Ocala, Florida, USA – March 10, 2023 – Tom Foley (IRL) had all the answers during Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at Hits Ocala. He produced the only double clear effort of the day with Ibalius SMH to garner the winning title, and also had the only 4-fault effort during the jump-off with Idalgo to take home the second place prize. With such a successful day already in the books, Foley is now focused on Sunday’s $100,000 Purina Grand Prix.
“Ibalius is pretty new to me,” noted Foley. “I’ve only done a handful of classes on him. I showed him here last week and he was fifth on Sunday. He’s stepping up to this level, to the 1.50m, so it was a great result for him and the owner was here too, so it was great for both horses.”
Jamie Morillo set a technical track for Friday’s main event in the Grand Prix, testing each rider with a vertical-oxer double combination, a liverpool vertical and an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination headed toward the gate before they had to turn to the final line. Only four were able clear the course without error and advance to the tiebreaker. Dominique Damico opted to save Chatinus for another day and earned the fourth-place prize. Paul Halpern and Esra placed third after going inside the timers during the short course, which would cause their elimination from the jump-off.
“The time allowed was a little on the snug side, so you had to think about that all the way around,” said Foley regarding the first round. “Some of the lines were set up where we could do seven or eight and you had to think about that along with the time allowed, which made it a little bit tricky. For my horses, obviously it suited them both, so for me, it worked out pretty well!”
Foley returned first with Ibalius SMH for owners Sher Al Farm, and while he knew he did not need to go all out, Foley kept a quick pace through the course and carefully left each rail intact, crossing the finish line in 44.318 seconds.
He returned next on his second mount, Idalgo, following a similar path but lowering the height of one of the verticals for 4 faults and second place.
“I knew I was going to win either way, and Idalgo was getting a little fast at the jumps for me,” explained Foley. “So I jumped him around the second round and let him learn to back up a little bit himself. He just felt a little fresh too, so another round just before Sunday was good for him.”
Foley concluded, “The improvements at HITS are great. I must say, the footing is great. My horses obviously love it, so we can’t complain about it. We are really enjoying it here.”
Riders will return to the Grand Prix ring on Saturday for the $10,000 Post Time Classic and Sunday for the $100,000 Purina 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) Tom Foley (IRL) & Ibalius SMH – 0 / 0 –
2) Tom Foley (IRL) & Idalgo – 0 / 0 –
3) Paul Halpern (USA) & Esra – 0 / 0 –
Source: Press Release from Hits Horse Shows
Photos: © Hits / ESI Photography