Edited Press Release
Saugerties, N.Y. – May 27, 2022 – The spring series of HITS-on-the-Hudson is officially underway at HITS Saugerties with its first week of competition. On Friday, the Grand Prix ring hosted the first highlight event of the season as riders gathered to compete in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix. At the conclusion of the nail-biting jump-off, it was Mark Bluman and Hanakine who returned to the winner’s circle.
“I haven’t had [Hanakine] for very long,” noted Bluman after his win. “He’s only been with me maybe three months. He’s a super useful horse for this type of class though – he can jump up to 1.50m easily. He belongs to a good friend of mine in Europe that he sent to me to ride, and I am enjoying it!”
Jamie Morillo set an exacting track with three double combinations. Only three riders were able to master the first round to return for the jump-off, which began with a new line followed by a rollback to a new vertical. Riders then had to make two more sharp turns before jumping a vertical-oxer double combination and galloping across the ring to the final oxer.
Heather Caristo-Williams and Dionysos De La Vigne, a 9-year-old Selle Francais gelding owned by QBS Equestrian, were the first to return for the tiebreaker. They lowered the height of the second fence for 4 faults, but set the Great American time to beat at 40.673 seconds. Mark Bluman was next with Hanakine, a 9-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding owned by Tal Milstein. They were quick to the four fences, but in the second rollback Hanakine started bucking, resulting in a rail down for 4 faults. Bluman opened up his mount’s stride to the final fence, besting Williams’ time by breaking the beam in 38.376.
Bluman’s cousin, Steven Bluman, was the final rider to compete in the jump-off riding his own 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding Mylord Les Hauts Z. They kept an efficient gallop going and looked like they would take home the victory until a heartbreaking rail at the final fence. With 4-faults and a slower time of 46.978 seconds, they earned third place, while Mark took home the winning honors and Williams placed second.
“When Heather had one down, my plan was still to be efficient because I still had one more person behind me,” said Mark. “Once I had one rail down, I knew I was already faster than Heather. My cousin had very bad luck. I wouldn’t have used the same strategy; I would have gone a little bit faster just in case you have one down. It almost paid off for him – I wanted him to win, but it just didn’t happen. I am really happy though!”
Mark was happy to be enjoying May at HITS Saugerties commenting, “I like that everything [at HITS Saugerties] is run smoothly! It’s easy-going, you are never in a rush, and the people try to work with you.”
On Thursday, Catherine Kubiak and Mystic Lindenhof saved the best for last in the $10,000 HITS 1.40m Jumper Classic. Five advanced to the jump-off, with Alexandra Worthington setting the original time to beat with De L’Oiseliere. They cleared the track in 30.13 seconds. It was not until Kubiak and Mystic Lindenhof entered the ring that there was another double clear effort. Kubiak laid on the gas to just edge out Worthington, crossing the finish line in 29.34 seconds to take home the win while Worthington placed second. The fastest round in the jump-off belonged to Marek Leufkens and Ever D’Hoogpoort, who crossed the timers in 28.15 seconds, but lowered the height of the final obstacle for third place.
Jumper competition at HITS-on-the-Hudson kicked off on Wednesday with the $5,000 Stal Hendrix Open Welcome. A technical track yielded only three clear entries for the jump-off. Heather Caristo-Williams and Marie VD Mespel Big Z were able to lay down a clear round for the victory, while Leufkens and Ever D’Hoogpoort’s 4-fault effort was good enough for the second-place prize. The third-place award went to Ned Cuniffee aboard Buckle Up.
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