Ocala, Florida, USA – January 27, 2023 – The last in the class proved to be the best of the day during Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at HITS Ocala. Four combinations returned for the jump-off, and Savannah Unger (USA) had the advantage of going last aboard Fabio, speeding to victory with a second to spare. They clocked in just ahead of Callan Solem (USA) with Horion de Libersart, who placed second, while David Cameron (AUS) and Oaks Come by Chance took home the third-place prize.
Unger began riding Fabio six years ago, and together they have developed a very strong partnership. “My mom purchased him as a sale horse in Europe as a 7-year-old and when we bought him over, no one thought he would ever go past 1.30m except my mom,” noted Unger. “She kept saying, ‘Keep trying, keep trying, keep trying.’ Little by little, we kept moving up and we were able to just keep going up in the jumper classes.”
Canada’s Danny Foster (CAN) designed the track for Friday’s main event, which featured a triple combination early in the course and finished with a wide oxer going away from the gate. Four advanced to the short course, which began with several tight turns and finished with a rollback from a delicate vertical to the final oxer. Last week’s winning combination, Dorothy Douglas (USA) and MTM Caepten, were the first to return but dropped a rail jumping out of the combination for 4 faults.
Callan Solem (USA) was next with Horion de Libersart, and set the Great American time to beat after breaking the beam in a faultless 48.257 seconds.
David Cameron (AUS) tried to catch them with Oaks Come by Chance, but fell just shy after producing a clear effort in 48.645 seconds.
Savannah Unger (USA) and Fabio were the final pair to challenge Solem’s lead, and they laid it all on the line. The duo slipped inside to the penultimate vertical and then left a stride out to the final oxer to dash across the finish line in 47.121 seconds with all the rails intact to score the winning title..
“I think I had a good draw going last in and there were only four in the jump-off,” explained Unger. “Callan went right before me, and she put down a pretty good pace, so I knew I had to do pretty much her exact track and be a little bit quicker to the last jump. I took a risk going to the last jump, but I really ran as fast as I could there. I hoped I would get a good distance with a good rhythm, and it came up perfectly. From the combination, we went inside to the vertical, which Callan did as well, but I think I was just a bit quicker to the last.”
Unger concluded, “The new footing is fantastic! My horse is barefoot, and he felt phenomenal on the footing. He never gets sore here, we don’t ever slip, so I think for a horse jumping this big to be barefoot says a lot about the footing. It’s quite phenomenal!”
Riders will return to the Grand Prix Ring on Saturday for the $5,000 Post Time Classic and Sunday afternoon for the $50,000 Voltaire Grand Prix. The Overlook Club features the perfect view of the ring and is open to all, with a special brunch every Sunday for $45 per person. The season at HITS Ocala will culminate with the Great American $300,000 Grand Prix on Sunday, March 26, with one of the biggest purses in the country. Make sure to visit the horse show office or http://www.hitsshows.com for more information.
Final Results – $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix
1) Savannah Unger (USA) & Fabio – 0 / 0 – 47.121
2) Callan Solem (USA) & Horion De Libersart – 0 / 0 – 48.257
3) David Cameron (AUS) and Oaks Come by Chance – 0 / 0 – 48.645
Source: Press Release from Hits Shows
Photos: © ESI Photography