Katy, TX - April 8, 2011 - Today the nation's top horses and riders gathered at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center during the Spring Gathering Charity Horse Show to compete in the $20,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Chris Nelson and Grand Prix Stables. Peter Pletcher was tonight's big winner, taking home the blue ribbon prize aboard Enrico with scores of 93 and 92. Pletcher also received the second place honors with Outta the Park, whom he showed to scores of 92.5 and 90. Mary Riggs was presented with the third place award with Alezzio after earning an 88 and a 91.
Forty-two horse and rider combinations competed during today's first round of competition over a course designed by Richard Jeffery of Bomemouth, England, in the Main Indoor Arena. There was a bending line, two combinations, and four fences with higher options for riders to receive additional points. The top twelve hoses with the highest scores returned for the handy round, which included three high options, a snake fence, a trot jump, and finished with a hand gallop over a large oxer option.
"I think Richard Jeffery did an amazing job with the courses," said Pletcher after his win. "The ring is a beautifully huge great riding ring, and he places those jumps perfectly. There were places that you could definitely do harder options, but it flowed so nicely that even with the inside turns there was a path your horse could look down to find the next jump. I think Richard is a magician!"
Taking home the seventh place award during today's class was Chris Nelson aboard Playboy Des Plants of Le Bocage, owned by The Stables at Le Bocage. The duo entered with an original score of 84 and then received an 85 with 3 bonus points for a 172. The sixth place ribbon went to Will Roberts with Laura Strasburg's Playmaker. The duo had a first round score of 87 and finished the handy round with a score of 83 plus 3 bonus points for a 173.
Pletcher's first mount to return for the handy round was Westview, owned by Eva Bisso. They had an original score of 92 and sat in third, but they took the inside option after the first fence and a more difficult route through the snake fence. Their inside route proved costly as it lacked finesse and the judges awarded them a score 79 with 3 added bonus points for a total of 174. Their effort through the afternoon would eventually earn the fifth place award.
The fourth place ribbon would ultimately go to Holiday, owned by Ashley Romano and ridden by Tammy Provost. The duo opted not to take any of the higher options and had a first round score of 89 and a handy score of 86 for a total of 175.
Mary Riggs and Alezzio, owned by Jennifer McNamara, were in the fifth place position going into the handy round and knew they would need to show off their talent to boost their score of 88. The duo had a beautiful slice to the first fence and carried the energy throughout the course, finishing with an excellent hand gallop to the last fence over the higher option. The judges awarded them an 88 and with the 3 additional bonus points they had a total of 179 to eventually earn the third place honors.
"He's probably one of the best horses I've ever ridden," noted Riggs. "I thought the class was a lot of fun, it was easy enough for the Children's to do it, but challenging enough that it picked out the top ones of the entire group. My horse was really good; he was for sure on today. He can be a little spooky sometimes, but today he was phenomenal."
Pletcher's final two rides of the day would prove to be his best. Outta the Park, owned by Lynn Walsh, had an excellent score of 92.5 going into the handy round, and did not disappoint by laying down another fantastic effort. The judges awarded the duo a score of 87, which was combined with 3 bonus points for an overall score of 182.5.
"We bought Outta the Park in Florida from Heidi Fish," commented Pletcher. "I rode him and I thought this would be the perfect horse for Lynn Walsh, he reminded me a lot of Ocean Park and how he was when we started him. A lot of people see him go and think they are very similar. He is big and slow and he's really good with Lynn. She shows him in the 3'3' Amateur Owner Hunter division."
The last horse to enter the ring today was Enrico, owned by Mary Stone. The talented gelding was the leader after the first round with an incredible score of 93. Once again, Pletcher did not disappoint and he showed his mount through a flawless round for a score of 90 plus 2 bonus points. The pair's total score of 185 would be the best of the day and earned the winning title.
"During the first round I wanted to play it safe and jump all of the smaller fences with him, because I wasn't sure how he was going to be in that indoor ring since he has not done much showing," explained Pletcher. "After he started going through the course I found that he was really paying attention and riding just like he did outside during the Pre-Green Classic. I was really happy, he jumped beautifully and he was so attentive and stayed on such a nice rhythm.
Pletcher added, "During the second round I decided since he was so good during the first round that I would do a couple of higher options. The jumps were similar looking so I could tell after the first round that he wasn't going to spook as much. He sighted in right where he was going, I wasn't sure about the first jump since it was so far away from the gate, and he did so that let me know that the next two higher options would be ok to attempt. "
Enrico was imported from Europe three years ago but after a long injury he just began showing again two weeks ago. The talented horse competes in the Pre-Green division and will hopefully show at Capital Challenge this year.
"I was a little concerned with the Pre-Green horses doing the Derby, but it's such a good experience for them," said Pletcher. "I don't know how they could get any better miles than going in a class like that in this kind of venue, which I think is very important." Pletcher continued, "I think it's an amazing stepping stone. I think it's a great learning experience for those horses. It's also a really good for Children's, Junior, Amateurs, and Adults, because it lets them have a really special class to work towards."
Chris Nelson and Grand Prix Stables were the generous sponsors of tonight's beautiful event. Nelson noted, "They do a great job putting on the horse show and this is a great class for young horses and people stepping up into the juniors and the Derby classes. It gives a lot of young horses and owners an opportunity to be happy and win money."
Pletcher added, "Chris and Grand Prix Stables have committed to this class for three years so I am very excited; we couldn't do it without our sponsors. It's nice that you don't have to go too far out of our business to get people to help. He's a young professional and he's a really hard worker. He's doing a really good job, not only in the horse world but in the business world as well."
The Spring Gathering Charity Horse Show will continue tomorrow with this week's highlight event, the Carole and Jim Looke Family Fund $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Sunday will mark the conclusion of this week's competition with the $25,000 Seashore Acres Grand Prix.
$20,000 USHJA NATIONAL HUNTER CLASSIC
1 ENRICO STONE, MARY PLETCHER, PETER ARENDT, DANIEL
2 OUTTA THE PARK WALSH, LYNN PLETCHER, PETER ARENDT, DANIEL
3 ALEZZIO MCNAMARA, JENNIFER RIGGS, MARY RONDEN, GLENN
4 HOLIDAY ROMANO, ASHLEY ROMANO, ASHLEY PROVOST, TAMARA
5 WESTVIEW BISSO, EVA PLETCHER, PETER ARENDT, DANIEL
6 PLAYMAKER STRASBURG, LAURA ROBERTS, WILL LE CLAIRE, LESANN
7 PLAYBOY DES PLANTS OF LE BOCAGE THE STABLES AT LE BOCAGE NELSON, CHRIS NELSON, CHRIS
8 THE ADMIRAL JARVIS, JAMIE ROBERTS, WILL JARVIS, ERIN
9 WAYFARER DONALDSON, JILL PROVOST, TAMARA PROVOST, TAMARA
10 NANTUCKET GIBSON, MADELINE GIBSON, MADELINE MC MORRIS, SUSAN
11 SHINE OLDE OAKS FARM, INC. RICHARDSON, LIZA RICHARDSON, LIZA
12 ALL IN LAZZARI, CARLY LAZZARI, CARLY WATERMAN, JOAN
Photo Credit: Peter Pletcher and Enrico won the $20,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby at the Spring Gathering Charity Horse Show. Photo By: Rebecca Walton/PMG.