Paul Halpern and Esra Leap to Victory in $25,000 Alliant Private Client Cup

Leap Day was indeed celebrated with a fair amount of leaping at HITS Post Time Farm on Thursday as hunter, jumper, and equitation action kicked off in full swing across the property. The venue plays host to the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit which spans ten weeks from January through March of top-rated competition for all levels of rider. The seventh week of circuit kicked off its featured jumper competition on Thursday afternoon as Paul Halpern piloted Esra to a win in the $25,000 Alliant Private Client Cup. 

Esra was one of 18 horses lined up to contest round one, but stood out as only five entries in the starting field managed to produce an effort that earned them a spot in the jump off. With two of the short course’s contenders producing rails in the second round, Halpern and Vanessa Lee’s 12-year-old Holsteiner mare (Bratt Z) emerged victorious with the fastest time of 39.17 seconds. 

Paul Halpern and Esra. Photo by ESI Photography

“Today’s jump off worked in her favor because it was more turning related as opposed to running,” Halpern explained. “There was a leave out in the first line that I did to get the inside turn off the water; she’s nifty in her turns so I got that done well and had a nice turn to the double, then we managed to do the leave out on the way home too which isn’t her strength but I kept going and hoped it worked out and it did.”

Halpern’s strategy comes from spending over seven years with the mare and being the only one to compete her throughout her lifetime. 

“She’s extremely smart, probably the smartest horse I’ve ever ridden, and she’s careful with a big heart,” he added. “We trust each other and know each other really well and she gives a million percent. The first time I rode her I loved her balance and her rhythm, but I can’t say we ever knew she’d come this far. There’s been no pressure from her owner and we’ve been able to just bring her along at her pace.”

No stranger to being in the ribbons, Declan Egan once again claimed a spot in the victory gallop with his 12-year-old Warmblood gelding (Cheers Cassini) Renkum A’Toast on a quick time of 40.27 seconds. Dominique Damico produced the only other double clear effort with Amberfax Farm, Inc’s 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Cadensky), Cava, with a slightly slower time of 41.72 seconds to take third place. Wednesday’s kickoff class, the $2,500 Vitaflex Open Welcome Stake closed out with a top finish for Ciaran Flynn and Apex Equestrian Center’s 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding, Bagheera De Jaldis. 

Ciaran Flynn and Bagheera De Jaldis. Photo by ESI Photography

Featured jumper competition will resume tomorrow with the $15,000 STX Open Speed Series. For a full list of results from today’s event, please visit