Gulfport, MS - March 5, 2011 - A very positive minded 23 year-old Sarah Mechlin of Cincinnati, OH partnered with Yes Indeed took the top spot over 50 competitors in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby during the fourth week of the Gulf Coast Winter Classics.
Fifty equine athletes were being braided before dawn and began lunging at 5:30 Friday morning in preparation for their first big test, the official presentation and jog before the panel of judges- Mike Rosser, Ray Francis, Betsy Perry, Tucker Erickson and show veterinarian Juan Gamboa. Once soundness was established riders donned Shadbelly jackets, shined their boots and mounted up for one last trip in the warm up ring before entering the arena to take on the first round course of 10 obstacles [12 efforts] comprised mostly of natural materials such as logs, brush, and gate planks all from the creative minds of co-designers Paul Jewel and Allen Rheinheimer. Within the track riders encountered four optional fences offering a height choice up to 4’ which provide the opportunity to score bonus points, as well as bending and broken lines, an in and out, at least one line with an unrelated distance, and a fence with a long approach. The two panels of judges’ scores were combined to determine the top 12 who would be invited back for round two.
“Ray [Yes Indeed’s nickname] is just awesome and to be quite honest I’m just along for the ride!” Sarah said with a hint of amusement, “I really wouldn’t have changed anything in round one; I thought that I just wanted to be smooth and clean. I was a little worried about the black planks across the diagonal (the option at fence #8), but he jumped them beautifully and just gave me everything he had.” Mechlin is quite smitten with partner “Ray”, the coming 9 year-old Rhinelander gelding owned by Olivia Weaver. Ray was purchased originally as a Pre Green mount with Mechlin in the irons to bring the youngster along. “I show him in the High Performance 4’ and he does the older Large Junior Hunters with his owner Olivia. He’s such a character- just as much fun in the ring as outside it.” Mechlin shared.
Early in the first round Pilot Point, TX favorite Courtney Calcagnini lead the pack with a score of 177 riding Ovation for owner Taylor Reid. Sarah and Ray followed with a solid performance and a total of 172 that would put them in a prime striking position going into the second round. “I knew it was going to be a spooky course, but he’s reliable.” Mechlin said in reference to the one stride line that took out over 40% of the starting field, “It was really spooky, you came through to turn to that line and they [the horses] could see through it, they could see the pile of logs on the right side of it, they could see the liverpool to the left side of it and even Ray, who is solid looked at it a little bit but he just gave me a big effort.” As the first round concluded Calcagnini held the lead with Holly Shepherd of Grand Bay, AL in second with Figaro B for owner Linda Bobrik scoring a 176, the third position was also held by Calcagnini aboard the Kristen Blomstrom entry Carson with a 174, Catherine Rinehart of Westfield, IN took the fourth spot with last year’s winner Primera for owner Helen Gilbert landing a total of 174 and Mechlin with “Ray” held on to complete the fifth position.
Moving into round two, where the designers upped the ante in the handy 8 obstacle [9 efforts] layout that included a sizable brush jump, a few roll backs, log jumps and the p’est de resistance a trotting in and out which the latter part was constructed from a mini bank of mulch. Owner-rider Jana Rodes of Argyle, TX and Dress Up came into the handy with a first round score of 163 and added another 178 for an overall total of 341 which took the lead for a bit. A few rounds later it was another owner-rider Patrick McGinnis from Eagleville, PA with mount Corazon adding 188 to their initial score for a new leading total of 355. “I LOVE handy rounds!” Mechlin began, “It’s my favorite class to do! But I was worried about the broken 5 stride across the middle. People were really struggling with it, the jumps were really airy, but I trusted Ray to take care of the jump and I would just do my job as the pilot.” The pair both succeeded in their respective roles securing a second round score of 197 for a combined overall total of 369.
