Meredith Lipke and The Specialist Lead the Way in the USHJA National Hunter Derby

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Devon, PA - July 2, 2011 - The Brandywine Valley Summer Series presented by Taylor Harris Insurance Services featured an exciting evening of competition in the Dixon Oval this Saturday. The top horse and rider combinations gathered to showcase their skills during the $3,000 Johnson Horse Transportation USHJA National Hunter Derby. Meredith Lipke and The Specialist led the class from start to finish and eventually garnered the winning honors after earning a total score of 357. Lexi Graham and Landmark jumped up from the 11th place position to finish second, while Devon Yacka piloted Furst Laugh to the third place award.
Tonight's courses were designed by Michael Rhienheimer and simulated riding over a hunt country with all of the fences set to 3' with four 3'5'' options and three handy options. Meredith Lipke of Buffalo, NY, took an early lead with The Specialist, scoring an 86 and an 87 during the first round with four bonus options for a 181 total. They were the last to return during the handy round, but the duo did not hold back. After executing a beautiful inside turn to the first fence they held a big gallop throughout the course, receiving scores of 85 and 83 with four bonus points. Their two-round total of 357 points would net the winning title.

"This is my first derby, so I am very excited," beamed Lipke after her victory gallop. "The Specialist has done quite a few of them, so he knew exactly what he was doing, which really helped me out. He had a great turn to the first fence in the handy and was really on it for every jump. He was just happy to be out there after having a month off!"

Lipke continued, "I need to have a definite plan and I wanted to make sure The Specialist knew exactly where he was going. My trainer Kristy McCormack had me do a different turn to the first fence, which allowed us to keep flowing."

The talented Amateur-Owner rider has been showing the nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood for four years and they have formed a string partnership. "He's a very good boy, so that makes it easy to execute the plan," noted Lipke. "The Specialist knows what he is doing, so I just have to leave him alone. The hardest part with him is bringing him back to the trot during the handy. His forte isn't slowing down or stopping; he loves a galloping course."

After the Brandywine Valley Summer Series, the duo will travel to the Vermont Summer Festival. Lipke praised the staff at this inaugural event and insisted that she will return next year. "This was a phenomenal show," she expressed. "It was so well organized and the hospitality could not have been better. The courses rode nicely and the fences were beautiful. Everything was perfect!"

Lexi Graham of Kintnersville, PA, was aboard Julie Graham's Landmark for tonight's highlight event and they had the biggest comeback of the evening. After earning scores of 70 during the first round the duo sat in the 11th place position. They returned and executed a flawless handy round for scores of 87 and 84 with four bonus options, bringing their two round total to 337 points and garnering the second place prize.

"This was a really fun class and Landmark is a great derby horse," commented Graham. "I do not get to ride as much as I would like, so he really helps me out because he has a lot of experience. The handy round was great because we took a chance and it worked out. Landmark is willing to try whatever you ask of him."

The third place award went to Devon Yacka of West Chester, PA, and Furst Laugh. During the first round, they earned scores of 82 and 80, plus four bonus points to enter the handy in the fifth place position. The duo had a hard rub at the first fence during their return trip, but their scores of 78 and 77.5 were good enough for a total of 334.5 points.

Molly Sewell and Van Gogh, owned by Victoria Leiweke of Tampa, FL, received the fourth place award, earning scores of 80 and 89 during the first round plus four bonus points. They originally were tied for second, but a hard rub at the first fence in the handy round earned them scores of 68 and 72 for a two round total of 325. The fifth place honors went to Paul Mathews and Carino, owned by Terry Morrison and Ann Arbor, MI, for their overall score of 324. Lipke and her second mount, Accomplice, placed sixth with a total score of 322.

Earlier in the day, the Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions competed for the second day in the Dixon Oval. Taking home the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter title was Bridget Hallman of Oyster Bay, NY, and Do Tell after they earned the Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunter Championship, sponsored by Outer Beaches Realty.

"He is such a good boy; I thought all of our trips were really phenomenal," said Hallman. "This is such a great ring to ride in, you can pick up a gallop and let him float around. I just get him going and stay out of his way. He's so adjustable and he really jumps great from any distance."

The Grand Champion Amateur-Owner 3'3'' Hunter prize was presented to Cara Garito of Colts Neck, NJ, who garnered the Amateur-Owner 3'3'' 36 & Over Hunter Championship, sponsored by David and Wendy Twing, aboard Abundance.  "He was very consistent," she smiled. "It was very fun, and this is a great ring to ride in. I've had Abundance for three years and all I have to do is kick him to the jumps."

The first week of the Brandywine Valley Summer Series will come to a close tomorrow with the Junior Hunter Championships and the Pony Hunter Championships. The exciting hunter/jumper action will continue at the Devon Show Grounds for the second week beginning on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 and running through Sunday, July 10, 2011, with a local day of competition on July 11, 2011.

For more information about the Brandywine Valley Summer Series, please visit

Photo Credit: Meredith Lipke and The Specialist won the $3,000 Johnson Horse Transportation USHJA National Hunter Derby at the Brandywine Valley Summer Series. Photo By: Rebecca Walton/PMG.