OCALA, FL (January 28, 2008)--
Fan Favorite Paul Halpern and his mount Rolls Royce rode all the way to the winner's circle on Sunday as he secured $7,500 in prize money for Rebecca Irvine in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix to close out the first Pre-Circuit week at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida.
The Canadian went toe-to-toe with Aaron Vale and Sinatra in a two horse jump-off. Halpern dropped the final hurdle on course designer Jerry Dougherty's route for a total of four faults. However, Vale couldn't take advantage of the envious last-to-ride position. He had two rails down for a total of eight faults, including the final obstacle as he had to step on the gas in order to beat Halpern's time of 43.962. Vale's final time of 43.539 would have propelled him into first place, but jump 14 did him in.
"I knew I had to be a little quicker getting to the last jump," said Vale. "Paul played a good enough hand to win today and put the pressure on me at the end. I had to take a chance. Unfortunately, I dropped the last rail but I am excited about my new horse."
Vale collected $5,500 on his new mount. Sinatra is eight and Vale purchased him in England just a few months ago. Vale was also 10th aboard another new mount, Be Lucky.
"I wasn't thinking about showing Sinatra at first but he jumped very well on Wednesday and Friday so I took a chance today," said Vale. "He showed me that he was ready and I am very excited about what is in store for me this winter in Ocala."
Although Vale was second in Sunday's featured class, he is loaded for bear this winter in Ocala. He has 15-20 new horses, including Platinum who he plans to unveil during the rated horse shows that begin on Tuesday, February 12 with the Ocala Winter Classic. Vale, a three-time winner of the $100,000 class that wraps up the season in Ocala, feels that Platinum may be the horse that gets him the blue ribbon in that class again this year.
With the victory, Halpern earned some valuable points for the USGPL standings. This means that he increased his chances of being on the list of the riders who will be invited to participate in the $100,000 USGPL Invitational Grand Prix at HITS Culpeper in late September. The top 30 riders in the Marshall & Sterling League National Standings (based on money won by the horse/rider combination) will qualify to participate in the Invitational. In addition, one Wild Card slot will be allotted. The rider may elect to ride any horse of their choice, but may ride only one horse in the Invitational.
Also excelling at HITS Ocala last week was Sydney Smith of Rockport, Massachusetts who secured the Central Equine Junior Medal riding Calimero. Jodi Czaplick of Speonk, New York rode Untold to the Adequan Hunter Championship to highlight an exciting week of competition.
Other major award winners at HITS Ocala include:
$500 M&S Child/Adult Hunter Classic - Bay Watch, owned by Colby
Hassfurther, ridden by Victoria De Benedicty, Ocala, Florida
HITS' Official Radio Station, Thunder Country WTRS 102.3 was on site on Thursday, January 24 for a season-opening celebration and hosted an exhibitor party and live radio on-site show complete with a catered meal courtesy of Bella~Luna. New recording star Shane Wooten sang songs from his new album, as well as some fun country western and Jimmy Buffet songs during the event. Riders were interviewed on the air and given the opportunity to tell the listening audience about HITS, the quality competitions and horseshow lifestyle. WTRS will return on Sunday, March 9 for the World of the Horse exhibition for another live, on-site broadcast. Numerous breeds will be represented in a colorful parade sure to delight horse lovers of all ages.
The Dave, Beth and Bo Morning Show on Thunder Country WTRS 102.3 also will present the HITS Ocala Idol, a contest where listeners are encouraged to submit a CD of themselves singing the Star Spangled Banner. In mid-February, a team of judges will determine the winner. The winner will be announced during the Dave, Beth and Bo Morning Show on Friday, February 22. The grand prize winner will receive $500 cash courtesy of DeLuca Toyota and have the opportunity to sing before the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance on Sunday, March 16.
On Friday night, Barkitecture, Art for Animals project, hosted a "Welcome HITS" party for exhibitors in downtown Ocala. Food for the Welcome Party was provided by SKY Asian Fusion and cocktails were provided by Ipanema Brazilian Steakhouse. The Barkitecture project consists of beautiful doghouses, all of which will be auctioned off at a gala the evening of Saturday, February 2. All proceeds from the event will be donated to The Humane Society of Marion County and The Marion County Cultural Alliance.
Show jumping at HITS Ocala resumes on Wednesday, January 30 with the Ocala Pre-Circuit 2. Highlighting the week will be the second half of the popular $20,500 Marshall & Sterling Children's/Adult Jumper Championship. More commonly known as the "Are You a Champion?" series, the Jumper Championship was first offered in Ocala during the 2007 Winter Circuit and was an immediate success. Offered for one of the fastest growing segments in the sport today, this unique four-phase event also includes bonus prize money of $5,000 awarded to the top-eight finishers overall and points from the second and fourth legs count towards the Marshall & Sterling League.
CLASS 414. $25,000 GRAND PRIX
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 www.HitsShows.com