Saugerties, N.Y. – September 9, 2022 – Ashlee Bond’s five-year partnership with Donatello 141 paid off once again with a victory in Friday’s $138,600 Saugerties Jumper Classic CSI5* as the HITS Championship took center stage at HITS-on-the-Hudson. Leading athletes from around the world have gathered in Saugerties to vie for the winning title in Sunday’s $405,300 Grand Prix CSI5*. Friday’s main event was just a preview of the action to come, and Bond proved she was the best of the best with a blazing fast jump-off aboard Donatello 141 to lead the lap of honor.
“[Donatello 141] knows me, he knows all my buttons and I know all his,” smiled Bond. “He knows what I need before it’s happening. I feel like it gives you such an advantage. There are those special combinations that you just click with a horse. I just know everything he’s thinking and every trick he would have – it just gives you so much more in your toolbox.”
Mark McGowan (GBR) set a welcoming track to greet riders competing in the CSI5* events this week, featuring the $138,600 Saugerties Jumper Classic on Friday afternoon. The course included a wide liverpool oxer, a vertical-vertical double combination and an oxer-vertical-oxer triple combination as the penultimate test. Twelve advanced to the tiebreaker, where a combination and two tight rollbacks separated the cream, with only six producing another faultless effort.
Gabriela Reutter (CHI) was the pathfinder of the day with Maharees Rock, setting the Great American time to beat at 46.36 seconds when she finished with a clear jump-off. Hunter Holloway (USA) quickly slid ahead of her aboard Pepita Con Spita, breaking the beam in 44.70 seconds. Two rounds later, the speed increased once again as Aaron Vale (USA) and Elusive jumped to the top of the standings in a quick 43.56 seconds.
Bond knew Vale was quick, but she also knew she could use Donatello 141’s natural speed and quick turns to her advantage. She held nothing back when she returned to the ring for the short course and the duo blazed across the finish line in 43.10 seconds, heading straight to the top of the leaderboard. Vale had one last chance to beat Bond, and he gave it his all with Prescott. While they were fast enough to beat Elusive, they were just shy of Donatello 141, clocking in at 43.51 seconds for the second-place prize.
“I’m naturally super-fast and I know my horse really, really well, so I just go do what I need to do,” explained Bond after her win. “Aaron Vale is one of the fastest riders in the world, so you have to put the pedal to the metal! I just went on the red line as much as I felt would result in a clear round. Donny’s specialty is turning – it didn’t use to be, but dad’s done an amazing job. Now, I think turn, he turns so quickly, and he’s really clever in the jump-offs. I can hug the side of the jump and pretty much have my foot a couple of inches from the standard to save time on the fence. I wanted to go out there and I wanted to try and win it!”
Now Bond is focused on Sunday and feels confident Donatello 141 can create a repeat performance. “He one of those special horses that you can run like this, and then he comes back and he’s better,” she noted. “It’s rare and I appreciate him so much for that. He’s had a really quiet year, so he’s fresh and ready to go and feels like a monster!”
Bond just returned from competing in Europe and has enjoyed being at HITS-on-the-Hudson for the start of the HITS Championship. “I really like the area – I think it’s really pretty, very woodsy,” she concluded. “The arena here is really big and I think it has a lot of good things. I’m looking forward to the future of it and to see what more they do with it.”
The HITS Championship will continue through Sunday, featuring the season’s biggest events. Show jumping athletes are preparing for Sunday’s $405,300 Grand Prix CSI5*, while hunters aim for the final rounds of the $200,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final and the $50,000 Platinum Performance Hunter Prix Final. For more information visit www.HITSShows.com.