We all know what it’s like to jump a jump and then have no idea which way to turn. Now, imagine your brain freezing up like that in a class worth $250,000.
It happened to Amy Zettler. “I jumped the first jump, and I went blank. I forgot where I was going! I started to panic, thinking ‘Oh gosh, where do I go?’” she said. It worked in Zettler’s favor that the course for the last round of the $250,000 HITS Hunter Prix was set in the grand prix, with plenty of room between jumps. Within a few strides, she’d recovered her wits, knew where she was going, and put in a stellar trip on her Glad Rags.
It was good, but it wasn’t quite good enough to catch Chiara Parlagreco. The two amateur riders show against each other frequently, since Zettler is from Aldie, Va., and Parlagreco lives in Warrenton, Va. In fact, they shipped up to Saugerties, N.Y., together and stabled next to each other. So while there was plenty of competition for the $75,000 top check, it was all friendly.
But in the big class, it was all Parlagreco. She led the standings after Rounds 1 and 2, which were held on the outside course over derby-like courses that included a bank and natural jumps. And she wasn’t to be denied in Rounds 3 and 4, guiding The Impressionist to two more beautiful rounds over the flowing, traditional-type hunter courses that were woven into the jumper course set for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix later in the day. She relegated Zettler into second place by 10 points. California rider Erika Scherer claimed third on Serantino.
Parlagreco, who doesn’t own her own horse and catch-rides for trainer Denice DeRisio-Perry, had planned to ride DeRisio-Perry’s horse Placido in the class. But Placido took a few off steps the day before the class started. Parlagreco got on the phone to DeRisio-Perry, who was still at her farm in Middleburg, Va., and promptly loaded The Impressionist, or “Nemo,” onto the trailer and drove him to New York.
Nemo belongs to amateur rider Ainsley Treptow, who also rides with DeRisio-Perry. “Because of her school commitments, she’s only shown him maybe 10 times in the last three years. He’s been kept in work, but he’s been shown limitedly,” DeRisio-Perry said. “When it became obvious we needed a substitute horse for Chiara to ride, I called and asked Ainsley’s parents if we could lease him and take him up here. It was a last-minute arrangement, but he was ready to go.”
Luckily for Parlagreco, Nemo suited the class’ format. “I think this is Nemo’s kind of thing. He’s a very quiet horse, so I think having all those jumper jumps around woke him up a bit, which was good. He has a huge stride, so that course was great for him,” she said.
Since the arrangement was a bit last-minute, Parlagreco wasn’t sure what might happen with the $75,000 check she earned for winning with Nemo, which goes to his owner. She does know what she’ll do if she gets a portion of it. “If I had the money, I would definitely get a horse. I would love to get a horse!” she said. Parlagreco, 32, hasn’t owned a horse for a few years. She works at the Market Salamander gourmet market in Middleburg, Va., and fits riding at DeRisio-Perry’s farm around her hours there.
Though she has a degree in international business, Parlagreco prefers to work at a job that allowed her the flexibility to travel to shows and ride. Her husband, Jennings Carney, is a musician in a band, Pontiak. “He’s very talented and the band has a huge following in Europe. He travels like she does, so they understand each others’ passion,” said DeRisio-Perry. “She would love to have another horse, but trying to find a job that will give her the flexibility to show is not easy. She just juggles it. They do the best they can living their passions.”
Zettler can commiserate about the travel—she’s the wife of a Navy commander, and has been stationed all over the world. Currently, her husband is the commander of the USS Norfolk, and they have a house in Norfolk, Va. But her husband is deployed at the moment, so Zettler lives with her trainer, Peter Foley, at his Aldie, Va., home for most of the time and is concentrating on riding.
She bought Glad Rags, or Primo, from Middleburg, Va., breeders Steve and Sallie McVeigh. Zettler and Primo weren’t in the top of the standings after Rounds 1 and 2 over the outside course, but Zettler wasn’t worried. “I knew my horse wasn’t going to excel in the other ring as much as he would [in Rounds 3 and 4 in the grand prix ring]. He’s much more of a traditional hunter, so my goal was to get in the top 25, make the cut, and then show off,” she said. The strategy worked.
The $250,000 HITS Hunter Prix was just one of the big-money events of the HITS-on-the-Hudson Championship Weekend. Between it, the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix, and the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, $1.75 million in prize money was distributed in one day.