Edited Press Release
Wayne, Ill. – July 8, 2022 – Riders at HITS Chicago turned and burned on Friday in an attempt to capture the win in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix during Lamplight Summertime I. In the end, Savannah Hemby and her new mount C. Wellie stole the top spot, saving the best for last in the five-horse jump-off.
Danny Foster designed a technical first-round track that included flowing bending lines with short and long rides to multiple combinations, as well as a steady connected line in the middle to test the competitors’ ability to open, collect, and control their horse’s stride throughout the course. Five pairs were able to showcase their adjustability and advance to the fast track, with a few trying an inside turn after a tight rollback to the second jump.
Erin Davis-Heineking and Leonie were the first to go in the jump-off, laying down a respectable time of 45.535 seconds to kick off the tiebreaker. Lisa Goldman-Smolen has consistently been at the top of the leaderboard this season, and aiming for a win with Nike she took a sharp inside turn to stop the clock in a clear 43.998 seconds. Hemby was last to return with C. Wellie, and although she opted to skip the inside turn, she was still able to score the leading time by catching most of the jumps in stride. Keeping a quick pace throughout the course, the duo squeezed by Smolen with a time of 43.631 seconds to earn the winning title.
“[Lisa] went inside after jump two, which looked pretty tight so I went around,” explained Hemby. “I knew I had to be quick and smooth in order to beat her and I think it just came down to that last combination!”
C. Willie is an 11-year-old Zangersheide gelding owned by Heathman Farm LLC, and although he is a new ride for Hemby, the pair was still able to prove how strong their relationship has become since the start of it in May. “We haven’t had too many shows together, but he is fantastic, and as long as I stick to my plan I know I can count on him.”
HITS Chicago at Lamplight Equestrian Center is always on the schedule for Hemby, and it is no wonder she keeps coming back. “We always have it on our summer calendar,” exclaimed Hemby. “The jumps are always beautiful, the ring is always great and well maintained, and our horses love it and really settle in nicely here!”
Thursday’s $5,000 Vita Flex 1.35m Classic was all about speed as 10 combinations advanced to the jump-off. Shannon Hicks and Al Pachini were the first to compete and set the bar high for the remaining riders after they dashed across the finish line in a clear 40.871 seconds. Davis-Heineking was next with NKH Cento Blue, upping the ante by just 2/10ths of a second in a fault-free 40.695 seconds. It was not until the very end of the class that anyone would challenge the leaders, but when Grace Thames picked up her gallop aboard Diamaria she never held back, breaking the beam in 39.993 seconds with all the rails intact to claim the win.
Three pairs produced double-clear efforts to kick off the week during Wednesday’s $2,500 Stal Hendrix Open Welcome. Hicks was the first to traverse the jump-off without error aboard Chada in a conservative 46.01 seconds. Nicolas Gamboa was next with NKH Mr. Darcy, and he blazed to the top of the leaderboard in 42.92 seconds. Gamboa also produced the final double-clear of the day with his second mount, Champions League, but their slower time of 45.24 seconds would rank them just behind NKH Mr. Darcy, who would capture the top prize while Champions League placed second.