The fourth week of the 2024 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit continued on Thursday at HITS Post Time Farm as athletes prepared for feature competition in both the hunter and jumper arenas. The 10-week series is home to a plethora of opportunities for riders from the most beginner to the most advanced levels in hunters, jumpers, and equitation. The hunter ring stole the spotlight for the day as 27 top hunter duos donned shad bellies and shined boots in preparation for the afternoon’s $40,000 Great American USHJA International Hunter Derby. Leading from round one, Brian Feigus expertly navigated the track with Redfield Farm’s nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Acodetto 2), Four Aces, to seal the deal and earn the tricolor honors.
Feigus was one of many tried and true contenders for the afternoon’s main event but proved to be a joker in the deck as he sat aboard a newcomer to the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit. The pair stole the spotlight from the get-go in round one as they produced scores of 93 and 96 in the classic round. As the final to return over the class’s handy track, they produced another award-winning effort that earned a 93.5 from panel one and a 94 from panel two for a whopping 376.50 overall total.
“He just arrived on Tuesday night off of the trailer from quarantine,” Feigus laughed. “I got to ride him this morning when we did our first High Performance round and he was amazing so we didn’t finish the class and we just got ready for this.
“For the handy since we don’t know him too well and I had a decent lead we decided to just play it safe,” he continued to explain. “I have to say overall so far the horse has done everything perfectly. I wasn’t sure about the trot jump but in the schooling area he was perfect with it so that was a nice thing to have happened in the schooling area because I felt confident going in the ring.”
For Feigus, Ocala is home base and the addition of multiple top-level derby events throughout the winter circuit has changed the name of the game for his season.
“I think having multiple classes like this with this kind of money brings a lot more people to the show consistently and for me this has been a home of mine for 14 years now and it feels nice to have it at home,” he detailed. “I love this ring. I think it’s the best hunter ring in the country. I love the trees, I love the atmosphere. I think they’ve done a great job with the new updates.”
Young rider Jake Evans and Make a Splash LLC’s 12-year-old Zangersheide stallion (Ponsee V), Oh Hello, rode to the reserve tricolor honors with the second-best overall total of 365 points with all but one score in the 90s from across the two rounds. Kristen Bumpus scored 91 across the board over her two-round effort with Barbara LeStage’s 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Vingino), Diadora, to fall just one point short of Evans with a total of 364 to round out the evening’s award winners. Hunter derby competitions will resume on Friday with the afternoon highlight of the $10,000 SmartPak USHJA National Hunter Derby.