Gulfport, MS - While Hollywood may be buzzing about Oscar nominees’ skills on the big screen, the fourth week of the 2010 Gulf Coast Winter was dedicated to honoring the talent and elegance of show hunters with two big events held at the Harrison County Equestrian grounds.
Friday morning began with the $10,000 Chronicle of Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby presented by Dietrich Insurance. It all started with the equivalent of a red carpet walk spotlighting Shadbelly jackets, shined boots, braided manes and tails all around as a talented mix of 45 professionals and amateurs jogged before this year’s panel of four judges-Sue Ashe, Betsy Perry, Alice Coke, and Carl Hansen.
Following the soundness test, stars and starlets began with a first round course of 12 obstacles from the imagination of designer Paul Jewel, comprised mostly of natural materials such as logs, brush, and gate planks. Within the track riders encountered 6 options with height choices of 3’6 or 4’ as well as bending and broken lines throughout. Only the top 12 scores would be invited back for the handy round two.
“Primera handled everything really well. There were some difficult spots, but he [Primera] was so solid.” Catherine Rinehart of Indianapolis, IN who captured the first round and onto the overall victory began, “I was just a little worried about the last line because there were two options in and two options out. I did the low to the high options and if you did that it was about 7 ½ [strides] and I decided to do the 8, so I waited, going slow and he did the last jump really well. ”
Early in the first round Pamela Deslauriers lead the pack riding Bruce for owners Twin Oaks Farm, LLC with a combined high score of 170. The lead role changed as Rinehart directed Primera to a 181 score for owner Helen Gilbert. “I rode Primera in maybe 3 shows as a 1st Year Green horse and that was probably 4 years ago. His regular rider couldn’t be here so I got to ride him- I was lucky!” Catherine said of her 10 year-old Holsteiner mount. Chasing Rinehart during the first round were owner-rider Brooke Kennedy with Abercrombie matching the 181 high score and Lindsey Roberts of Kingwood, TX riding Fun & Games to a score of 178 both well above the 160 cut off to assure their return. But as the initial round concluded it was still Catherine and Primera taking center stage. Ribbons were awarded to the top twelve who would in turn move one ride closer to the $10,000 prize.
Moving to scene two, where Jewel deigned a handy 11 fence layout that included 4 options, one of which came at fence #5 where riders chose between a sweeping track right to trot over a small log at #6 or a broken line with a sharper turn. However, the p’est de resistance came at the #10 obstacle, a gate to be opened while mounted, walk through it and pick up a hand gallop to the final oxer. Owner-rider Sue Takata with Dolce were the first pair in and executed an easy gate maneuver earning them a score of 170 added to their first round 160 for a total of 330. One of the toughest riders Catherine faced was Will Roberts aboard Dubari for owner Gayle Cox, the duo had a smooth approach to the gate obstacle which the judges’ scores reflected with bonus points for a 183 second round total and overall score of 350 giving them the lead position.
Catherine said her script for the final curtain included going inside after the first obstacle and choosing the low to high options because “that was a nicer line, the low to low was really abrupt. The option set you up with a little more room to get to the next big oxer.” When asked if she rehearsed the gate with her mount, Catherine replied with a laugh, “No, we didn’t really practice, in the schooling area I just lean off either side and pretend that I’m reaching for something and he didn’t bat an ear so I thought oh he’ll be fine.” Confidence that paid off with a score of 181 added to their first round for a total of 362 and the victory.
Presenting a host of goodies to this morning’s winners was sponsor Shawna Dietrich of Dietrich Insurance and Lisa Slade of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine. Along with the custom USHJA ribbons, the winner received with her check a crystal trophy, commemorative cooler, special Essex shirt, Gulf Coast cooleret, and assorted goodie tote.
