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Jennifer Bliss Rides to 1-2 Finish in the $10,000 GGT Footing 3'3" Hunter Derby at Fieldstone Summer Showcase I

RELEASE: August 18, 2013
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

Jennifer Bliss rode Extraordinary to the first place finish in the $10,000 GGT Footing 3'3" Hunter Derby on the final day of the Fieldstone Summer Showcase (Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group)
Jennifer Bliss rode Extraordinary to the first place finish in the $10,000 GGT Footing 3'3" Hunter Derby on the final day of the Fieldstone Summer Showcase (Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group)
Halifax, MA
- The Fieldstone Summer Showcase I ended Sunday with the much-anticipated $10,000 GGT Footing 3'3" Hunter Derby where Jennifer Bliss guided her two top mounts to the 1-2 finish. The derby has always been both a competitor and crowd favorite at the Fieldstone Show Park in Halifax, MA, and Sunday's class was no exception. Bliss rode to two impressive scores with Extraordinary to take the blue ribbon, and duplicated her efforts with Poker Face to ride to the second place. Jennifer Tate and Cavallino were close behind, capturing the third place finish.

Philip J. De Vita of Apopka, FL, designed the $10,000 GGT Footing 3'3" Hunter Derby course in the all-grass Grand Prix Field. The field was transformed into a traditional hunter course for Fieldstone's derby day, with natural obstacles evocative of a traditional hunt field. The natural foliage and the use of the table and grob allowed riders to utilize the entire expanse of the turf while showcasing their mounts. The first round started over an inviting Fieldstone oxer and riders then passed the in-gate and took the beige vertical. They then took a sweeping right turn over an oxer and made a left rollback up the table and over a birch vertical. From there, horses and riders made a left turn through the vertical-oxer two-stride and passed the judges' gazebo to take a gray vertical.  They then made a right over an Antares oxer and rode through the bending line in 10 strides to the rolltops, where they made a left and headed through the spooky grob. A final left turn took them to the final obstacle, a redbrick oxer set on the diagonal. Riders had the option to take a higher fence in four areas of the course, adding important bonus points to their total score.

The 19 horse and rider combinations gathered at the field with hopes high, and the anticipation was tangible. Only 12 riders would find their way into the second round, and the first round course demanded nothing short of brilliance.

Bliss was only the second rider in the order to take on the course, and her finesse with Extraordinary, owned by Harris Hill Farm, made them shine. She chose to take all of the high options with the bay gelding, and they were awarded for their efforts with a score of 87 points.

"Extraordinary is such a good guy," Bliss remarked. "He is my absolute 'Steady Eddy.' He is so dependable and so brave. Less is more with him. The fresher and spookier he is, the better he is. With him it takes really nothing."

Danielle Franchi and Elysium, owned by Blue Ribbon, were the next pair to tackle the track. Bliss knew her score would hold strong for a spot in the top 12, but Franchi was prepared to give her a run for her money, riding to the score of 84 points.

Bliss returned to the ring with her second mount of the class, Poker Face, owned by Harris Hill Farm. The First Year Green horses only just began competing in the derbies, but he put his best foot forward on the field, riding to a score of 90 points. It was apparent that the handy round would be the determining factor.

"I just wanted to be consistent and smooth and get both of them into the second round," Bliss said. "It was really cool to take first and second. We came this week specifically to do the derbies; it was nice not to show in any other classes. It was nice to walk out in the field and go for it, and we had such a good week."

Jennifer Tate posted a score of 78 points with Cavallino, owned by Barbara Kravetz of Sharon, MA, but she knew she would have to return to the handy and make a solid impression in order to have the win in her hands. The anticipation only mounted as the riders prepared for the grueling second round.

The handy round course began over the Antares oxer set on the far end of the ring, and followed the same bending line in 10 strides to the rollback. Riders then took the vertical in the grob going the opposite direction as in the round, and then made a left turn to trot over the logs set directly in front of the jury. They then took the Fieldstone oxer near the in-gate and made a tight right turn to the two-stride where they then had to navigate a figure-eight pattern. They turned left over the grey vertical and then made a right rollback over the final redbrick oxer.

Amateur rider Charlie Jacobs, who placed second in the $50,000 Fieldstone Grand Prix yesterday, found his way into the top 12 with three mounts. He showed each one for his children, smiling as the other hunter riders joked about him encroaching on hunter land. He entered the handy round aboard Ranier, owned by CMJ Sporthorse, returning with first round score of 73. He unfortunately had a hard rub on the second fence and, although he took all of the inside turns throughout the course, he ended with a final score of 70 for a total of 143 points. He was able to secure the ninth place with Ranier, and also rode Sorcerer's Stone to the eighth place, while nabbing the 11th with In Earnest.

Bliss was the third to return to the turf, and she was leaving absolutely nothing to chance. She took an inside turn to the first oxer and chose to slice the trot jump, setting her up for a perfect beeline to the Fieldstone oxer. She laid down a smooth serpentine through obstacles 8 and 9, finishing with a strong pace and riding to the score of 88 for a total of 175 points.

"I thought the courses were beautiful, and this field was just great. Everything was flowing and smooth, and in the handy you had a lot of options," Bliss stated. "With Extraordinary being so experienced, I really went for it. I took every inside turn, and I was the only one that went inside to the first jump. The handy is really where he shines because he is so rideable. I really took every risk I could."

Bliss' score stood steadfast as each pair fell shy of surpassing her score. Fifi Schmidt and Gotta Dance, owned by Alexis Anderson, posted a second round score of 87 points, proving good enough for the eventual fourth place.

Tate rode Cavallino to a daring second round, choosing the inside turns and showing off with his athleticism. Her score of 85 pushed them up in the rankings, but with Bliss' second round score of 73 with Poker Face, Tate would take the third place.

"The weather and everything was perfect today. I loved the course, I thought it was nice and flowing and gave a lot of room to show off your horse and use the field," Tate described. "I thought the handy really provided options to make tight turns, and it used the favored leads to show off. I think my horse jumped really well, and is beautiful between the jumps, which really helped with the whole picture."

The scores were tabulated, and Bliss held the lead with a 1-2 finish aboard Extraordinary and Poker Face, respectively. Her final score of 175 was unbeatable, and she proudly led the afternoon's victory gallop.

"It has been great here at Fieldstone," Bliss smiled. "It has been quiet since we just brought a couple of horses to do the derby classes. I am really proud that they just walked in onto the field and did so well. This is going to be a hard week to live up to. This year has really been about making them confident, making them up and give them good experience."

It was this time last year that Bliss first showed Extraordinary in the $10,000 3'3" Fieldstone Hunter Derby. Within the year's time, he has matured and become her rock. The pair qualified for the $100,000 USHJA International Derby Finals held from Aug. 15-17 in Lexington, KY, but she opted to focus on making her string of horses strong and confident.

"This horse show last year was my first horse show with Extraordinary, it is great to see how far he has come," Bliss explained. "I can't say enough good things about him. He is so dependable and so fun to do in the derbies. I think it takes such a special horse to be able to show in the derbies with me, and then double over as an Adult Amateur horse. It is two sides of the spectrum. He really will do anything you ask of him, and he does it with a smile on his face. He's perfect."

award     entry     horse     owner     rider     prize_money
7     276     VEDETTE     AMANDA GELLIS     AMANDA GELLIS     $300.00
12     219     SUMMER TIME     DENNIS SISCO     JOANNE KOVACS