / 0 – 36.26
2) Brian Feigus (USA) & Igor Van de Heibos – 0 / 0 – 37.49
3) Hunter Holloway (USA) & Eastern Jam – 0 / 0 – 37.73
Source: Press Release from Hits Horse Show
Photos: © ESI Photography