OCALA, FL (February 18, 2001)--Scott Hofstetter, 31, of Ocala, Florida, won the $50,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix at HITS Ocala II Winter Festival in Florida, today, riding Karat owned by Ri-Arm Farm. A field of 45 horses competed on the course designed by Ken Krome of Westminster, Maryland. Tracy Bartko on Argus owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Bartko, was the only other rider to jump a clean Round One, making the jump-off a two-horse showdown. Hofstetter was first to go on the short course and cleared the fences, but had three time faults, leaving the door wide open for Bartko, an amateur rider from Waldorf, Maryland. Bartko was clear partway through the short course, but chose to withdraw after the fourth fence when she had a rail down, giving Hofstetter the win. Hofstetter took home $15,000 for Karat's owner, Ri-Arm Farm of New Jersey. Bartko was awarded $11,000 for second place. Olympians Lauren Hough on Windy City, Ian Millar on Ivar, and Jill Henselwood on Toyz R Us, each had four faults finishing 7th, 8th, and 11th. "It was my first Grand Prix win and it was in my hometown," said Hofstetter. "It was awesome. There were probably 1,500 people here and they were all screaming and clapping. They went crazy. It feels great. It was perfect."
Mr. Krome's 13-jump Round One course had a double combination at Fence No. 7 and a triple at Fence No. 9 with Time Allowed set at 91 seconds. The combinations proved to be the challenge that dropped the majority of the riders out of contention--12 riders were unable to clear the double and 25 riders tumbled elements of the triple. Going home, the vertical at Fence No. 12 and the final oxer at Fence No. 13 each came down 16 times. Hofstetter was 18th in the order of go and had the first clear round in 89.181 seconds. Andre Thieme of Germany riding Aalsmeer's Enterprize for Aalsmeer Farm was 26th in the order and jumped clean, but he received a 3/4-time fault, barring him from the jump-off. No one else in the field was clear until the last rider, Bartko, who had a fault-free trip in 86.101 seconds. "Everyone thought there wasn't going to be a jump-off," said Hofstetter. "I was a bundle of nerves for two hours."
In the Jump-Off Round, Mr. Krome set Time Allowed at 51 seconds and built a short course of eight elements that did not include any combinations. Hofstetter and Karat were first to go and jumped clean, but at 53.761, the pair exceeded the Time Allowed and incurred three time faults. Bartko on Argus followed and jumped the first three fences clean, but had a rail at the fourth jump. Tipping her hat, she decided to save her horse for another day and accepted second place.
Hofstetter said eight-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar advised him on his strategy for the jump-off. "Ian said, 'If you want to win, you must leave the jumps up'. I thought I was going around quickly, but I had the time faults. But it worked out perfectly because then Tracy thought she had to go fast. She had a rail at the fourth jump and pulled him up."
Hofstetter was the 1986 ASPCA Maclay Finals winner, and the 1990 Leading Hunter Rider at Devon and the National. He has been in charge of the Equitation and Junior Hunters at Don Stewart's Stables in Ocala for eleven years and rode 28 hunters in competition during Week I of HITS Ocala Winter Circuit this year. He has been training Karat, a 16.2-hand, white, aged gelding from Europe, for only three weeks. Today's class was the second Grand Prix competition for the duo. "I haven't ridden in a Grand Prix for five of six years, so I don't know if it was that hard--I haven't been in that many," said Hofstetter. "The last jump was like a mountain--the cups were flat and it was very square. The horses were tired by then, but I don't think the height was that big. The triple bar (Fence No. 11) to the four-and-a-half stride was pretty wide. The time was tight. I thought it was a hard course."
Millar also gets credit for getting Hofstetter through the triple combination that tumbled for almost half the field. Hofstetter said, "The triple combination walked on eight strides, so people wanted it to be eight. It was oxer-vertical-oxer set very tight in two strides. B to C was really tight and C was wide, so a lot of riders had that last rail. You almost had to do it in nine strides. Ian told me that since my horse has a big stride, I had to do it in nine. I asked him to help me, and he did. He was very nice."
Hofstetter said that he will ride Karat in all of the Grand Prix classes for the rest of the Ocala Circuit. "Now that I have some money, I can!" he joked.
Today's class was a qualifying
Grand Prix for the Cosequin® U.S. Grand Prix League Invitational Finals to
be held in Culpeper, Virginia, September 26-30,
$50,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix, February 18, 2001
Number of Horses who competed in this class: 45
HITS GOLDEN HILLS INTERNATIONAL SHOW GROUNDS:
7500 Hwy. 27 West; Ocala,