Traverse City, Mich.—July 22
Lillie Ross had quite an entourage for the awards ceremony of the $30,000 Grand Prix of the Great Lakes. As she walked Pako into the ring to pick up her blue ribbon, her mother and trainer, Allison was at Pako’s head. Lillie’s sister, Allie, was documenting the moment with a camera, while her brother, Teddy, filmed the ceremony on video.
But then again, it’s not often a 17-year-old wins a grand prix against some stiff competition.
Lillie set the pace in the $30,000 Grand Prix of the Great Lakes aboard Pako, turning in the first clear round of the day in Round 1, then returning for the jump-off and really throwing down the gauntlet. “I just wanted to do the very best I could. I went really tidy and I didn’t pull back once. I knew if I did my best and someone came and beat me, they deserved it!” Lillie said.
Six horses and riders tried, but none of them could match Lillie’s performance. Her blazing round on the big-jumping Pako left them all in the dust. It was nerve-wracking sitting and watching everybody come after me,” Lillie said.
“He has a huge stride, bur he can turn really well,” she said of the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood she bought from Richard Spooner in the fall of 2010. She’s competed Pako in both the high junior jumper divisions and the grand prix classes since. “I clicked with him right away. The very first grand prix I went in with him [the $15,000 Grand Prix at St. Louis Hunter/Jumper in Jan. 2011], I won,” Lillie said.
Lillie also has a team silver medal from the 2011 USEF Pris des States competition at the Pennsylvania National with Pako to her credit.
“He is 15 this year, so I’d like to do some bigger stuff, like possibly go to Europe or [the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.)], but we’re just going to see how long he wants to do it. He loves his job so much,” she said of Pako.
Pako is a tall, rangy horse, and he frequently jumps with his front legs outstretched in front of him. “His jump is very round. He’s taught me a lot; he’s helped me get my leg a lot stronger, trying to stay in the middle of him. Still, though, in the first round, he jumped me loose a few times!” Lillie said.
The course Michel Vaillancourt built a track that asked a lot of the 28-horse field. His triple combination of an oxer to two short strides to a vertical, and coming out with one stride over another oxer, caught many out.
The class was held for half an hour when the seventh in the order, Eirin Bruheim, fell from Tackeray after jumping the triple bar. Her left arm was injured, and medics removed her from the ring in an ambulance.
The six that qualified to jump off against Lillie were all determined to beat her. The last to go, Erin Haas on As Di Chupito, came closest, but had to settle for second. Charlie Jacobs also made a concerted effort on his Secret Love, but wasn’t fast enough. He ended up third. Andrew Welles attempted slicing a remarkable inside turn on Tornado, but the risk didn’t pay off as the athletic little bay stopped. All the rest of the field—Alexandra Duval on Cipriani Z, Hayley Barnhill on Ultaire, Bob Brawley on Obelix, and Wesley Newlands on Lapacco—felled rails as they hustled around the course.
Check out all the action from the $20,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, too.