OCALA, FLORIDA (February 25, 2001)-Mary Lisa Nicholson-Leffler, 33, of Brookville, Maryland, riding Kick the Clouds won the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix at the Ocala Masters horse show in Florida today--the featured event of Week III at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit. Nicholson-Leffler bested a field of 44 on a course designed by Buddy Brown of Wellington, Florida. She also placed ninth with Graf Rossini S owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Chovnick. Kick the Clouds, owned by Nicholson-Leffler and her parents, earned $15,000 for Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson's Rolling Acres Farm. "I've been knocking on the door in the Grand Prix with both of them," said Nicholson-Leffler, who is competing at Ocala all five weeks. "Each time we've had four faults. I had the fastest time of the four-faulters last week. Mr. Brown's courses have been very technical all week--not huge, but very technical, and not many riders went clean. Today's course was very technical but 12 went clean. There were a lot of good turns and running--the key was to just keep it together."
Brown's 14-jump Round One course included a triple combination at Fence No. 6 and a double at Fence No. 13 with Time Allowed set at 94 seconds. "It was a steady five across the diagonal and three strides to the triple, to a tight two. Some riders tried too hard at the triple," said Nicholson-Leffler. Elements of the triple tumbled for 11 riders. Of the 12 clears for the jump off, three riders each had two horses--Nicholson-Leffler, Aaron Vale, and Olympian Lauren Hough on Clasiko, her mount in Sydney, and Windy City.
Brown built an eight-obstacle short course and set Time Allowed at 48 seconds. Jonathan Millar, of Perth, Ontario, on McGuire was first in the order and jumped clean but had a time fault to finish in fifth place earning $3,000 for Millar Brooke Ltd. Aaron Vale of Rembert, South Carolina, was second in the order on Wanderlust and had the first fault-free trip in 47.408 seconds. Vale set the pace, but ended up in fourth place taking home $4,000 for Wanderlust's owners Mr. and Mrs. James Van Camp. Ian Silitch of Sperryville, Virginia, was next in the order and edged Vale out of the lead with a time of 47.305 riding Cable, a horse he owns with his wife Jacquelyn. Silitch held the lead until the fifth rider, Nicholson-Leffler on Kick the Clouds clocked in at 45.352, almost two seconds faster, pushing Silitch into second place for $11,000. Frankie Chesler of Wellington, Florida, riding Ravenna Z was eighth to go and had the only other fault-free round in 47.342, which was good enough for third place and $6,500 for owner Sher-Al Farms. Lauren Hough beat Nicholson-Feffler with her time of 44.626 on Peppercorn Ltd.'s Windy City, but caught a rail and had to settle for seventh place.
"I watched Jonathan go and he had a time fault, so I knew the Time Allowed was tight," said Nicholson-Feffler. "Aaron went fast and Ian was also fast, and for a moment I thought everyone was going to go clean. My horse is fast, and the key for me was the turn to the last fence. Ian was long there." Nicholson-Feffler has been riding Kick the Clouds, an 11-year-old, 15.3-hand, bay Thoroughbred gelding for two-and-a-half years, and refers to him as "the little guy."
Nicholson-Leffler's second ride in the jump off on Graf Rossini S, an 11-year-old, 16.3-hand, black Oldenburg stallion, earned eight faults in 45.667, but she was pleased with his performance. "He's a big warmblood and he gallops better, but I can turn better with the little guy. I didn't hold him off the jumps and he was almost as fast as Kick the Clouds. I was shocked when I saw his time. I got him last December and did his first shows in Ocala last year, but I never did the Grand Prix with him. He has the kindest disposition for a stallion." Nicholson will compete both horses in the Grand Prix classes at Ocala for Weeks IV and V.
Mary Lisa Nicholson became Mrs. Leffler in September. "He used to ride saddleseat," she said of her husband of six months. "But I'm trying to talk him into doing hunter/jumpers."
$50,000 HITS Grand Prix, February 25, 2001
HITS Ocala Winter Circuit III, Ocala, Florida
Course Designer: Buddy Brown
Pl#/Horse/Rider/Owner/Prize Money/Rd 1/Rd 2/Faults/J-O Time
1 Kick the Clouds/Mary Lisa Nicholson-Leffler/M.L. Nicholson-Leffler &
Rolling Acres Farm/$15,000/0/0/45.352
2 Cable/Ian Silitch/Ian & Jacquelyn Silitch/ $11,000/0/0/47.305
3 Ravenna Z Frankie Chesler/Sher-Al Farms/$6,500/0/0
4 Wanderlust/Aaron Vale/M&M James Van Camp/$4,000/09/0/47.408
5 McGuire/Jonathan Millar/Millar Brooke Ltd/$3,000/0/1/48.800
6 Conejo/Karen Cudmore/Blair Cudmore/$2,500/0/2/49.357
7 Windy City/Lauren Hough/Peppercorn Ltd/$2,000/o/4/44.626
8 Marco/Manuel Torres/Macondo Jumpers/$1,500/0/4/45.027
9 Graf Rossini S/Mary Nicholson-Leffler/M&M Bruce Chovnick/$1,500/0/8/45.667
10 Clasiko/Lauren Hough/The Clasiko Group/$1,000/0/9/48.194
11Let's Talk About/Aaron Vale/Millstream/$1,000/0/11/50.590
12 Mill Creek Roseanne/Amy Millar/Mill Creek Stables/$1,000/0/13/48.240
Number of horses who competed in this class: 44
Class Prize Money: $50,000
Show Jumping Action Continues at Ocala Winter Circuit 2001 &
Ocala Tournament February 28-March 4
Ocala Winter Finals March 7-11
$50,000 Cosequin® Grand Prix Sunday, March 4 1pm
$50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge Sunday, March 11 11am
presented by The Chronicle of the Horse
$100,000 Grand Prix Sunday, March 11 2pm
presented by Great American Insurance
HITS GOLDEN HILLS INTERNATIONAL SHOW GROUNDS: 7500 Hwy. 27 West; Ocala,
Florida 34482; Directions: Interstate 75 to Ocala Exit for Rte. 27. Go west to Golden Hills. Horse show entrance is three miles on the left. Telephone:
. Website: www.HitsShows.com