Ocala, Florida, USA – March 12, 2023 – An international lineup led the leaderboard during Sunday’s $100,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix at Hits Ocala. New Zeland’s Sharn Wordley (NZL) piloted Valentine Car to victory, besting a 10-horse jump-off with his speedy partner. Australia’s Rowan Willis (AUS) was just a second behind them with Primo Troy to earn the red rosette, while Canada’s Paul Halpern (CAN) placed third with Esra.
“Valentine Car is a fantastic horse,” smiled Wordley after his win. “He’s won a lot of FEI classes and a bunch of good grand prixs with me. He’s kind of a quirky ride, but he’s consistent and he’s very fast. When you get him to jump off, he’s right there.”
Wordley added, “He’s cocky and cheeky. I’ve fallen off him twice this month already. He spooks and spins and carries on like he’s 4 years old, but when he gets in the jump-off, he is all business.”
The opening course, designed by Jaime Morillo, featured a wide triple bar, an oxer-vertical double combination, and a final line that began with a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination bending to the last liverpool vertical. Ten advanced to the tiebreaker, which included the first part of the triple combination and the liverpool, before riders galloped home over the last bending line.
Andre Thieme (GER) was the first to post a second clear round with Candid 14, setting the Great American time to beat at 38.784 seconds, which would hold up for fourth place.
Rowan Willis (AUS) and Primo Troy were soon able best Thieme, crossing the finish line with two seconds to spare in a clear 36.345 seconds. However,their lead would not hold for long with Wordley next in the ring.
Sharn Wordley (NZL) and Valentine Car (Son Of Juan Car x Galiani Ch) had a fast gallop to the first oxer and made a very tight turn to the combination before leaving out a stride in the final line to break the beam in 35.453 seconds, going straight to the top of the leaderboard.
Paul Halpern (CAN) and Esra were next to compete and tried to catch Wordley, but their clear effort in 36.907 seconds would slide into the third place position, leaving Wordley to lead the lap of honor.
“[Valentine Car] is a really quick-moving horse, but he did a fast turn to the combination, which made up quite a bit of time,” explained Wordley. “He turned very tight and he was quite fast down the last line, but a lot of the horses were on a similar time, so it was a quick class.”
Wordley is one of the co-founders of Wordley Martin, who resurfaced four of the rings at Hits Ocala for the 2023 show season, and will be heading to HITS Saugerties to resurface three of the rings at that facility.
“I’m happy with all the progress that Hits has made here in a very short period of time,” concluded Wordley. “At Saugerties, we’re going to redo three of the main arenas, so that’s the main improvement, but we’re going to try to create a softer, more Adirondack feeling to the venue as well. It will be done in stages, but the first stage for the food area, the office and some of those public areas will make it a more inviting, warm place.”
Just two more weeks of jumper action remain at HITS Ocala before riders head north for the spring and summer show season. Next Sunday will feature the $100,000 Alliant Private Client Grand Prix, and the season culminates with the Great American $300,000 Grand Prix on Sunday, March 26, with one of the biggest purses in the country. Visit the horse show office or http://www.hitsshows.com for more information.
Final Results – $100,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix
1) Sharn Wordley (NZL) & Valentine Car – 0 / 0 –35.453
2) Rowan Willis (AUS) & Primo Troy – 0 / 0 – 35.453
3) Paul Halpern (CAN) & Esra – 0 / 0 – 36.907
Source: Press Release from Hits Horse Shows
Photos: © Hits Shows / ESI Photography