Holly Shepard and H J Hercules Triumph in $50,000 HITS Grand Prix at Equifest III
The final week of Equifest at HITS Chicago ended with an exciting finale for Holly Shepard, who hastened to victory with H J Hercules in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix. The duo topped the two-horse jump-off ahead of Shannon Sullivan and Downtown’s Main Event. Shepard also took home the third-place prize with Warmachine as the fastest 4-faulter during the first round.
This marked the biggest win of H J Hercules’ five-year career with Shepard, who began riding the 8-year-old Argentine gelding when he was just 3. “We’ve brought him along this whole time,” explained Shepard. “He just started doing the grand prixs at the beginning of last year, but just really small ones. This year has been really his first serious grand prix year.”
Jack Robson’s first-round track tested riders with an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination before they headed to some of the larger fences on the track, including a vertical-oxer double combination next to the gate before the final, airy vertical. Only two riders advanced to the jump-off, where the double combination was reversed, and they finished with a long bending gallop over the last two verticals.
Shepard was the first to return with H J Hercules and the duo was focused on being quick, but it came at the expense of a rail at the ‘B’ element of the combination. The pair put on the gas for the final three fences to cross the timers in 36.416 seconds.
“During the jump-off, I was trying to be clear and fast,” noted Shepard. “I jumped one and two and just got a little disorganized on the way to the in-and-out. He was a little green and didn’t back up enough. Then we just hustled around. He’s a little bit slow, but he covers the ground great, so I could just run him as fast as I could go. He really stepped up to the plate.”