“He [Ray] really likes his job.” Mechlin again complimented her partner on a stellar performance. The gushing rider also professed, “This is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life, from the time I was a little kid this is what I dreamed of doing, so every horse I get to sit on is privilege.” Working for Patty and Richard Rogers of Branch Hill Farm in the Cincinnati area is “the dream come true” for this young professional. Following their time at the Gulf Coast Winter Classics Mechlin isn’t entirely sure where they’ll head next, but rest assured she’ll be enjoying the ride.
Official Results for the 2011 Gulf Coast $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby:
- 1st Yes Indeed with Sarah Mechlin for owner Olivia Weaver
- 2nd Primera with Catherine Rinehart for owner Helen Gilbert
- 3rd Ovation with Courtney Calcagnini for Taylor Reid
- 4th Corazon with owner-rider Patrick McGinnis
- 5th Carson with Courtney Calcagnini for owner Kristen Blomstrom
- 6th Figaro B with Holly Shepherd for owner Linda Bobrik
- 7th Dress Up with owner-rider Jana Rodes
- 8th Carlano with Will Roberts for owner Andrea Ramirez
- 9th CR Carolato II with Jordan Siegel for owner Buddrus Equine, LLC
- 10th Dolce with owner-rider Sue Takata
- 11th Marquis with Daniel Geitner for owner Lee Cesery
- 12th Damocles with Daniel Geitner for owner Janet Peterson
Presenting a host of goodies to this morning’s winners was Bob Bell of the Classic Company and Shawna Dietrich from Dietrich Insurance, “Not even a turn in the weather could deter these fine athletes. It truly was a wonderful class.” Bell said. Along with the custom ribbons, our winner takes home an etched crystal bowl- both from USHJA and from other sponsors; custom coolerett from Gulf Coast Classic Company, and a very special Essex Classic shirt…and of course a check.
Continuing with the Celebration of Hunters; the USHJA National Hunter Classic introduced 34 promising entries to a taste of Derby competition as they traversed across many of the same elements-reset to the 3’ and 3’3 levels. And like the “big guys” only the top 12 scores were invited back for the Handy round. This week’s winner was Hawthorne Woods, IL based Maria Rasmussen partnered with Starr for owner Amy Wexler.
Official Results for the USHJA National Hunter Classic:
- 1st Starr with Maria Rasmussen for owner Amy Wexler
- 2nd Aragorn with Megan Anglin for owner Cindy Bryan
- 3rd Montebello with Jessica Masten for owner Diane Dematteo
- 4th Laguna with owner-rider Laurie Barna
- 5th Vino with Jessica Masten for owner Ashley Cross
- 6th MTM Coranado with Angela Barber for owner La Primera Hacienda
- 7th Gigi with owner-rider Madison Games
- 8th Quatro with Stella Styslinger for owner Claudia Styslinger
- 9th Sandokan S with owner-rider Olivia Weaver
- 10th The Admiral with Will Roberts for owner Jamie Jarvis
- 11th Hideout with owner-rider Patricia Murphy
- 12th Ramsey with owner-rider Emily Joyner
What’s the best way to continue the celebration? A pizza party courtesy of Domino’s Pizza of Gulfport! Each year this is a packed event, the Mueller family pull out all the goodies from a vast assortment of appetizers, a variety of their specialty pizzas, and various pastas, but the real draw is the “make it yourself” pizza bar. With a line stretching out the pavilion, exhibitors are encouraged to let their imagination and taste buds run wild when creating their edible masterpieces. And should anyone still have room, an ice cream bar complete with every topping conceivable proved dessert could be entertaining as well. “This is such a fun party for everyone, getting to make your own pizza and try new things. We’re all so appreciative of the Mueller family for always giving their time and delicious touch to this event.” Bob Bell said.
The Gulfport Winter Classics continues with more hunter/jumper action through March 13th. 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 2011 Gulf Coast Winter Classics please visit www.classiccompany.com or www.horseshowsonline.com or call the show office at 228-832-2745.
Photo: Sarah Mechlin & Yes Indeed ©Flashpoint Photography