COURSE DISCOURSE: Great American $1 Million Grand Prix

Dave Ballard

Four hours of driving early Sunday morning and I am now in Ocala. Last night in Wellington we had a really great grand prix that had a prize money total of $500,000. Today in Ocala we have the $1,000,000 Great American Grand Prix. This class is the second in the $1,000,000 series on the Hits circuit with the final to be held in Saugerties, New York in September this fall. The first in the series was last week in Thermal, California. The results there saw 6 clear to the jump off and the first and second place riders it was a magic finish and also for the 6th place finisher. There were 49 to start in California and today there will be 49 entered and they will all compete. As has been the norm for Florida this season the weather is perfect, the ring looks terrific and the jumps are bright and freshly painted and the course is well decorated. The jumps offer a different look with different colors and should offer the horses coming from Wellington something different to look at. This goes to the point that I have tried to put forward in the walks this season. Horses will jump better if they are looking at jumps that give their focus some interest. This could be really good for the riders and pose a problem for the course designer.

Werner Deeg and his Great American $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Ocala

On that note the course for this class will be Werner Deeg (GER). Werner is among the best course designers in the world and also a long time friend. The field of horses and riders for the class today will be made up of the horses that have competed on the hits circuit in Ocala, horse from the California series and several from the WEF series who over the season have shipped up from Wellington over the season to compete at Ocala. There are also some venue invitations that have been awarded to riders. This is a FEI rated event unlike the class in California that had only a national rating and set at the 1.50m or 5ft level. This class carries the 1.60m or 5.3ft rating. This class will feature Mandy Porter who was the million dollar winner last week. With the best field of competitors that I have seen here for this class and the value of the prize money the course designer will be able to use many of the tools of his trade to provide a strong course for this event.

When I walked the course earlier in the day this was what I expected and this is what he provided. There was a triple bar, a plank vertical, 1 double and 1 triple combination, a wall, 1 liverpool dug into the ground and an option vertical that you could jump on the left or right side. The option is not used as much as it used to be but I always like to see something different. There is no water jump and this is unfortunate but not unexpected. There were proper depth jump cups on all the obstacles. They were white and not the yellow cups which I like but they were correct. With a really good crowd on hand we are ready to begin the walk of the $1,000,000 Great American Grand Prix.

#1 oxer 1.45/1.50/1.50 or 4.9/5/5ft quite rampy and ended the day for 1 competitor.

#2 oxer 1.50/1.50m or 5/5ft comes from #1 on the right rein (9 or 10 strides) and tumbled to the floor 3 times.

#3 1.57m or 5.2ft plank vertical comes from #2 on a full turn left and it was pushed from the cups 7 times.

#4 vertical 1.57m or 5.2ft comes from #3 in a straight line with a distance of 21.80m or 71.6ft. This was the option jump and only 1 rider used the left side. 5 of the riders used the left side and failed to execute.

#5 oxer 1.55/1.50 or 5.1/5ft comes from #4 on the left rein no given distance and saw 7 failures.

#6 vertical 1,60m or 5.3ft comes from #5 on the full turn right and only touch the sand 1 time.

#7a triple bar 1.54/2.00m or 5.1/6.6ft comes from #6 on the right rein with no given distance (8 strides was the ride) and tumbled from the cups only 1 time.

#7b oxer 1.53/1.65m or 5.1/5.4ft with a distance of 11.20m or 36.6ft and was the second most difficult on the course with 11 poles finding the sand.

#7c vertical 1.57m or 5.2ft with a distance of 8.15m or 26.6ft and was never faulted today. This was one of the shocks today. For me the strongest triple is the triple bar, oxer, vertical and up the hill with aggressive forward distances from A to B. This combination should have been more difficult than it rode today.

#8 oxer Liverpool 1.52/1.70m or 5.1/5.6ft comes in a straight line from #7c with a distance of 26.60m or 87ft and splashed down only 2 times.

#9 oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes on the left rein from #8 and shot down 3 riders.

#10 vertical 1.58m or 5.3ft comes in a straight line from #9 on a distance of 19.20m or 62.9ft met mother earth 4 times.

#11a the wall 1.53m or 5.1ft comes on the full left turn away and across the in-gate and was never faulted today.

#11b oxer 1.55/1.30m or 5.1/4.3ft comes with a distance of 11m or 36ft from #11a and caused the most difficulty on the course today and re-entered the atmosphere 12 times.

#12 vertical 1.58m or 5.3ft comes from #11b on the right rein and no given distance and was not faulted today.

#13 oxer 1.50/1.75m or 5/5.7ft comes in a straight line from #12 on a distance of 28.70m or 94ft and was faulted 3 times and resulted in a fall.

#14 vertical 1.57m or 5.3ft comes with a small bend right on a distance of 33.30m or 109ft and was the final jump on course and ended the day for 5 riders.

The final results for the first round of the Great American Grand Prix saw 14 clean rounds, 17 rounds of 4 faults and there were 4 rounds of 8 faults.There were 4 vw’s . The fall resulted in 1 elimination. It is a difficult fact to remember that our sport is dangerous for both rider and horse. My thoughts go out to Emily and her team.

I sat with Werner for most of the class and he was troubled with the number of the clean rounds and did not expect the course to ride easy. I did not believe that there would be that many clean and none of the trainers that I spoke with did either. This course had the width, height and spread of many major grand prix classes. There also a strong technical aspect that did not come to the front. If I could find a weak area it would rest with the time allowed. If you are a reader of the walks then you know my view of the use of an unfair time allowed. The TA today was 88 seconds and was too generous. There was too much time for the technical features to do their job. With a very good field of riders and many  extremely good horses with great scope the technical aspect was negated. The footing was also a factor in the results. Without very good footing the width of the jumps would be a factor and the footing provided a base for the horses to show their scope. A different look to the material and colors also helped the horse be a little more careful if they came from Wellington or California. I am not a fan of the seeding for the order of go in major classes. I think that a random draw is far more exciting for the spectators and everyone.

The class today should have resulted in fewer clear rounds but it did not. The spectators were treated to a very exciting jump off. I think that it was a great course and today the riders won. I look forward to Werner Deeg courses in the future and hope that he gets to Australia safe and sound on Tuesday. If you follow these walks please go to the walk of the Rolex grand prix last night and compare the course dimensions with this class and see how they compare. I am back in Wellington and looking forward to the final Saturday night grand prix of the WEF season.        

Congratulations to Lauren Hough and OhLaLa on their victory in the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Ocala.
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