Charlie Jayne and Chill R Z capture the HITS Ocala Million. Photo by Rebecca Walton/Phelspports.com
Ocala, FL - March 23, 2015 – In the history of the HITS Million events, Charlie Jayne has consistently been knocking on the door, placing second, third, fourth and fifth over the last five years. But tonight, everything changed. Chill R Z kicked down the door, topping Olympian McLain Ward in a footrace and taking home the lionshare of the purse money with Jayne in the irons to claim their biggest victory yet.
“Hardin Towell said, ’ You won over $100k last week, just go for it,’ so that’s what I did,” laughed Jayne after his win. “I went as fast as I could trying to leave the jumps up, and I got a little lucky.”
Despite rain threatening all day, the spectators turned out in droves to the HITS Ocala Post Time Farm to watch 46 of the world’s best horse and rider combinations compete in the Great American Million Grand Prix. Although the rain did show up for the first few riders, it quickly passed, and the footing stayed intact as the competitors traversed Buddy Brown’s technical track. It featured a wall, a triple bar and three double combinations, with multiple verticals set to a difficult 1.60m standard. Only six were able to make it around without error and advance to the final tiebreaker.
Kirsten Coe was the pathfinder during the first round, and she was the first to return with Baronez. The duo was unable to match their original effort, lowering the height of an oxer after a tight left rollback for four faults in 46.918 seconds, good enough for fifth place. Lauren Hough was up next with Ohlala, and while she was able to beat Coe’s time, she had a heartbreaker at the final fence, for four faults in 42.601 seconds, which would only hold up for fourth place. Jonathan McCrea was aboard the youngest horse in the jump-off, Aristoteles V, and they had one of the tall verticals down for four faults in a conservative 49.241 seconds, eventually taking home sixth place.
Despite the fact that three riders had already gone and had rails, with big money up for grabs McLain Ward laid on the gas with his veteran partner Rothchild. They cleared each obstacle easily and crossed the finish line with a final buck of excitement in a clear 42.903 seconds, setting the standard to beat.
Charlie Jayne did not let him hold on to the lead for long though. Hungry for a win, 12-year-old Chill R Z gave it his all, galloping down to the final oxer at full speed. They tripped the timers at 42.240 seconds to take a narrow lead and eventually win the class.
The final to compete was Callan Solem with VDL Wizard, but Solem was focused on a clear round with her less experienced mount. They never touched a rail, breaking the beam at 44.116 seconds to take over the third place position, while Ward placed second and Jayne finally led the victory gallop at the million dollar event.
“VDL Wizard is a little more new at this level,” stated Solem. “With these two guys in the jump-off I tried to give it my best shot but still tried to jump clear, so we were a little slower. I still think he’s a great horse, and I am really pleased with him.”
“Everybody in the jump-off was fast,” noted Jayne. “I know Ohlala is a very fast horse with Lauren, plus McLain. I just had the advantage today that Lauren had a rail down, and I got to see McLain go.”
Jayne added, “Chill R Z and I became partners when he was 8 years old. I did him in the young horse classes, and he kind of skyrocketed from there. He’s just a rock steady horse, and he’s gotten better and better every year. “
Last week, during the Thermal Million, Ward placed second, with Jayne just behind him in third. Tonight, Ward took home his second check of $200,000. “It’s mildly bittersweet, but it’s still incredible,” he admitted. “To see our sport coming to that level really is phenomenal. My horse performed great both weeks. I went a little faster this week than last week, but I just had a feeling about Charlie, that he was going to lay it on the line, and that’s sport, that’s what makes it exciting; he did a great job.”
Today’s second place finish marked another great accomplishment for Rothchild’s impressive resume. “He’s been more than a great partner,” explained Ward. “It’s remarkable what this horse has done.”
Ward will now focus his sights on the World Cup Finals, but after being an alternate at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 World Equestrian Games, Jayne has eyes on something bigger: the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I think Chill was not at his peak yet,” said Jayne “I think most horses these days peak later in age, somewhere between 13 and 15, sometimes even 16 years old. He feels fantastic, he’s healthy; Rio is definitely in my sights. We just missed out on World Cup Finals this year, so for sure Rio will be my next big goal.”
Jayne continued, “It’s hard, because there are so many shows and so many big events so you have to pick and choose. He does a pretty good job of naturally maintaining his fitness. Every year that I’ve had him he’s gotten fitter, and he’s gotten stronger.”
The HITS Saugerties Million in September will be on Jayne’s list of events this year, and horse show manager Tom Struzzari will probably be rooting to see him in the prize money. Struzzari concluded the night saying, “I have three good customers [Jayne, Ward and Solem] sitting up here. I like it when people who spend a lot of money with me throughout the year get rewarded by doing well. So was I happy about that instead of some interloper coming in!”
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RESULTS: HITS Ocala Great American Million Grand Prix
1 929 Chill R Z Alex Jayne & Maura Thatcher Charlie Jayne 0/0/42.240 350000.00
2 1014 Rothchild Sagamore Farm (NY) McLain Ward 0/0/42.903 200000.00
3 1008 VDL Wizard Horseshoe Trail Farm, LLC Callan Solem 0/0/44.116 120000.00
4 1010 OhLaLa The OhLaLa Group Lauren Hough 0/4/42.601 100000.00
5 1042 Baronez Ilan Ferder, Lovsta Stuteri & Tal Milstein Kirsten Coe 0/4/46.918 75000.00
6 1051 Aristoteles Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables Inc Jonathan McCrea 0/4/49.241 40000.00
7 1471 Conconcreto Sancha LS Daniel Bluman Daniel Bluman 4 30000.00
8 1015 Atlanta 541 Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum 4 20000.00
9 971 Simon Abigail Wexner Beezie Madden 4 15000.00
10 1012 Dixson Susan & Ariel Grange Ian Millar 4 10000.00
11 1041 Hardrock Z Emanuel Andrade Emanuel Andrade 4 7500.00
12 1079 Mark Q Kevin Babington Kevin Babington 4 4500.00