On Sunday, August 6, HITS VI Course Designer, Mark McGowan of Great Britain, set forth a large and sprawling track for the final Grand Prix in the HITS Summer Series. To test the 29 entrants in the $50,000 ULCERGARD Grand Prix, McGowan required 16 jumping efforts in the first round from a 13 element course which included both a Triple and a Double Combination. Fence 13, the announcer made mention, was in fact the largest jump of all of the16 efforts.
Eight of the twenty-nine to start mastered a fault-free performance in round one and earned a berth into the jump-off. Cassandra Kahle qualified each of her mounts, WALLSTREET and PYRENES DE LOUZES, and Laura Chapot qualified her trio of mounts, QUOINTREAU UN PRINCE, ISHD DUAL STAR, and THORNHILL KATE. Laura Bowery on ZERLY, Tracey Fenney on IGOR VAN DE HEIBOS, and Candice King on CALISTO 26 rounded out the highly competitive field who would vie for the win.
McGowan’s shortened course of nine jumping efforts demanded championship skills; fleet-footed speed, instant adjustability, and extreme carefulness in the air. The jump-off opened with a familiar track from the first-round — fences 4b, 5, 6, and 7. Then a hard left-hand rollback to a tall vertical into a bending eight or nine-stride line to the first two elements of the original Triple Combination. The last line, the Merial Ride To Win Vertical, and the final jump, the largest oxer of the event stood directly in front to the Legend VIP Club.
First to re-enter the ring for the jump-off was Cassandra Kahle atop Redfield Farm’s WALLSTREET. On Friday, the pair had held the lead in the in the $25,000 Smart Pak Grand Prix until Laura Chapot, last to go in that event, took over top the spot with a faster double clear round. Today, Kahle and WALLSTREET galloped into the Stadium more confidently than in the preceding weeks. The twosome delivered a fault-free jump-off round in a time 45.830. Chapot and QUOINTREAU UN PRINCE, second in the return order, set a blistering pace, but when a rail fell, their time of 43.073 could not overtake Kahle.
The next three entries, Fenney, Chapot on ISHD DUAL STAR, and Bowery, each had rails to finish 7th, 6th, and 5th respectively.
When Kahle returned on her second mount, PYRENES DE LOUZES, she sought to secure the top two spots. Finishing fault-free in a time of 46.154 seconds, she achieved her goal. But, her toughest competition, Laura Chapot, had one more chance to take over the lead atop her speedy Irish-bred THORNHILL KATE. Chapot jumped fault-free, and it appeared she may have taken the win, however, the clock said she’d have to settle for third. Chapot’s time of 46.184 was just 3 one-hundredths of second from taking over second place.
As Candice King and CALISTO 26, the final entry, cantered onto the course Kahle and her trainer Emil Spadone stepped up to the in-gate to see if their lead would hold. When King’s mount knocked the top rail off of the first fence, Kahle was assured first and second – a big win and big payday for Redfield Farm, the owner of both WALLSTREET and PYRENES DE LOUZES.
Kahle said she was a little nervous about the first-round course which presented quite a few options in the lines with varying stride choices. In the jump-off, Kahle referred to herself as ‘not a very fast rider’ and said she did not realize she was as fast as she was on Wallstreet. “I thought I was wide on one of the rollbacks, but he is a relatively fast horse across the ground, especially for his size, so we gave it our all — and we did it.”
As for PYRENES DE LOUZES, whose barn name is Pyro, Kahle said, “I usually don’t go as fast on Pyro. I am just learning him a little more in the jump-offs, so the fact that we were pretty close to Wally’s [WALLSTREET’s] time made me very happy with him.”
After the victory, Spadone, proudly remarked, “Both are really nice horses who really like Cassie. They jump well and try hard for her. Cassie is really developing as a rider and has become more and more consistent, which is what this game is all about.” Then he added, “Laura Chapot is a great rider who is so fast. Cassie looks up to her, and would love to be fast, like she is, some day. But, today was just our day.”