February 18, 2014--With no faults and the fastest time, Darragh Kenny of Wellington, Florida and Alpha VDL bested a large field of 51 top tier horses and riders to win the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis at HITS Ocala. The nine-year-old gelding, Alpha VDL, was purchased by Eva Castegren at the VDL Auction in West Palm Beach last March and has been shown lightly until making his grand prix debut with Kenny this weekend.
Most grand prix competitors felt the track designed by course designer Martin Otto of Muenster, Germany to be challenging. The time allowed was set at 71 seconds, but later raised to 73, the course included a total of twelve obstacles and fifteen jumping efforts with a tricky triple combination at fence ten. The course was consistent with knock-downs and time faults as Otto’s track tested the competitors. First to post a clear round was Lazaro and Jordan Coyne of New Port Richey, Florida and only four others would follow them to the jump-off.
Returning first, Lazaro, a 14 year-old Dutch Warmblood and Coyne finished with four faults at fence seven and a time of 37.7 seconds, which was good for fourth. Quality Girl a 12-year-old Warmblood mare with professional rider Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, Florida in the irons finished second in the Zoetis Million at Saugerties last year and pulled a rail at 10b for four faults and finished with a time of 38.28 seconds for fifth place.
Third to jump and making it look easy was the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Viriato ridden by professional Scott Keach of Reddick, Florida, with two double-clear rounds during the class for owner Southern Cross Equestrian. Keach established the Great American Time To Beat at 44.90 seconds with Viriato. This would ultimately give them a third place finish. Next to jump off was Fernando Cardenas of New Hill, North Carolina aboard his 10-year-old Oldenburg stallion Quincy Car. With no faults and a speedy time of 43.75 seconds, they finished seconds.
Kenny was definitely the underdog on a horse with no grand prix experience, but he and Alpha VDL prevailed in the thrilling five-horse jump-off, going clear with a time of 42.24 seconds for the win.
“He’s a big, easy-going horse I’ve shown him a few times now and nothing fazes him,” said Kenny. “He has a big stride and for a big horse he is amazingly light on his feet.”