Patricia Griffith and North Country Victorious in $15,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby at Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian Festival

Patricia Griffith and North Country Victorious in $15,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby at Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian Festival

Rebecca Walton for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

image0017Traverse City, MI – July 11, 2009 – It was a dramatic end to the $15,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby as Patricia Griffith and North Country and Lillie Keenan and Genuine both received overall scores of 373. Their tie was broken by Griffith’s round two score, where her decision to take the higher options and make the tight inside turns paid off and she received all ten bonus points from both pairs of judges. Griffith and North Country led the night’s victory gallop at the Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian Festival at Flintfields Horse Park, while Keenan and Genuine followed in a close second.

Thirty-five riders competed in tonight’s main event in the Grand Prix Ring, which got underway at 5 p.m. Course designer Dean Rheinheimer set a challenging track that included a bank jump, a snake fence, and an in-and-out option, as well as options for inside turns.

The twelve riders with the highest scores from the first round were asked to return for the handy round. Peter Pletcher had the seventh and eighth place horses, Westview and Camira, and was allowed to return first because of their placement in the order. Pletcher made a bold move aboard Camira as the first rider on course, taking the lower option for the first part of the in-and-out and the higher option for the second portion. Unfortunately the risk would not be enough and their total score of 319 would earn them the 10th place honors.

Griffith and her first mount, Valedictorian, would be the next pair to make a bold move. They took a tight inside turn from the lower in-and-out option to the following oxer. Originally in eleventh place after the first round, the pair received a score of 174 for a total of 341 and moved into the fourth place position.

After the first round Griffith and North Country held the fourth place position, and Griffith knew she would have to be bold again to take over the lead. Griffith chose to do the higher in-and-out option and also did the difficult inside turn that followed. Her decision paid off when she received ten bonus points from both judging teams, for a score of 195 and a total of 373 to take over the lead.

Shane Sweetnam was next on course with Bring It On, who held the third place position after the first round. He tried to follow Pletcher’s lead by taking the lower in-and-out option to the higher option, but other mistakes in the course led to a score of 150 for a total of 336. Sweetnam and Bring It On took home the seventh place ribbon.

Twelve-year-old Lillie Keenan galloped into the ring next aboard Genuine, who held the second place position after the first round. The pair laid an excellent track, taking all of the high options, and received a score of 185. Keenan and Genuine’s two-round total was 373, creating a tie with Griffith. All overall ties are broken by the team one judging score from the second round, which placed Griffith just ahead of Keenan in the standings.

The final horse on course was last year’s winner, Peridot, with Kara Raposa in the irons. They also had a very good trip, but they were not handy enough to catch Keenan and Griffith. The pair received a score of 177 for a total of 366 and finished in the third place position, securing Griffith’s victory.

“I’m excited, it was a great class,” smiled Griffith after her victory. “I took a couple of shots and it paid off, so I’m happy.”

“During the first round I wanted to have a smooth round,” explained Griffith. “I wanted to jump the bigger options and just really have a smooth round and get some good, crisp jumps. I thought he jumped really well; he jumped rub-free and really high. I thought I rode a little backwards going up the hill to the bank. I was a little more tentative than he was and I think I was just making sure he knew to jump onto the grass. I thought the rest was great and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

During the handy round Griffith really had to put the pressure on the riders that followed her and having ridden the course first with Valedictorian helped her make a plan with North Country. “I knew I had Kara and some great riders behind me so my plan was to jump the high options,” she noted. “On my first horse I jumped the lower one and snuck inside that oxer and after I did it on the first horse I was like ‘maybe I can still go inside’. It was dicey but I knew I had to take a shot.”

Taking the shot paid off for Griffith, as she was the only rider to receive all ten bonus points for handiness from the judges. “That’s what won the class,” admitted Griffith. “Lillie and I tied, so had I not done that and jumped the bigger one I would have gotten second and wished I’d jumped the bigger one.”

North Country is a 10-year-old warmblood by Nairobi and owned by Laura King of Irvington, NY. He is currently competing in the Junior Hunter divisions with Keenan. “He is a great horse,” stated Griffith. “We won the Derby in Chicago and I hope to compete with him at Finals. He’s quiet, he wants to be smooth, and he’s got a nice jumping style.”

Griffith works for Heritage Farm, owned by Andre Dignelli, who was very pleased with her performance. “Patricia rode great,” he said. “She’s a real go getter and she goes for broke. I sort of thought the other day that she should ride this horse in this class because we really weren’t planning on that. It’s just nice to see her have opportunities to ride such great horses and show everybody how beautifully she rides.”

Heritage Farm also trains Keenan, fifth place finisher Tina Di Landri, and eighth place finisher Victoria Birdsall, and they appreciate the excellent show Horse Shows by the Bay puts together. “They really do things nicely and put on a real event,” explained Dignelli. “The jumps are different, the atmosphere is lovely, and it is very well done.”

Griffith added, “There is a lot of space to ride and it’s really about the horses. The staff is kind and welcoming; it’s always fun to come to this horse show.”

Five Star Tack of Holicong, PA donated a custom bridle to the winner of tonight’s $15,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby, Patricia Griffith and North Country. There was also a beautiful complimentary exhibitor party catered by Outback Steakhouse which was sponsored by Hillside Farm and Friends – Bloomfield Hills, MI; Rush and Carl Weedon of Brookwood Farm – Lake Bluff, IL; and Outback Steakhouse – Traverse City, MI.

The Horse Shows by the Bay Series I will continue tomorrow with the $1000 Children’s Hunter Classic and the $1000 Pony Hunter Classic, sponsored by the Gochman Family. Tomorrow’s feature event is the $30,000 Spy Coast Farm Grand Prix of Traverse City beginning at 2 pm in the Grand Prix Ring. The Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian Festival will continue with exciting hunter, jumper, and dressage action through August 2.

For more information about the 2009 Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian Festival please visit www.horseshowsbythebay.com

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Photo Credit: Patricia Griffith and North Country had a beautiful handy round that secured their victory in the $15,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian Festival. Photo C Rebecca Walton/PMG. Photograph may be used only in relation to this PMG press release.