Saugerties, N.Y.—Sept. 8
Dark storm clouds loomed on the horizon all day, but the real threat in the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix was the contingent of riders from Heritage Farm.
After Rounds 1 and 2 concluded, Heritage’s Lillie Keenan is in first with her C Coast Z, Patricia Griffith is in second on Lexi Maounis’ Sienna, and Matthew Metell claimed fourth overall with Heritage’s Pioneer.
Californian Hope Glynn nudged into the standings by riding Chance Of Flurries into third.
They’re all sitting pretty now, but the slate of scores gets wiped clean before they start Round 3 tomorrow in the Grand Prix Ring of the HITS Saugerties showgrounds. Griffiths, a trainer for Heritage, was philosophical about having to bid the 90s she earned in the first two rounds goodbye.
“Obviously, it’s easy for us to say we’d like to carry the scores over when we’re sitting here [in the top spots], but if we were in 24th, we’d probably be saying something different,” she said. “It is nice when it runs over that many days, I think, to reward the people who are consistent. But this is the format and you have to ride it.” In the format, the top 25 riders from Rounds 1 and 2 return for the third round on equal footing, but the standings determine order of go, with the top riders going last.
HITS President Tom Struzzieri pointed out that the intent of the format is to entertain spectators. Tomorrow, for Round 3, the hunter prix riders will show in the grand prix jumper ring; spectators flocking to watch the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix will be there already.
“It will be anybody’s class, and that’s really what we were trying to do, so that people who come to watch it can understand it,” Struzzieri said. “We chose to not bring back scores because most of our spectators will come tomorrow and they might be new to the sport and to this class. If you’re carrying a score from the day before, I think it’s less spectator-friendly, and our goal with this is to grow the sport.”
The opening acts for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix are the finals of the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix and the $250,000 HITS Hunter Prix. Chiara Plarlgreco earned the right to go last in Round 3 of the $250,000 HITS Hunter Prix by topping the standings of that class on First Impression.
The $250,000 class, with fence heights of 3’, was limited to juniors and amateurs, while the $500,000 class, with fence heights of 3’3”, was open to professional, junior and amateur riders. Riders had to qualify for the classes at HITS shows throughout the country.
Parlagreco, of Warrenton, Va., had qualified for the $250,000 HITS Hunter Prix with another horse, but that mount came up a bit off just the day before the first round on Sept. 7. Her trainer, Denice Derisio-Perry, hadn’t left Virginia yet, so Parlagraco put in a quick phone call to her. Derisio-Perry threw First Impression on the trailer and headed north.
“I showed him five or six years ago, but I haven’t ridden him much in the last few years,” Parlagreco said. “His owner [Ainsely Treptow] has been in college, so he trail-rides mostly. He’s really good at going cross-country, which is probably why he didn’t care too much about the bank [on the hunter prix course]. He hasn’t done much showing, but he did the junior hunters a lot for years.”
Nipping at Parlagreco’s heels are Kathryn Haefner of Hamburg, N.Y., and Emily Winkler of Montgomery, N.Y. Haefner, who took time out from her aerospace engineering studies at the University of Miami (Fla.), to show at Saugerties, rode her Bentley, 7, into contention. “For being green, he’s so brave. He’s very responsive. I’m very comfortable riding him,” she said.
Raising The Game
Riders in both classes enjoyed galloping around a brand-new ring at the HITS Saugerties facility. Struzzieri expanded a schooling area into a massive 370’ by 230’ ring. In addition, he added a loop up and down a hill in one corner, which also incorporated a bank.
For Round 2, riders had many different choices in how they approached the hill. There was a vertical set parallel to the bank, and riders could start up the hill by either jumping up the bank, or by jumping the vertical. Then, they could either negotiate a tight roll-back turn and head back down over what they hadn’t jumped up—the bank or vertical—or they could gallop straight up the hill.
There was a jump at the top of the hill—with a high 3’3” option and a low 3’ option, and then riders would gallop down one of two paths down the hill. After the hill was an option of two different two-stride combinations. One combination flowed easily from the roll-back option, and the other from the gallop down the hill.
The juniors and amateurs in the $250,000 class rode a wide variety of options in this section of the course, but only a handful of the riders in the $500,000 class opted to continue up the hill. The vast majority of them jumped the vertical, made a sharp left, and jumped down the bank. They then continued in a bending six strides to the two-stride. “I think I could have chosen any track and gotten it done, but watching other riders go, that was the neatest,” Keenan said.
“We thought it would be good to do something a little bit neater, since the ring is so big and there were a lot of places to show off the canter. So, we thought that was one place we could do something handy and spice it up a little,” said Griffith.
Griffith and Keenan’s horses are both veterans of USHJA International Hunter Derbies (C Coast Z and Keenan won the $100,000 Final last year), so they made short work of the course. Keenan has stopped entering C Coast Z in International Hunter Derbies, but thought the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix would be fair game.
“I’ve stopped doing the derbies because we’ve kind of been there and done that. I wanted to do this class, and I really trust him, so I thought I might as well try it. Coast is my go-to horse for these big events. It’s a lot of money and it’s a final. To have a group of people supporting the hunters this way, it’s exciting,” she said.
Glynn was frank about what drew her across the country to Saugerties. “If you won’t come across the country for this much money, that’s just wrong,” Glynn said. “We don’t have enough people in this sport who really put the money back into the hunters. So, I brought myself and students. We go to all of Thermal and we like the HITS shows. We’re excited that there’s this much money in this sport because it gets people excited about the sport and that’s good for everybody involved.”