Michael Hughes’ First Grand Prix Victory in SmartPak Grand Prix at HITS Ocala

OCALA, FL (March 9, 2012) – Michael Hughes was all smiles at the conclusion of Thursday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Ocala. The sixteen-year-old from Allendale, New Jersey posted the only double cle ar round of the day to win his first-ever Grand Prix aboard Drumnacross Farm Ltd.’s Mac Arthur.

“My dad [Eammon Hughes] and I picked this horse to be my first Grand Prix horse because of his speed and scope,” said Hughes. The decision paid off this week as Hughes cashed a $7,500 first-place check.

Course Designer Danny Foster of Milton, Ontario challenged 30 horses and riders to 13 obstacles in Thursday’s class, which included a triple combination at fence six, a double at fence nine and a sizable final effort at fence 13.

“I designed the course to make it challenging, but not so big,” said Foster. “It was long, so the horses got a little tired.”

Fatigue certainly played a role in the results of the class with a little less than half the field dropping a rail at the final jump of the course. Foster saw only three go clear in the first round and welcomed them to seven single fences in the jump-off.

“The jump-off was designed to be just a fast course,” added Foster. “I included some turns and some galloping and I think it did a nice job of deciding the winner.”

First to go in the jump-off was Tracy Fenney of Flower Mound, Texas in the irons of MTM Farms’ MTM Timon. No stranger to Grand Prix glory at HITS Ocala, Fenney was chasing her seventh win of the season in the Grand Prix ring. Timon, however, dropped a rail at the second to last fence of the jump-off and refused the final jump to give the pair eight faults in a time of 43.45 seconds.

Second to face the jump-off round was Hughes. Mac Arthur ate up the ground in between fences and posted the only clear jump-off round in 42.33 seconds to set the Great American Time To Beat and eventually claim the win.

“I really don’t have any feelings yet – I’m kind of numb,” said Hughes. “After I saw Tracy [Fenney] drop that rail in the jump-off, I knew I didn’t have to go that fast.”

Admittedly, Hughes didn’t tap into Mac Arther’s speed in this particular round, but knew it was there if he needed it.

“He doesn’t feel that fast [because] he has such a big stride,” he said of his mount, Mac Arthur. “I really didn’t think the jump-off was so challenging because this horse is so perfect. He just makes it look easy.”

Scott Keach of Ocala, Florida was the final rider to face the second round aboard Anne Quanbeck’s CoCo. Again, fence number six reared its ugly head as CoCo brought a rail down in his second to last effort. The pair posted a time of 42.93 seconds to steal second place from Fenney and bump her to third overall.

Isabelle LaPierre of Breakeyville, Quebec and La Chaudiere Farm’s Vicki Vale jumped clear in the first round, but picked up two time faults to keep them from the jump-off which earned them a fourth place finish. Rounding out the top five was Meg O’Mara of Rumson, New Jersey on Walstib Stables, LLC’s Aragon Rouet. O’Mara and her mount fell victim to fence 13 in the first round and ended the class with four faults in fifth place.

The $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, kicked off the final two weeks of qualifying for the HITS Championship Weekend as Grand Prix Riders set their sights on the 2012 Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. High-performance action will reach its peak on Sunday, March 18 when the Ocala Winter Celebration features the coveted $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group. Riders will use the momentum they have gained throughout the winter circuit to jump for the biggest purse of the season.

©ESI Photography
As the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit approaches its last weeks of competition, Michael Hughes and Drumnacross Farm Ltd.’s Mac Arthur sailed to victory in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, yesterday at HITS Post Time Farm.

©ESI Photography
HITS’ Lisa Engel and Caitlin Howley are joined by a representative of Baker Blankets to present Michael Hughes and Mac Arthur with winning honors after their performance in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Ocala. A bottle of wine was presented to Hughes’ father Eammon, courtesy of Sonoma-Cutrer, the Official Wine Sponsor of HITS Shows.

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