Edited Press Release
Speed was key for Santigo Lambre and Chattanooga as they chugged to victory in the $75,000 Joan Pletcher Real Estate Grand Prix at HITS Ocala. It marked the pair’s second day in the show ring together and their second win after a victory in Saturday’s $10,000 Post Time Classic. On Sunday, they galloped through the timers just fractions ahead of second-place finishers Tracy Fenney and MTM Apple. Kristen Vanderveen and Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili were just 1/10th of a second behind Fenney to take home the third-place prize, marking one of the closest grand prix tiebreakers of the season.
“I didn’t expect to win in the first show, but he’s a fast horse, so I’m very happy,” Lambre said. “I rode him yesterday in a 1.40m class and I won the class. I was quite fast, so I knew he could be fast in the jump-off. I tried to go fast everywhere and make tight turns.”
Mark McGowan set the track for Sunday’s main event, which tested riders with a vertical-oxer double combination and an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination. The jump-off began with a bending line followed by a tight turn to the double combination. Riders continued through the course and finished over a final bending line to a large oxer towards the gate. The tiebreaker eventually yielded eight double-clear efforts, the fastest belonging to Lambre and Chattanooga.
Fenney and MTM Apple were the pathfinders, returning first and wearing a target on their back as they cleared the short course and set the Great American time to beat at 40.263 seconds. Lambre and Chattanooga returned six rounds later to take over the lead, making very tight turns in each of the rollbacks. Nevertheless, they left each of the rails intact and stopped the clock at 39.941 seconds, just 3/10ths ahead of Fenney. The only other combination to come close was Kristen Vanderveen with her veteran partner Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili, whose fault-free time of 40.365 seconds would garner third place.
“I made a really short turn to the double and then a tight roll back to number 15 – really tight – so I think that made a difference,” explained Lambre. “I could even save a little bit before the last, I did one more stride, so I think I was quite smooth with short turns.”
Chattanooga and Lambre have only competed in two classes together so far, and with a win in each one, their partnership is perfect. “I started to show him yesterday,” said Lambre. “He jumped well, so I was confident for today. He jumped a good first round, a good clear round. So for the jump-off, I tried to be competitive, and it worked!”
Lambre has been thrilled with his experience at HITS Ocala this year and concluded, “It’s a fantastic place now. The footing is excellent – it was a really good improvement. Now you can go fast, do short turns, and the horses never slip.”
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