OCALA, FL (January 15, 2009)—The ‘Horse Capital of the World’ is jumping again as the 2009 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit kicked off yesterday with the first of two unrated weeks of equestrian competition at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida.
Exhibitors from all over the world will be calling HITS Ocala home this winter, including Oscar Hernandez who came all the way from Costa Rica. Hernandez, who trains with Grand Prix superstar Aaron Vale, had a great first day in the show ring going double-clear in the Level 2 Jumpers aboard his green mount Jets A Million.
“It’s very exciting when the HITS Ocala Circuit gets underway,” said Hernandez. The 2009 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit marks the sixth season Hernandez will be spending at HITS Post Time Farm and as always he will be looking to collect a lot of ribbons over the eight-week circuit.
New Jersey trainer Robin Fairclough has escaped the Northeast winter along with her 12 horses. "We always come down for the pre-circuit," she said. "It's a chance for the horses to get comfortable with their new surroundings and I think it makes our barn much more competitive during the rated competition.”
Fairclough and her students from Top Brass Farm will be showing all over the schedule this season; however, she is particularly excited about the potential of one of her new students, Carolyn Curcio. Curcio just started training with the Top Brass Farm Team and has been quite successful in some major equitation classes, including the USET Medal.
"Carolyn just joined our barn and she is a fantastic young rider," said Fairclough. "We hope that she may even show in some of the $25,000 Grand Prix classes this year.”
If Curcio is going to compete in some Grand Prix classes, she is going to have to go head-to-head with former Canadian Olympian Beth Underhill. Underhill arrived in Ocala with nearly 25 horses, including her new Grand Prix mount Top Gun. The horse is a nine-year-old gray Dutch Gelding and is owned by Iron Horse Farm. "He is a very lovely young prospect," said Underhill. "He was the runner up at the Royal Winter Fair and has placed in the top three in some World Cup Qualifiers in Canada.”
Like Fairclough, Underhill is excited to be at HITS Post Time Farm for the pre-circuit. "Ocala is a great place to be in the winter. The horses have been being ridden indoors for several months and it's nice to get them outside and roaming around in the big paddocks. It's a lovely introduction for the season. The place looks fabulous and the footing is in great shape."
Tatra Farm’s Pat Towle of Clinton Corners, New York owns a farm locally in Williston, Florida with her partner Pavel Blaho. Towle has been showing in Ocala since the “beginning of time” she says, and will be here for the entire circuit. Tatra Farm had a very successful end to the season last year in Ocala as Aaron Vale piloted their horse, Blue Danube, to blue of the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group in one of the most exciting and emotional victories of the season at Post Time Farm. This year, Towle and Blaho brought Blue Danube’s sisters to the HITS Ocala Circuit. Blue Pearl is a five-year-old and Picture Perfect is a 6-year-old. Both are phenomenal according to Towle and this will be Blue Pearl’s debut on the circuit.
Towle is one of many local farm owners taking advantage of HITS’ elimination of ship-in fees for this year’s circuit. “The moment that announcement was made, my customers were even more encouraged to come to Ocala and show,” said Towle. “That decision was good for my business, good for my customers and good for the horse show. I’d like to thank Tom [Struzzieri] and HITS for doing that.”
Competition continues all week during the Ocala Pre-Circuit 1.The highlight of the two unrated weeks will be two $25,000 HITS Grand Prix events and the return of the $20,500 Marshall & Sterling Children's/Adult Jumper Championship. The Marshall & Sterling Championship is a popular four-leg event scheduled for the first two Fridays and Saturdays with prize money increasing from $2,500 in the first leg to $5,000 in the final leg, plus an additional $5,000 in bonus prize money awarded to the top-eight competitors who have accumulated the most points throughout the four legs of the competition.
HITS, Inc. is a special events management company primarily focused on producing hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS produced its first horse show circuit in Gainesville, Florida in 1982. Since that time, HITS has grown into a nationwide company with world-class hunter/jumper circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit http://www.HitsShows.com
PHOTO: ©Lili Weik Photography; Canadian Olympian Beth Underhill and Magdaline capture the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix during the 2007 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/2009-hits-ocala-winter-horses-rings-01-09.html">2009 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit is officially underway as exhibitors and horses take to the rings</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com