Kristen Vanderveen and Bull Run’s Jireh Jump to Victory in $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at HITS Ocala
Kristen Vanderveen and Bull Run’s Jireh bested a nine-horse jump-off on Friday afternoon to win the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at HITS Ocala. She and the 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding posted an unbeatable double-clear effort during the tiebreaker to eventually take home the lion’s share of the prize money. Tom Foley and Idalgo were just behind them and claimed second place, while Hunter Holloway and Kalina N took the third-place honors.
“I’m really excited about [Bull Run’s Jireh’s] future,” expressed Vanderveen following her victory. “I have super high hopes for him – we hope he might be an Olympic prospect. I would be hard-pressed to find any negatives about him. I’m waiting for the shoe to drop a little bit, but thankfully it hasn’t yet.”
Mark McGowan set a welcoming track for the first round of the Grand Prix ring’s main event, including a triple bar to a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination, eventually yielding nine clear rounds. The jump-off began with a bending line to the first part of the triple combination and finished with another bending line towards the gate to the final vertical.
Foley and Idalgo were the first to clear the short course, wearing a target on their back as they set the pace to beat at 38.688 seconds. His lead held for two rounds but changed hands as Vanderveen and Bull Run’s Jireh flew through the short course, making a speedy turn to the combination and leaving out a stride down the last line to take over the top spot in a faultless 37.894 seconds.
Holloway and Kalina N were next in the return order, and although they left all the rails intact, 41.286 seconds would be too slow to catch Foley and Vanderveen for third place. The only other faultless effort belonged to Tricia O’Connor and K-Carla, who were just behind Holloway with a time of 41.309 seconds for fourth place, leaving Vanderveen at the top of the leaderboard.
“I’ve never ridden a horse like [Bull Run’s Jireh],” explained Vanderveen. “He is really unique because he has blood, but he’s not strong. He’s a can-do kind of guy and goes in the ring and tries every time, and he has a big personality at home and is sweet in the barn. All the grooms love him. He’s spoiling me right now for sure!”
Vanderveen concluded, “This is probably my best up-and-coming horse, so he’s a huge value to us and the ground here is great and I feel very comfortable coming here. Getting to develop him here has been fantastic.”
Riders will return to the Grand Prix ring on Saturday for the $10,000 Post Time Classic and Sunday for the $75,000 Joan Pletcher Real Estate Network Grand Prix. The Overlook Club features the perfect view of the ring and is open to all, with a special brunch every Sunday for $45 per person. The season at HITS Ocala will culminate with the Great American $300,000 Grand Prix on Sunday, March 26, with one of the biggest purses in the country. Make sure to visit the horse show office or www.hitsshows.com for more information.