Culpeper, VA (September 29, 2008)— Canadian Olympian Jill Henselwood won her second consecutive $100,000 USGPL Invitational Grand Prix at HITS Culpeper when she outlasted a starting field of 28 riders aboard her mount Special Ed to conclude an action-packed week of show jumping during the USGPL Finals.
"Special Ed loves Culpeper," said Henselwood. "I brought him here this week to show him it's still fun to jump. It's like putting some pennies in his bank account. It's a real privilege to come here."
Henselwood, a member of the silver medal-winning Canadian Olympic Team was one of ten riders to bring their mounts back for course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr's nine-hurdle jump-off route. When the class was complete the well-decorated Canadian took home $30,000 to Juniper Farms.
First on course for the jump-off was Robin Sweely and her mount Discovery. They set the Great American Time to Beat right off the bat, stopping the clocks in 48.606 to eventually finish in fifth place for Acorn Hill Farm.
Henselwood and Special Ed were next to challenge Petersen's jump-off course. The pair made a dash for the cash setting the new pace as 45.358 to secure the blue.
Third to show were Derek Petersen and Lazaro. An unlucky rail down midway through the trip placed the duo in sixth place as Petersen collected $5,000 for Jordan Coyne. Henselwood's fellow countryman, Roberto Teran, was next to go in the jump-off aboard Distant Star 3E and dropped a rail on both the first and last obstacles of the round to finish in 10th place.
The fifth trip of the jump-off belonged to Henrik Gundersen and Lauritz.com Colorado. A single fence down resulted in a ninth-place finish for Gundersen. North Carolina native Eliza Ferguson Shuford and Little John were sixth to go in the jump-off. An early rail down landed the pair in eighth place as Shuford collected $3,000.
Up-and coming Grand Prix rider Michele Spadone and her mount Melisimo kicked off the last leg of the jump-off and laid down a very fast clear round in 47.811 to secure third place for Morgan Hill Partners. "My horse jumped so well," said Spadone. "It was a great feeling to finish near the top of such a big class with riders like Jill Henselwood and Tracy Magness."
"In the jump-off I wanted to go smooth and fast because I knew there were a lot of fast riders behind me," she added. "I didn't want to go too crazy. I am glad it worked out."
Maryland's Tracy Magness and her mount Tarco Van Ter Moude took a crack at Henselwood's time next and also went clear. Magness, who was the leading Grand Prix rider during the 2007 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, stopped the clocks in 45.931 to just miss the time set by the leader. Magness and Tarco Van Ter Moude would finish in second place for owners Mr. and Mrs. John Bartko.
"Obviously I would rather win than be second," said Magness. "But I was really happy at the end because I thought Jill Henselwood was unbeatable. She was so fast and is such a good rider."
Tracy Fenney was one of the favorites to win the class thanks to her excellent 2008 show season where she won over $90,000 in Grand Prix prize money at HITS Ocala and HITS Culpeper combined. The Texas native passed through the gate next aboard MTM Centano. The pair was clean all the way to the last hurdle where they dropped a rail to finish in seventh place for MTM Farm.
Fittingly, the envious last-to-ride spot belonged to USGPL leading rider Patty Stovel and her Grand Prix horse Shandor 41. Stovel and her mount made it all the way home without dropping any rails but stopped the clocks well off the pace in 49.596 to finish in fourth place.
After the class, Henselwood credited HITS for her preparation in the 2008 Olympic Games. "HITS has played a big part in building Special Ed's confidence," she said. "I really appreciate being here and used my experience here and in Thermal as a platform for our international competition."
"We spent our winter at HITS Thermal where we prepared to go against the world at the Olympics, she continued. "Special Ed has had an incredible career with some learning curves all along the way."
In other action on Sunday, Cindy McGrath and her mount Largo won the blue in the $15,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Low Classic and the $25,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner High Classic went to Doug Schreiber and Stretch.
The first Culpeper Horse and Colt Show was held at Monte Vista Park in 1897 and it continued for the next 54 years. In the 1980s, show jumping returned to Culpeper in a grand fashion with the opening of Commonwealth Park, one of the finest horse-sport facilities in the country. Some of the richest show jumping events in America have been held at Commonwealth Park, including the $200,000 U.S. Cup, the grand finale for the United States Grand Prix League in 1986. HITS purchased Commonwealth Park in 1997 and began restoring the grounds to its former glory. In 1998, HITS reintroduced the United States Grand Prix League, and has presented the USGPL Finals at Commonwealth Park ever since. Approximately $1 million in total prize money is offered at the six HITS Culpeper events.
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: ©2008 Lili Weik Photography, Jill Henselwood and Special Ed win the $100,000 USGPL Invitational Grand Prix at HITS Culpeper.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/jill-henselwood-usgpl-hits-culpeper-09-08.html">Jill Henselwood and Special Ed win the $100,000 USGPL Invitational Grand Prix at HITS Culpeper</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com