Official Results for the Derby were:
- 1st Primera owned by Helen Gilbert and ridden by Catherine Rinehart
- 2nd Dubari owned by Gayle Cox and ridden by Will Roberts
- 3rd Blackstone owned by Lynn Rice and ridden by Thomas Brennan
- 4th Dolce owned and ridden by Sue Takata
- 5th Bruce owned by Twin Oaks Farm, LLC and ridden by Pamela Deslauriers
- 6th Apparition owned and ridden by Jordan Siegel
- 7th Fun & Games owned and ridden by Lindsey Roberts
- 8th Argentos owned by Jennifer Ruffolo and ridden by Amanda Forte
- 9th Rex the Wonder Horse owned and ridden by Moral Masuoka
- 10th Davinci owned and ridden by Lindsey Farrell
- 11th Daily Devotion owned by Valinda Moore and ridden by Colleen Acosta
- 12th Abercrombie owned and ridden by Brooke Kennedy
Amanda Forte Stars in the USHJA National Hunter Classic
After any great feature presentation there’s usually a good sequel and shortly after noon exhibitors were treated to the $2500 USHJA National Hunter Classic presented by the Gulf Coast Classic Company starring 48 of the best three foot competitors in the industry.
Course designer Paul Jewel made some adjustments to the Derby layout for the afternoon’s cast to ensure their partners role was both dramatic and technical via the 5 options offered. The Phoebe Weseley owned Bay of Gold ridden by Tony Sgarlata jumped into an early first round lead with a score of 72 until the 20th in the order Amanda Forte of Brooklyn, NY directing the Journey’s End Farm leading man Paramount overtook them with a 84 score. “He’s just the sweetest guy!”
Amanda gushed of the 10 year-old Westphalain gelding she’s partnered with for the past year in the Pre Green division. “The course was really fun, lots of opportunities to gallop-which he’s like a dream at, it’s like being on a rocking horse almost.” Amanda said. Similar to the specs of regular Hunter Derbies (merely at a lower height of 3 foot), the National Classic was judged by the same panel and also consist of two rounds with the finale being a handy course for the top 12 horses to finale on.
“The Handy was really fun, almost felt like a jump around, there was the opportunity for some tight inside turns. The course was just beautiful!” Amanda said. Jewel’s 10 fence course provided 6 options, the most intriguing coming after #6 with the choice of taking a straight line to #7 or making a tight left turn over option #7 to garner bonus points. “We’ve done a couple of schooling jumper classes in the past just to sharpen him up and keep his interest. And I think that’s been helpful here. I knew he could do it was just up to me, if I rode it right.” a giggling Amanda said of the Handy twists. Landing a high score of 93 validated her riding choices and in the end assured the pair’s victory.
When asked her opinion of the new USHJA National Classics, Amanda said, “I think it’s awesome! It’s great for the younger horses-younger kids it’s incredible. A great opportunity to get out there and do fun things in a big class with money offered. We need more of these!” Amanda’s immediate plans include dividing her attention between working via remote access and continuing to show Paramount as well as two other mounts in both the hunter and jumper divisions. “It’s tough a lot of times, but well worth the efforts.” she concluded.
Official Results for the USHJA National Hunter Classic were:
- 1st Place Paramount owned by Journey’s End Farm and ridden by Amanda Forte
- 2nd Place Kurtain Call owned by Leigh Holland and ridden by Danielle Grice
- 3rd Place Scrabble owned by Lynn Rice and ridden by Thomas Brennan
- 4th Place Kensington owned by Use the Ring, LLC and ridden by Maggie Sarmiento
- 5th Place Mouse owned and ridden by Emma Boyce
- 6th Place CHF Supreme owned by Kalpana Ramakrishna and ridden by Celine Burch
- 7th Place Gold Stone owned by Phoebe Weseley and ridden by Tony Sgarlata
- 8th Place Alias owned by Use the Ring, LLC and ridden by Maggie Sarmiento
- 9th Place Heart Throb owned by Leslie Guthrie and ridden by Elise Richaud
- 10th Place Bay of Gold owned by Phoebe Weseley and ridden by Tony Sgarlata
- 11th Place Riesling owned and ridden by Cheryl Rubenstein
- 12th Place Abercrombie owned and ridden by Brooke Kennedy
The Gulfport Winter Classics continues with more hunter/jumper action through March 21st. Admission is free and the public is invited to enjoy the exciting competition throughout the week along with another $25,000 Grand Prix each Sunday afternoon.
For more information or results on the 2010 Gulf Coast Winter Classics please visit www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at 228-832-2745.
Photos: Catherine Rinehart & Primera; Amanda Forte & Paramount ©Flashpoint Photography