OCALA, FL (January 9, 2009)—In just six short days, horses will be jumping again at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida with the start of the 2009 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit. As always, the season kicks off with two consecutive unrated weeks of competition starting on Wednesday, January 14 followed with, for the first time ever, six weeks of AA-rated competition beginning on February 3.
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.
Exhibitors have already started to arrive at Post Time Farm excited for the season ahead. Canadian Billie de Route returns to HITS Ocala this year after competing at another horse show in 2008 and brings an impressive resume. She was named the Best Canadian Junior Rider of the Year in 2008 by the Canadian Equestrian Federation and competed in her first World Cup Qualifier at just 15 years of age. Now 17, de Route notes that HITS Ocala is an all-around a great place to be. “It’s more fun than any other show,” she said. “The people here are so nice. Plus, the horses love the permanent barns and the paddocks."'
de Route will be showing her seasoned Grand Prix horse Sweet Dreams this year in the Grand Prix classes and her younger mount Kilian 61 in some other jumper classes.
Another exhibitor already onsite preparing for the 2009 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit is Massachusetts native Marybeth Casey. ”This is my first year at HITS Ocala,” said Casey. “I think Ocala is the best place for the horses. It is so nice with all of the paddocks, permanent barns and the general layout of the show.” Casey trains under the watchful eye of Amanda Steege and is excited to show her pre-green horse over the course of the entire circuit.
Casey and de Route, along with hundreds of other exhibitors, will enjoy several new improvements at Post Time Farm. Starting from the ground up, HITS has completed footing upgrades to the property by resurfacing Hunter 6 and the Hunter Annex ring, which were the only two rings not completed for last year's circuit. A new drainage system was also installed in the Main Hunter ring and the adjacent schooling area.
Stabling area improvements include 2,000 brand new temporary stalls and new tents, similar to what was used at HITS Saugerties this summer. These new stalls feature wood and steel dividers and are a substantial upgrade for exhibitors who opt for tented stabling. New concrete wash racks throughout the stabling areas have also been added.
Other structural improvements include moving the horse show office to a building near the front entrance to the show grounds to allow for better flow of traffic and people. And ringside, exhibitors and spectators will enjoy covered bleacher seating at each ring complete with small space heaters for those chillier mornings early on in the circuit.
Aesthetic enhancements include new gardens installed in the corners of the Hunter rings as well as new islands in all the Hunter rings for additional color and beauty.
"I'm excited for our customers, both returning and new, to see the improvements to the Ocala property," said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO. "This has always been just a spectacular property and we have made every effort to make this an all-around great season for our customers. We are looking forward to a great horse show."
HITS recently announced that ship-in fees for Ocala have been eliminated this year and that exhibitors will have the opportunity to purchase discounted warm-up tickets booklets for the season.
VIP customers will enjoy catered Sunday brunches courtesy of some of Ocala's most popular restaurants. And new for this season, On the Flipside Cafè will be catering a special breakfast President's Day weekend during the Ocala Masters (Week III) and again for the all-new $5,000 Pony Commotion, which will be held during the Ocala Winter Finals (Week V).
Finally, thanks to the addition of the eighth week to this year's circuit, HITS has made some extra special changes to the schedule and class offerings. Highlights include more Saturday night classes, increased Grand Prix prize money during Week III, the return of the $10,000 USHJA/Software Solutions International Hunter Derby, new hunter classics for both Children and Adults, the addition of the Ronnie "R.W." Mutch Equitation Classic and of course, the season's grand finale, the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group, which will close out the season during the new Ocala Winter Celebration on Sunday, March 15.
Entries for the six-week rated circuit close on Wednesday, January 14. Entry blanks and the complete HITS Ocala Winter Circuit Prize list are available online at http://www.HitsShows.com
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; Callan Solem and Mianta win the $50,000 Duggan Equipment Grand Prix HITS Ocala.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/hits-ocala-season-unrated-shows-01-09.html">HITS Ocala gearing up for new season as exhibitors start to arrive for the unrated shows</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com