Zechariah and Derek Petersen Fly to the Win in $24,500 Horseflight Jumper Classic 

Derek Petersen found a winning stride on the final day of HITS Ocala Winter Circuit’s seventh week of competition. Petersen was one of many on the docket for the day’s feature event: the $24,500 Horseflight Jumper Classic and earned himself a lead in the victory gallop once again in the Grand Prix ring aboard longtime partner, Zechariah. The event is a beloved weekly occurrence throughout the ten weeks of the circuit, which takes place in the equestrian capital of Ocala, Florida and hosts all levels of hunter, jumper, and equitation classes. 

In an impressive show of speed, Petersen and the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Zirocco Blue VDL) managed to stop the clock almost two seconds faster than the equally-fast combination of Marylisa Leffler and ZaZa Z. Leffler and the Rolling Acres’ 14-year-old Warmblood mare (Zandor Z) punched in a time of 44.05 seconds, compared to Petersen’s 42.49 seconds, and finished out their day in second place. An impressive ten combinations advanced to the jump off out of the original field of 24 that contested Meghan Rawlins (CAN) first-round track, but it was Harold Chopping that rounded out the top three just slightly off the pace after finishing in 45.55 seconds with Deborah Ball’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Etoulon VDL), Ilmee 54. 

Derek Petersen and Zechariah. Photo by ESI Photography

“I thought the course was good today and the jump off worked in my favor,” Petersen explained. “ You could really open up in between the fences and just keep going, which is what Zechariah does so well.

“I had a rough go at it Thursday,” he continued, “so I wanted to focus on this class specifically to get in a good round and decided to take a step down from the Saturday grand prix. Thankfully we ended up winning and it was great.”

Petersen wasn’t the only one doing any winning at the weekend’s end as a slew of junior and amateur jumper classics filled the remainder of the day’s competition schedule. A total of 18 entries kicked off competition on Sunday morning as the $5,000 Pyranha Junior/Amateur 1.25m Classic got underway. Tracy Alexander topped the seven-horse jump off field as she clocked the fastest time of 43.06 seconds on her 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Zapatero VDL), Guenevere. 

Haley Gassel found herself once again leading a victory gallop as she piloted her 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Zambesi), Hambesi, into the lead in the $7,500 Signature Brands Junior/Amateur 1.35m Classic. The class saw no double-clear efforts out of a three-person jump off but Gassel’s quick time of 41.80 seconds secured her the win. In the final event of classic competition before the day’s main feature, Corri Goldman and her eight-year-old Selle Francais mare (Kannan), Gattaca De Vains, stole the show. The duo were the only pair to post a double clear effort in the $7,500 Ames Group Junior/Amateur 1.45m Classic. 

Haley Gassel and Hambesi. Photo by ESI Photography

Competition at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit will resume on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 as the series moves into its eighth week of the circuit. For full results please visit showmanagementsystem.com.