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Christopher Payne and Harlan Victorious in National Hunter Derby at Kentucky Spring Classic

RELEASE: May 18, 2014
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

Christopher Payne and Harlan (E. Riden/Phelps Media Group)
Christopher Payne and Harlan (E. Riden/Phelps Media Group)
Lexington, Ky.
- Christopher Payne and Harlan were the first to go in today's $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby, and they laid down a score of 92 to set a standard that would not be beat. Their score held up as the highest in the opening round of the derby at the Kentucky Spring Classic and put them on track to eventually clinch the victory.

The win today at the Kentucky Horse Park puts Payne two for two in the 2014 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby Series at the Kentucky Horse Shows. He won the kick-off class in the series last week aboard Churchill, and his win tonight with Harlan gives him a commanding lead in the series' point standings. Cash prizes totaling $15,000 will be awarded to the Series' leading riders following the final event in the seven-part series.

Today's class saw 28 competitors show over the Bobby Murphy designed course in the Stonelea Ring. Of the 28 horse and rider combinations competing in the opening round, the top 12 scoring pairs advanced to the handy round.

In addition to returning in the lead with Harlan, Payne and Churchill sat tied for the second place spot with Megan Clark and Dreamwork on a score of 88. Close behind them were Vivian Yowan and Saddle Ridge LLC's Gretzky with a score of 87. Rounding out the top five in another tie were Kelli Cruciotti riding Verbatim and Adrienne Iverson aboard Cenerife, each with a score of 86.5.

Iverson and Cenerife, owned by Eight Oaks, were the first of the top contenders to return, earning a second round score of 89 and putting them into an early lead with a combined score of 175.5.

That lead was soon overtaken by Payne and Churchill, owned by Susan Moriconi, as the pair jumped to the top of the leader board with a second round score of 89.5 for an overall 177.5.

As the remaining top combinations returned the lead changed hands two more times, going next to Cruciotti and her own Verbatim with a final total score of 178.5. Next in the ring, Yowan and Gretzky, did not overtake the lead, but they did move up the list, climbing from fourth to the eventual third place finish. Meanwhile, an unfortunate rail moved Clark and Dreamwork from the second place out of the top 10.

With Cruciotti in the lead, it came down to the last to return - Payne and Susan Moriconi's Harlan. The pair cantered right from the gate to fence one, a vertical at the far end of the ring and continued to deliver a seamless trip from there, earning them a score of 88.5 and guaranteeing them the victory.

"Harlan is this wonderful horse that Susan Moriconi owns and that she does in the older Adult Hunters," Payne said. "That's what his job is for the most part. She just wanted to play a little bit with the derbies on him and see how he'd do."

Payne continued, "This is his first derby. He really handled the course well. They were nice courses. The log jumps are a little impressive. After doing the Adults this morning I wasn't sure quite what he would think about that. He over jumped a little bit the first time, but then he took a deep breath and rode the rest of the course really well."

With Harlan and Payne in first, the second place honor went to Cruciotti and Verbatim, a horse she and her mom just purchased from Larry Glefke and Kelley Farmer at the end of the winter season in Florida.

"This is my third show on him, and he's been great so far," Cruciotti said. "We call him our big pony because he's only 15 hands, but he's got a big stride, a great jump and a huge heart. He always wants to win, and that's really nice."

Both Payne and Cruciotti look forward to competing throughout the rest of the Hallway Feeds Series.

"I think it's a great division and great classes," Payne said. "The Hallway Feeds bonus is an amazing incentive. A lot of customers put a lot of money into the hunters, but they don't pay back like the jumpers. It's a different situation to keep promoting the hunters, so the fact that Hallway Feeds has sponsored this and are allowing money to be given back to the owners and riders is an amazing benefit."

Cruciotti concluded, "I'll absolutely be doing more of these classes this year. It's a great class and draws a lot of good horses. The facility here couldn't be better. It's just wonderful to show here. The footing is excellent; the management does such a great job. We're very lucky to show here."