Ocala, FL – Week IV of the 2023 Ocala Summer Series at World Equestrian Center – Ocala featured an eventful week full of thrilling hunter/jumper action. The penultimate week of FEI CSI3* competition saw new athletes stand atop the podium including Jad Dana (LBN) on Wednesday during the $40,000 1.45m Speed CSI3*, Luiz Francisco de Azevedo (BRA) secured first and second in the $50,000 UF Veterinary Hospital Grand Prix Qualifier CSI3* and Hunter Holloway (USA) galloped away with the lion’s share of the prize money in the $150,000 Florida Coast Equipment Grand Prix CSI3*. On Hunter Derby Friday, Jennifer Bliss played her cards right once again in the $12,500 Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club 3’6”-3’9” Hunter Derby. Read on for additional highlights from the week.
Gonzalo Busca (ESP) and Classified claimed the $50,000 Florida Coast Equipment National Grand Prix victory.
“He’s a very nice horse, very competitive, very fast and wants to do the job. I’ve been riding him for a year and half now and he’s been incredible. Next week he will jump the three-star. He hasn’t shown in a few weeks, so I thought it would be nicer to start him off a bit easier with just one small class then the national grand prix. Now, he feels ready for next week.”
Hunter Holloway (USA) cruised away with the win in the $150,000 Florida Coast Equipment Grand Prix CSI3* aboard Eastern Jam on Saturday night.
“Eastern Jam is the best. He’s a long time partner of mine, I’ve had him for seven, almost eight years now, so we know each other really well. He’s my steady eddy for sure and an ole’ reliable at this point,” laughed Holloway. “He’s a very seasoned horse, but he definitely grows in an atmosphere like this. He loves everyone cheering for him, he thinks it’s all about him. I think he come out and jumps even better because of it.”
Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Iranta notched the $10,000 Buckeye Nutrition Futures Prix victory.
“My first horse I went on, this was a big class for him. This was the first time he’s ever gone in a stake and I only had one down, I was so happy with him,” shared Ballard about her first round aboard Palou Du Rouet Van’t Bisthof. “My next horse is a super star in the making. She’s nine and honestly, I came out of the ring sitting second on her and thought that was so fast, I can’t go faster, but you get classes like this where people are going faster and all of a sudden I was fourth. I didn’t want to be fourth in this class – I wanted to win it, but that’s great competition. It makes for better riding.”
Jennifer Bliss played her cards right with Poker Face in the $12,500 Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club 3’6”-3’9” Hunter Derby.
“Toward the end there were some really nice handy rounds. I had to tell myself, ‘Okay, Jen, don’t back down now. You can’t be super careful. You have to practice riding the winning track,’ I reminded myself of that and made myself do the inside turn back to the trot jump which was quite tight. Then I went inside again to the in-and-out and tried be handy and smooth everywhere else.”
Kelli Cruciotti Vanderveen and APG Livory earned superior scores in the $10,000 UF Veterinary Hosptial USHJA National 3’ Open Hunter Derby.
“We imported her late last fall. She has never done the hunters, so we have been going really slow with her because we think she is incredibly special which she shows us every day. She’s a dream to ride. This was her second derby, she was second place in her first and now she’s won, so I think she really likes it,” laughed Cruciotti Vanderveen.
Faith Schuttemeyer and Cygnus topped the $10,000 USHJA National 3’ Jr/Am Hunter Derby.
“His name is Cygnus, he’s a sale horse that I’ve been riding for about three weeks. We have shown a few times together. Today, was great, we were going forward, and everything came up nicely.”
Aaron Vale (USA) scored his third consecutive win in the $40,000 1.45m Two Phase Special CSI3* aboard Elusive on Friday morning.
“This class is big enough with jumps at 1.45m that the horses have to jump a bit, but they’re plenty of good horses here, so you know it’s going to be a fast class to win. It’s a chase from one after another. Elusive is a super experienced horse, so there are just tiny things I am doing out there to save that one second overall.”
Luiz Francisco de Azevedo (BRA) captured first and second place in the $50,000 UF Veterinary Hospital Grand Prix Qualifier CSI3*.
“After I found out that Ashlee [Bond] had a rail, I decided to take a risk and go slow on my third horse because I went really fast with him yesterday and had the opportunity to be second behind myself today, so I was just hoping for a clear.”
Jad Dana (LBN) ran away with the win aboard Fleur-de-lis’ Cherie in the $40,000 1.45m Speed CSI3*.
“She is incredible. She’s owned by The Cherie Group, very good friends of Leslie Howard and I. They have been extremely supportive, they bought Cherie as an investment horse, but she’s been extremely valuable in my string. She wins all the time, like she did today. She’s fantastic, competitive and you know when you go in the ring you have a chance. I am extremely thankful and grateful for this group to believe in us and for everyone’s support.”
Aaron Vale (USA) opened up his week with a win aboard Elusive in the $6,000 1.40m Speed CSI3*.
“The 1.40m Speed class is not a hotly contested class, it’s more to get the horses in the ring and give them a good trip before the Qualifier or Grand Prix. The track was perfect to give the horses a good experience.”
Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Panama FZ captured the $7,500 THIS 1.40m Jumper Classic win on Sunday afternoon.
Currie Cooper and Sprucedale Inc.’s So Enchanted impressed the judges in the $2,000 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby.
Phoebe Weseley and her own Mind’s Eye landed the $3,500 WEC Ocala Non Pro Hunter Derby victory.
Congratulations to all competitors on another successful week of equestrian sport. The 2023 Ocala Summer Series continues with five more weeks of exhilarating competition!