Edited Press Release
Saugerties, NY – July 24, 2022 – It was a head-to-head battle on Sunday morning during the $100,000 HITS Grand Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson IV. Mark Bluman with Cheilane De Blondel and McLain Ward aboard Lezaro battled it out in the jump-off, where Bluman edged ahead by a full second to claim the victory over his rival and lead the lap of honor.
“McLain and I are very good friends, we like each other a lot, and we are always messing around with each other,” said Bluman. “Honestly, beating him is the best thing. This is maybe not the biggest win of my career, but beating him was the biggest win I’ve ever had, so it was very exciting!”
Danny Foster’s first-round course featured several technical tests, including a vertical-vertical oxer triple combination and an oxer-vertical double combination, yielding only two clear rounds: Bluman and Ward. The jump-off featured four new fences, including a new vertical-oxer double combination, before they galloped home over the final bending line that concluded with a careful vertical.
Bluman was the first to return and knew he would need to put the pressure on Ward. He was careful to leave all the rails in the cups, quickly traversing the track and tripping the timers in a speedy 38.452 seconds. Ward attempted to catch him with Stella Wasserman’s Lezaro, and despite their clear effort, their time of 39.586 seconds would finish just behind Bluman for second place. Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix winners, Jordan Coyle and Centriko Volo, took home the third-place prize as the fastest 4-faulters.
“The plan for the jump-off was simple,” explained Bluman. “There were only two, and [McLain] is right behind me, so I just tried to go as fast as I could and leave the jumps up. My mare does move faster than his horse, but he is for sure a faster rider than I am. I think that we did the same plan and did the same strides everywhere. My mare just moves really fast across the ground.”
Competing with Cheilane De Blondel for owner Gerardo Pasquel Menedez was a last-minute change for Bluman, but it proved to be a fortuitous turn of events. “[Gerardo] showed her the first day in the 1.30m and was supposed to be doing the two grand prix classes,” noted Bluman. “I came to help him in my regular clothes on Friday, and he said, ‘Marky, I don’t feel ready, you go buy clothes and you jump!’ I know the mare very well and have ridden her several times, so it was easy enough for me to get on and catch ride a little bit. She’s 10 now, a super mare, careful and fast. Let her do her thing, let her gallop and she will do the rest!”
Bluman also competed during the HITS-on-the-Hudson Spring Series and was thrilled to return in winning style. “This is the second time I’ve come here this year,” he concluded. “It’s great to come here and not feel rushed – feel like you can do everything correctly and take your time. It’s easy-going, and this massive grand prix ring is amazing to ride in.”