Hickey, Sammis, Poulin-Neff and Dutta Set to Head to Brazil, Austin Defends Brentina Cup, and Efird Remains Top of Juniors at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Championships
RELEASE: June 17, 2007
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Joanie Morris
Hickey Heads to Brazil (Phelps Photo)
– Storms threatened but the sun hung on Sunday June 17 at the final day of the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions and so did Christopher Hickey and Regent making them the final champion of the Festival and putting them at the top of the list of four named for Pan American Games Selection. The top three combinations from today’s competition are named were named to the team pending the USEF High Performance Working Group, the Executive Committee and USOC approval and the fourth place finisher is picked as the alternate and travels all the way to Brazil with the squad.
Hickey and Regent were second to last in the ring and waltzed through their Freestyle with lots of elegant lateral work and four pirouettes. The 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding tried very hard throughout the entire test and was rewarded with very high marks for his degree of difficulty and interpretation. Beautiful, easy paces made the Freestyle look easy. They were rewarded with a score of 74.5% and a three day total of 72.063%
“I’m a little emotional,” said Hickey. “I’ve had a lot of things happen at the last minute before something big so this means a lot. There are a lot of people behind me and that’s the most emotional part for me – to give them what they’ve been pushing for.”
About his Freestyle which included techno music, Hickey recognized some risk in the performance.
“I’m totally aware that the trot music is dangerous because it has such a strong beat.” he said. “Seventy percent of the time I can pull it off. My freestyle is very, very difficult.”
Runner-up was yesterday’s winner Lauren Sammis and the adorable Sagacious HF on a score of 73.45%. To the music of Billy Joel, the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding exhibited polished pirouettes and good changes to reaffirm their ability in the judges’ eyes. Trying as hard as he did yesterday Sagacious HF and Sammis pair picked up high marks for their degree of difficulty. They remained in second overall and secured their ticket to Brazil
“I do need to change a couple of things,” said Sammis. “My freestyle is not hard enough for the horse I have now. It was hard enough for the horse I had two months ago.”
Sammis spoke of her first team opportunity.
“Teamanship is so important,” she said. “They push me and I can push them. We can work together to improve.
Third today and overall was the littlest horse in the competition Brilliant Too with Katherine Poulin-Nesff aboard. The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood Thoroughbred Cross displayed very good lateral work and a unique half-pass – pirouette – half-pass combination. They received lots of 7s and 8s on their changes and used very appropriate music to suit the little horse.
“I’m very excited to be here,” said Poulin-Neff. “I don’t really know what to say. I have a tendency to be a little boring. I tried to be brave and I made a couple of mistakes but if I hadn’t taken the risk I wouldn’t have known. I know I need to work on my Freestyle and improve.”
Susan Dutta and Pik L jumped up into the alternate spot of the Pan Am process on the strength of their freestyle score of 71.1%. Overall they finished just below the 70% mark with 69.443%. The 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion was dynamic in the trot work to the music of Flashdance. Really good flow highlighted her test.
“I’ve been in this position before,” said Dutta. “I was the reserve for the last Pan Ams. Three months ago I didn’t have a horse and Horses Unlimited offered me this opportunity. I started riding him at the end of March. I’m really grateful to this horse, he’s a prince.”
The US coach Klaus Balkenhol had praise for the all the riders vying for a spot on the team.
“I want to thank the riders for really coming out and fighting for the top spots. There is no need for any of these riders to stand back and hide from the world,” he said.
The four horses stay at Gladstone to be evaluated by the veterinarians and then ship to Wellington, FL for quarantine.
Austin Repeats in Brentina Cup
Elisabeth Austin and Olivier left no question that they were dominant in the Brentina Cup division scoring straight 7s and 8s throughout the test barring the pirouettes where the marks dropped off slightly. The 11-year-old KWPN stallion followed in his father’s (Idocus – who won the Grand Prix Freestyle on Saturday) footsteps and put in another stellar performance. Overall their score of 69.3% was much the best of the division and they were the champions for the second year in a row.
“I really wanted to do the Grand Prix here,” said Austin. “But at the first qualifier he didn’t feel totally secure. He felt a little tentative. The thing about him is that if he’s confident I know he can answer any question.”
The decision paid off and Austin rode her mother’s horse confidently on Sunday.
“I wanted to ride well,” she said. “I didn’t ride well on Friday. I watched the video to see where I was giving away points. The piaffe and passage on him is the most fun thing I’ve ever ridden.”
Austin was fortunate to travel to Germany last year after her Brentina Cup win and train with the US Team Coach Klaus Balkenhol. She hopes to repeat the experience this year. She plans on returning to the Grand Prix with an eye on the World Cup qualifier at the Saugerties CDI.
“I know he’s special,” said Austin about Olivier. “He will be as good as I can make him.”
Nicholia Zamora and Nimbus put in another expressive performance going last in the Brentina Cup and maintained their overall second place standing despite a third place finish in the second round. The 12-year-old KWPN gelding picked up lots of 7s throughout his test, performed very solid pirouettes and a good piaffe early in the test. