Saugerties, New York, USA – May 26, 2023 – The new Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Stadium hosted its first feature event of the year on Friday during the $25,000 Hits Grand Prix. New Zealand’s Sharn Wordley (NZL) jumped to victory on his own Wordley Martin footing, besting an eight-horse jump-off aboard Valentine Car. Their speedy effort slid ahead of Diego Perez Bilbao (ESP) and Dialuna, who took home second, while pathfinders Lauren Fischer and Hello Besi earned the third-place award.
“It was a great experience jumping in the ring today,” smiled Wordley after his win. “The footing feels really good – best I could have hoped. The size of the ring rode really well and felt more modern. All my horses jumped really well today!”
Marina Azevedo (BRA) set an exacting track with a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination early in the course, an oxer-vertical double combination and a bending line to the final wide oxer. Eight riders mastered the first round and returned for the jump-off, where several rollback turns allowed them to make up time before they made their way to the same final bending line going away from the gate.
Lauren Fischer (USA) and Hello Besi were the first to return for the short course during Friday’s main event. Putting the pressure on the rest of the field, they were able to leave all the fences intact and set the time to beat at a tidy 49.048 seconds.
Wordley came close to catching her with his first mount, Cobalou, clearing the course in 50.449 seconds, which would hold up for fourth place.
One round later, the lead switched hands when Diego Perez Bilbao (ESP) and Dialuna dashed through the timers in a faultless 48.269 seconds.
His lead did not hold for long, though, as Sharn Wordley (NZL) returned with the very quick Valentine Car. Wordley laid on the gas with the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Fernando Cardenas, nimbly clearing each fence and breaking the beam in 46.384 seconds to go straight to the top of the leaderboard.
“My horse is just naturally very quick, and it was a long jump off with some long runs,” explained Wordley. “I added some steps from one to two, but everywhere else he’s naturally fast and only skims over the jumps too, which always helps. He’s not very rideable and he’s kind of shifty, but he’s so quick. He could be quicker if he let me ride him a bit more and he stayed straighter, but he’s just remarkably quick.”
Wordley is excited to be at Hits Saugerties and be a part of the team helping to create a new experience for the exhibitors. “I think the improvements speak for themselves,” he concluded. “What this team has accomplished in such a short period of time is quite extraordinary. I think they have lots of new things in store for the entire Hits program – it’s really exciting.”
Jumper action at Hits Saugerties will continue over the next two weeks of the Spring Series as part of the complete Hits-on-the-Hudson season, which runs through September at the world-class facility. The Saugerties Spring Series will feature a weekly $100,000 Grand Prix, in addition to the $25,000 Hits Grand Prix each Friday. Classics in the Junior/Amateur jumpers close out the week, in addition to the High, Low and Modified Children’s and Adult Jumper Classics, which are qualifiers for the Marshall & Sterling Insurance League Finals.
Final Results – $25,000 Hits Grand Prix
1) Sharn Wordley (NZL) & Valentine Car – 0 / 0 – 46.384
2) Diego Perez Bilbao (ESP) & Dialuna – 0 / 0 – 48.269
3) Lauren Fischer (USA) & Hello Besi – 0 / 0 – 49.048
Source: Press Release from Hits Horse Shows
Photos: © ESI Photography