September 11, 2013--Jimmy Torano of SW Ranches, Florida admits that he and Kathryn Haefner, who owns La Bonita, gambled on the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final, entering the five-year-old German-bred Warmblood mare in the highest stakes hunter class in the world. Lady Luck, however, was on their side at HITS Saugerties this week. Or, perhaps, La Bonita is just that good.
"She's a very special horse and what she did today is unheard of," said Torano. "This is only her second show, and for her to walk into the Outside Course this week and then the Grand Prix Stadium today and perform the way she did shows just how unbelievable this horse really is."
Haefner could not contain her excitement when the announcer spoke her mare's name over the sound system and accepted the $150,000 winner's check with tears streaming down her face. "I have no words," said Haefner. "Jimmy is a great rider and she is a special horse. I am still speechless that this has happened."
La Bonita is by Lupicor and was imported by Stewart Moran for the Haefner family and is impressing not just her owners, but fellow competitors as well.
"She was the horse to watch in this class," said Patricia Griffith of New York, New York. Griffith won the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix last year with Lexi Maounis' Sienna. "Everyone noticed her on the first day on the Outside Course and she had us all wondering who this horse was."
Griffith and Sienna returned this year to finish third, with West Coast rider Hope Glynn of Penngrove, California sliding into second. Glynn has been making the trek from California to New York for this event all three years that it has been offered and says that while the prize money is unprecedented, the class is doing great things for the advancement of the hunter.
"It's nice to come home with big check, but it's also such an opportunity to be able to come home and say your horse jumped consistently well over three days and proved itself," said Glynn who qualified to ride in the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final during the HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California. "I believe in the horses that I bring to this class and it really helps to show them off."
Fourteen-year-old rider Hunter Holloway of Topeka, Kansas piloted Lyons Creek Bellini, owned by Hays Investment Corp. to fourth. Rounding out the top five was California-based Jenny Karazissis and Kelly Straeter's Undeniable.
For Torano, who also rode in the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix, the Hunter Prix, set by Rian Beals of Saugerties, New York was, in some ways, harder. "I didn't even think that we would make it through the two qualifying rounds, so to ride for this kind of money against these caliber horses and riders was nerve racking!" he said.