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Julia Weiss and her mount Schubert hit a home run in the USHJA International Hunter Derby

SAUGERTIES, NEW YORK (August 8, 2008) -- Julia Weiss couldn’t believe her eyes during Thursday’s $10,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby at HITS Saugerties.

The 18-year old was sitting aboard her mount Schubert at the in-gate when she saw class-favorite Jen Alfano and her mount Sting have a refusal on the final trip of the second round, which eventually gave Weiss and her nine-year-old bay gelding the title.

“I was not expecting to do this well at all,” said an emotional Weiss at the in-gate. “I didn’t even have a groom today so I was going to leave.”

“He is an awesome horse,” said owner Emil Spadone of Redfield Farm. “They just don’t make horses like that. He is very versatile and has won in the hunters, equitation and now the Hunter Derby. Trainer Val Renihan has done a great job bringing out the horse’s potential”

After it was apparent that Weiss and Schubert were the winners, a slew of supporters, including Don Stewart, rushed to the in-gate to congratulate her. “Oh my God,” second-place finisher and close friend Hallie Buttenwieser said to her after the class. “That’s a big check!”

“I am so excited for her,” said trainer Val Renihan. “It’s a really good thing for her. She is a really good thinker and has personally overcome so much adversity lately. She is the best kid with the best attitude.”

The fact that Weiss went off course in Tuesday’s USHJA Essex Classics Hunterdon Cup made her win in the USHJA Hunter Derby even more impressive. “That’s what you call bouncing back,” said Renihan. “This is a great thing for her. She deserved some recognition.”

“Julia Weiss is the greatest kid,” said Spadone. “She is an excellent young rider.”

Weiss bested 39 starters on Course Designer Rian Beals first-round course and the 12 that were invited back to challenge his Handy course. The course featured 14 jumps set at 4’ and 3’ 6” and included numerous options, water, logs and hay bales.

“The course was really fun to ride,” said Weiss. “It was a hunter rider’s dream because you can just go in the ring and gallop.”

Going into the Handy Round, Weiss and her mount were in fifth place, sitting behind Alfano and Sting, Alfano and Rock Star, Buttenwieser and Altaire and Louise Serio and Tuscan Sun.

Weiss received 83 points in the second round Handy phase, plus four bonus points for handiness for a total score of 87 for the round. “I got my handiness points because I decided to take the more difficult inside line to the open fence. Most riders took the fence outside the clock, but I took the four-strides to the inside fence and got the four handiness points from the judges,” she said.

When the round was complete, Buttenwieser and Altaire were in a first-place tie with Weiss and Schubert. Rules of the class state that the highest second-round score of the first judging panel breaks ties and, since Weiss’ second-round score was the highest in the class, she won the blue.

It has been a great couple of days for Renihan at HITS Saugerties. She had five horses in the Junior Hunter Finals, including Caprice, who had Genevieve Zock in the irons. The pair won the title in the Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under Division and The War Dress Memorial Trophy for the Leading Mare in the competition.

“I really enjoy having the Junior Hunter Finals in Saugerties,” said Reinihan. It’s been a great weekend for some of my kids and we were delighted to be a part of it.”

Show jumping at HITS Saugerties continues all weekend and will feature the $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix on Friday and the $50,000 In the Woods Log Homes Grand Prix on Sunday. Both Grand Prix events are qualifiers for the $100,000 USGPL Invitational Grand Prix which will be held at HITS Culpeper during the USGPL Finals in late September. After this week, HITS Saugerties takes a short hiatus while competition shifts to HITS Culpeper for two exciting weeks in Virginia. On tap at HITS Culpeper will be the return of the USHJA Tad Coffin Zone III Equitation Finals as well as two more qualifying $40,000 Grand Prix events for the $100,000 USGPL Invitational Grand Prix. On Sunday, August 31 the $40,000 Avalon Saddlery Grand Prix, presented by Kingsland will conclude the summer shows at HITS Culpeper. Then, show jumping returns to HITS Saugerties for Week VII on Wednesday, September 3 for a full week of competition, followed by the annual Marshall & Sterling League Finals September 11-14.

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; Weiss and Schubert are congratulated by USHJA’s Whitney Allen and her trainer Val Renihan


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