Robert Lee Victorious in $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge

Robert Lee and El Grecco, owned by Brook Run Farm, won the bi-coastal $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge, a qualifier for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final in Saugerties this September. (c) ESI Photography
Robert Lee and El Grecco, owned by Brook Run Farm, won the bi-coastal $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge, a qualifier for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final in Saugerties this September. (c) ESI Photography

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




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