Showplace End of Summer II has finished at HITS Chicago after two exhilarating weeks of FEI competition, with Canadian Beth Underhill taking a big win in the $500,000 HITS Chicago Grand Prix and Erynn Ballard winning the $35,000 AIG Classic.
The prestigious FEI CSI5* event kicked off Thursday and hosted three $35,000 classes leading up to the HITS Chicago $500,000 Grand Prix on Sunday, the first of two such events hosted by HITS this summer. Next will be the FEI CSI5* at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York, September 5-9, featuring the Saugerties $500,000 Grand Prix on Sunday, September 9.
Starting off the FEI classes on Thursday, Mattias Tromp and Eyecatcher took the win in the $35,000 Boehringer Ingelheim Welcome, the qualifier for Sunday’s CSI5*, in a jump-off time of 37.90. Tromp also took third aboard Crack Elle Chavannaise in a jump-off time of 41.32. Madden was second in a jump-off time of 41.31 aboard Chic Hin D Hyrencourt.
Friday, the $35,000 SmartPak Classic took place with Australian Scott Keach besting the field aboard Fedor in a jump-off time of 45.41. Madden was second with Chic Hin D Hyrencourt in a jump-off time of 45.99. Wordley was third aboard Casper in a jump-off time of 46.78.
Saturday, the $35,000 AIG Classic took place with Canadian Erynn Ballard taking the win aboard Catoki’s Son Z in a jump-off time of 36.11. Not far behind her was Anrade and Ricore Courcelle in second in a jump-off time of 42.66. Third was Ali Wolff and Exotik Sitte in a four-fault jump-off time of 36.72.
Sunday, an excited crowd gathered in the stands as they waited for the first horse to go into the ring. The crowd amped up the riders as they finished walking the course of 1.50m-1.60m fences. Thirty-eighty riders would enter the ring, but only one would come out the winner. After a challenging course, built by Guilherme Jorge of Wellington, Florida, seven would come back to jump-off. “It is a very prestigious class and I think I built a good course for that,” said Jorge “It was nice to watch the horses jump in the first three classes so I could get a feel for what I was working with and built the course based on that.”
The first round proved challenging for some, but Canadian Beth Underhill, along with Rowan Willis, Margie Engle, Ali Wolff, Scott Keach, Andrew Kocher , and Mattias Tromp, came out with clear rounds. Going into the jump-off, the crowd anticipated every jump and every turn, waiting to see who would win it all.
First to go in the jump-off was Underhill aboard Count Me In. “This is his first CSI5*, so going first I didn’t want to push too hard, but I did want to put a little pressure on the riders behind me,” said Underhill. Her tactic must have worked, because she ended up on top, taking the win aboard Count Me In in a jump-off time of 38.65 and taking home a prize money check for $165,000. “We first came to Balmoral Park in June and had a great time, so we decided to come back. This is all a little surreal right now.”
Keach, riding for Australia, pushed his mount Fedor to try and catch up to Underhill, but it wasn’t quite enough, ending up second in a jump-off time of 38.81, less than half of a second behind her. “The footing here is very good and having Guilherme build the course was excellent preparation for the Saugerties CSI5* and the World Equestrian Games.” said Keach.
American rider Kocher was third aboard Kahlua after a jump-off time of 38.98, only a tenth of a second behind Keach and the last to go clear in the jump-off round. “I’m heading to Switzerland next for a couple of CSI3* competitions and then I will be back in the states for the Saugerties CSI5*,” Kocher said when asked about what was in store for him next.