Ocala, Florida/Thermal, California: Geography proved no object when top HITS hunter riders from the East Coast and West Coast squared off in the $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge Friday and Saturday at HITS Ocala and HITS Thermal.
The Hunter Challenge was judged simultaneously via video by two judges on each coast, with Round 1 taking place on Friday and the top 12 from each coast coming back for Round 2 on Saturday. Riders who made the cut went in reverse order of their first round scores, but everyone started with clean slate and scores did not carry over to the second round. Despite best efforts by all contenders, the East Coast proved victorious, with Robert Lee and El Grecco taking first place at HITS Ocala with a total score of 182.
Lee, on another horse, also won the $25,000 U-Dump Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic High, presented by Vetera® XP Vaccines on Saturday at HITS Ocala. Lee said El Grecco, a Hanoverian by Esprit, used to be a jumper. “He has won Grand Prix in the past, but he is 15 now so I switched him to the hunter ring last year. I’ve won two hunter derbies with him since then. I was happy with him today — he rode a lot better than yesterday. He likes these impressive jumps. He was feeling it. I save him for these big classes,” he said.
The West Coast wasn't far behind the blue. Jenny Karazissis, a regular contender at the HITS Thermal, who has consistently placed among top contenders in the Devoucoux Hunter Prix, took second place on Undeniable, owned by Hope Town Farms, with a 180 total score. Samantha Schaefer, East Coast, rounded out third place on her Classified, with a 174.5.
Fourth place went to Amanda Steege, who has won three $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix this season at HITS Ocala. Steege's total in the Hunter Challenge Saturday was 174. In fifth, was John French, on Gambler's Choice, owned by Con Caletto Enterprises with a score of 171. French is a regular Thermal competitor and three-time winner of the Charles Owen Leading Hunter Rider Award this circuit.
The East Meets West Hunter Challenge is a qualifier for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final at the HITS Championship in Saugerties, New York, this September. The class was open to juniors, amateurs and professionals.
On Saturday, viewers of the webcast could watch as the competition alternated between hunter riders in Florida and California. A replay of the $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge is available free to watch on usefnetwork.com.
$50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge
Place Horse Owner Rider East/West Prize Score
1 El Grecco Brook Run Farm Robert Lee East $15,000 182
2 Undeniable Hope Town Farms Jenny Karazissis West $7,500 180
3 Classified Samantha Schaefer Samantha Schaefer East $5,000 174.5
4 Balou Lisa Arena Dvis Amanda Steege East $3,000 174
5 Gambler's Choice Con Caletto Enterprises John French West $2,000 171
6 King's Peak Emma Waldfogel Emma Waldfogel West $1,600 171
7 Zidane Susan Darragh Amanda Steege East $1,500 169.5
8 Lukatoni Pamela Moellenhoff John Bragg West $1,400 169.5
9 Cold Case Donald Stewart Ashton Alexander East $1,300 166
10 Broadway Lindsey Ward Morgan Ward East $1,200 164
11 Frido Megan Camaisa Tanya Levorchick West $1,100 162
12 Nostalgic Penelope Murray Jennifer Jones West $1,000 162
13 Cameron Marianne Huss Robert Lee East $750 160
14 Social Hour Laura Strasburg John Bragg West $750 158
15 Bunistar Naomi Rubin Hugh C. Mutch West $750 155
16 Nonchalant Tylor Nowell Tylor Nowell West $750 155
17 MTM Hands Down Beechwood Stables LLC Amanda Steege East $700 148.5
18 Quebo Beechwood Stables LLC Annabel Revers East $700 144
19 Valor Sarah Lambert Deirdre Catani East $700 143
20 Moneypenny Animation Samantha Perlman East $700 136
21 Stallone Samantha Schaefer Samantha Schaefer East $650 136
22 Riesling John Bragg Jennifer Jones West $650 133
23 Berlin Marielle Fries Morgan Thomas West $650 90
24 Puissance R Lisa Hankin Jenny Karazissis West $650 80