Ocala, Fla. — March 25, 2018 — Wrapping up the winter circuit at the 2018 HITS Ocala series, Sunday afternoon saw 43 horse and rider combinations compete for the prize in the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. The event is in its eighth year running at the HITS Post Time Farm and is considered the second jewel in the HITS Triple Crown of show jumping, which includes Million Grand Prix events in HITS Ocala, HITS Saugerties and HITS Thermal. Each $1,000,000 event hosts some of the best riders in the country competing for a portion of the ample prize money. It was a successful finish for the United States as the top four positions after the jump-off were held by U.S. athletes and led by veteran show jumper Beezie Madden.
The course proved a daunting task for even a field of the best riders in the country as only five athletes succeeded in moving on to the jump-off. Course designer Alan Wade of Ireland is no stranger to testing the skills of even the best rider and has recently designed challenging courses such as the $220,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Wellington hosted at the Palm Beach Masters, which also saw only five move on to the second round. With a time of 85 seconds allowed several riders caught issue keeping up the pace and an extremely technical triple combination involving two large oxers to a final, delicate vertical took a toll on the majority. Wade is known for designing clever courses involving wide oxers and tall verticals and Sunday afternoon’s event was no exception.
After battling hard in the first round, it was Israel’s Daniel Bluman and four U.S. athletes including Jamie Barge, Charlie Jayne, Lillie Keenan, and Madden that earned the chance to return for a second round. Keenan was the first to return for the jump-off and set the pace to beat with a blazing 46.229 seconds aboard the Chansonette Farm LLC’s Super Sox, a coming 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Salito x Shalima) that she has worked closely with for the past four years. Keenan rode at the same event in the 2017 season and was able to outdo her previous performance of finishing third by rising to hold onto the second place title. Bluman followed, but with as the only jump-off rider with an unfortunate rail would slip into fifth place.
Madden was third to challenge aboard the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding Coach (Con Air x M-Stuggart), owned by Abigail Wexner. Fresh off a win at the Winter Equestrian Festival in the $205,000 CaptiveOne Grand Prix on Saturday aboard her other top horse, Breitling LS, Madden once again displayed flawless talent and took over the lead by almost two whole seconds with a time of 44.479 seconds. Madden has had previous success at HITS events with a win in the Million at HITS Saugerties in 2015 and most recently took the victory at the World Cup Qualifying event at HITS Thermal.
Newcomer to the HITS Ocala circuit, Jamie Barge was the fourth to challenge and looked positive to secure third place until Jayne entered the ring with his new partner, Tou La Moon. The 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Toulon x Baroness Van D’Abelendreef) is owned by Maura Thatcher of Pony Lane Farm and Alex Jayne and is relatively new to the international and grand prix circuit after having spent the first seven years of her life as a broodmare. Jayne, who is a veteran to the HITS series and has been competing in the million-dollar classes since their inception in 2010, piloted the mare to a fast and efficient round which earned them the third spot on the podium overtaking Barge’s time of 48.461 seconds.
Athletes will have a chance to compete for the third leg of the HITS Triple Crown at the HITS Saugerties CP $1 Million Grand Prix taking place September 6, 2018 in Saugerties, New York.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Beezie Madden — Great American $1 Million Grand Prix Winner
On the win:
“I was very happy with the day, how my horse went, and that the course suited him. It was a good test that consisted of double verticals, flat tops, and a tricky triple combination. Luckily that’s actually one of my strengths with that horse. The jump off I thought was quite good for me as well because he came in and used his big stride well over the first few fences, then needed a little turning capability in the middle, but had a nice big gallop to the last. When it all comes together it feels kind of easy, but everything fell into place really well and I’m lucky to have a great support team behind me.”
“This is a horse with a lot of scope and he has really nice ride-ability. He’s German bred, but we bought him in Holland. We’ve had him since he was 7 years old and he’s been a pleasure to have the whole time. He has a great attitude and likes to goof around sometimes, so we have a lot of fun. He’s one we have high hopes for because he has the scope for everything.”
On her upcoming string of horses:
“We retired Simon last year and Cortes the year before that, so there was a big hole in my string for a bit. We made a big push starting in the fall of 2016 to make some big purchases and so far it’s been successful. We actually had Coach in the wings already coming up and we’ve added a few more to it, so I think we are back up and running again. I’m really lucky it happened so fast.”
Lilly Keenan – Great American $1 Million Grand Prix Second Place
On Super Sox:
“I got him when he was 8 years old and we really grew together. When I got him he didn’t have much experience and had not jumped at this level before and neither had I, so we definitely grew together. His name suits him because he really is like superman for me. He is a huge confidence builder and over the past four years with him I have been able to jump on many Nations Cup winning teams. This year I have really tried to preserve him because I plan on aiming at some bigger events later in the year. He’s my best friend and the most important horse in the world to me, so to be able to have a day where I can ride my best and he always gives 110% is very exciting.”
On competing in the HITS Million events:
“I have been fortunate to have participated in multiple of these grand prixs including the first one I did which was when I was only 16 years old. The most profound part of the experience is that HITS offers this unique opportunity to riders that maybe haven’t gotten to the point in their careers where they have had a chance to jump a course of this technicality or for this amount of prize money; and for me that made a huge difference. To jump in a Million Grand Prix when you’re 16 and to have it under your belt is a huge confidence builder.”
Charlie Jayne — Great American $1 Million Grand Prix Third Place
On his ride:
“I thought today was a great day! I’ve been coming to this event every year and the crowd is really growing. I thought the course was excellent today, like Beezie said there was a lot of options and there were some very technical parts to the course. In the jump off I was just trying to be as quick as I could. My horse is still a bit green for this level so she has a little less experience than some of the other horses in this class. She performed excellent today and I’m really excited for her future.”
On Tou La Moon:
“My owner and my father purchased her as a 7-year-old in Belgium after she had had two or three foals. She had shown in Europe maybe once or twice, so I started her off in the 1.0m class in the fall of her 7-year-old year, and in two years we were doing our first international grand prix. Last year was kind of her step up when she did the $1,000,000 class at HITS Thermal and she’s really progressed. She’s by Toulon, which a lot of the horses I ride are by Toulon, but they work for me.”
Great American $1 Million Grand Prix
Place / Horse / Owner / Rider
1. Coach / Abigail Wexner / Beezie Madden
2. Super Sox / Chansonette Farm LLC / Lillie Keenan
3. Tou La Moon / Alex Jayne & Maura Thatcher / Charlie Jayne
4. Luebbo / Kylie Co. / Jamie Barge
5. Sancha LS / Camilo Robayo, Steven & Daniel Bluman / Daniel Bluman
6. Fifty Shades / Andrea Torres Guerreiro / Andrea Torres Guerreiro
7. HH Gigi’s Girl / Double H Farm / McLain Ward
8. Fedor / Southern Cross Equestrian, LLC / Scott Keach
9. Clenur / Armin Himmerlreich / Cian O’Connor
10. Inferno / Euro Stables & Yuri Mansur / Yuri Mansur
11. OhLaLa / The OhLaLa Group / Lauren Hough
12. Tyson Uno / Woodrun / David Jennings
For a full list of results, click here.