Patricia Griffith and Sienna Win $10,000 Johnson Horse Transportation USHJA International Hunter Derby
Devon, PA – July 1, 2012 -The final day of the first week of the Brandywine Valley Summer Series presented by Taylor Harris Insurance Service (THIS) concluded with the week’s highlight event, the $10,000 Johnson Horse Transportation USHJA International Hunter Derby. The final battle was between the Heritage Farm riders, with trainer Patricia Griffith taking home the win aboard Sienna with a total score of 380. Lillie Keenan garnered the second and third place honors with Monterrey and Kid Rock, respectively, while Matthew Metell placed fourth aboard Pioneer, and Allison Toffolon claimed fifth riding Class Action, all under the Heritage Farm banner.
Kenny Krome of Maryland designed today’s courses set in the Dixon Oval at the Devon Show Grounds. During the first round, riders showed over coops, brush racks, and a spilt rail aiken. They also had to jump a two stride to a bending seven that finished through the Brandywine Arch, the event’s new signature fence. The top 12 riders receiving the highest scores in the first round returned later in the afternoon for the handy round, showcase their mounts’ brilliance over the challenging course. In addition to the taking the higher options, riders had to use the inside track to demonstrate their handiness, while also showing over a trot fence and hand galloping an oxer.
Patricia Griffith and Sienna, owned by Lexi Maounis of Jupiter, FL, were the standout stars in today’s event, leading the $10,000 Johnson Horse Transportation USHJA International Hunter Derby from start to finish. During the first round they earned scores of 89 and 90 after taking all the high options, giving them a total of 179. When they returned for the handy round, the talented duo was ready to lay down a winning trip. Griffith and Sienna took all the inside turns and made the more difficult track look effortless. The judges rewarded their efforts with scores of 86 and 88, adding four high options and handiness points of 10 and 9 for a 201, and a grand total of 380.
“It’s always so much fun when I get to ride Sienna, she’s so great,” smiled Griffith after her win. “She’s like my big events partner. I’m never nervous because there’s nothing she can’t do, no course, no jump. It’s amazing to have a hunter that can make the tight inside equitation turns. She’s so rideable and so soft in her mouth, you literally just look and she turns. You pick up a canter and you basically just sit still and steer, the less you do, the better!”
During the first round, Griffith’s main concern was the heat and trying to keep Sienna fresh. She took an inside turn to the first fence and a short approach to the last fence, which paid off in the end. Griffith stated, “Even though it was hot, I felt like she tried to jump really clear, like she didn’t even touch one, and it was hard in those conditions.”
Griffith continued, “I knew I could go a little bit shorter to the two stride during the handy round than Lillie did, because she needed the lead change, and I knew that I wouldn’t. My horse likes the right lead, so I landed and I just happened to catch it so I could turn, still get the double and get inside. Sienna is just an amazing horse.”
Last year, Griffith and Sienna placed fourth in the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals, and also placed fourth at the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Winter Equestrian Festival earlier this winter. They will once again be aiming towards the Finals as their main event this year.
Griffith’s pupil, Lillie Keenan, was right behind her, and after winning the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in 2011, she knew exactly what she needed to do to be at the top. Keenan, of New York, NY, and Monterrey were on Griffith’s heels in the first round, scoring an 84 and 84.5 with all the high options for a 176.5. During the handy round they executed flawless turns, a solid trot fence, and beautiful hand gallop. They received scores of 85 and 89, with high options, as well as 9 and 8 handy points for a 199, just two points away from Griffith’s handy round. Their two round total of 375.5 earned them the second place award.
“I thought Monterrey’s trips were really good,” commented Keenan. “He’s an equitation horse, so he hasn’t done a lot in the hunters, but I’ve been doing him in the Derby classes and he’s been awesome. He’s great for the handy rounds because he can turn really quickly and he gives a full effort at every fence. To have that kind of versatility with a horse is really special, and I trust him with everything so I can really test him and he pulls through.”
Keenan also made a huge step up in the standings with her second mount, Kid Rock, also owned by Maounis. They were ranked seventh after the first round, having earned scores of 83 and 76 with four high options for a 167. The handy round proved to be their specialty as they flowed through the turns and showcased a striking hand gallop. Scores of 87 and 86 were announced, as well as additional points of 7 and 9 for handiness, bringing their second round total to 197, and grand total to 364 for the third place honors.
“Kid Rock has been an awesome horse,” stated Keenan. “He’s really special for these kinds of classes because he really can jump and I think sometimes when you’re showing in the 3’6″ for a lot of the horses you don’t get to see them give their entire effort. To have him in those classes jumping the bigger options, he’s a special horse and can really jump, so that’s where I think he shows off.”
Griffith and Keenan have been competing against each other for many years, but they are always rooting for each other and trying to help one another. “If I’m not going to win, I’d prefer that the kids like Lillie win. It’s nice because she’s such a great rider and I feel really honored that I was part of that from the beginning. I knew right from a young age that she was freakishly talented, so it’s fun because you definitely want a real competition. It’s a fun kind of team rivalry thing.”
Following in fourth place was Matthew Metell and Heritage Farm’s Pioneer. They had a very solid first round that total 171 and returned in the third place position. Their handy round was very smooth, and received a score of 189, for a total of 360 and the fourth place prize. Allison Toffolon of Bronxville, NY, followed in fifth, riding her equitation mount Class Action to scores of 170.25 and 184 in each round for a 354.25 total. Lindsay Mutschler of Chadds Ford, PA, was the only rider that was not from Heritage Farm to break into the top six. She piloted her Amateur-Owner Hunter Fielding to a score of 163.5 during the first round, and jumped from tenth to sixth during the handy round with a score of 181 and a total of 344.5.
Griffith concluded, “We really like this show because it gives you a chance to be at the Devon Show Grounds without it being chaotic like it is during Devon. It’s just a great place to get in this big, beautiful ring, and they do a really nice job.”
Today marked the conclusion of the first week of Brandywine Valley Summer Series, but the event will resume on Wednesday, July 4, at the historic Devon Show Grounds. Once again, riders will have the opportunity to compete during in the hunter, jumper, and equitation events at the ‘AA’-rated horse show. Next week’s highlight will be Saturday night’s $5,000 Get Real Get RAW USHJA National Hunter Derby.
For more information about the Brandywine Valley Summer Series, please visit http://brandywinevalleysummerseries.com.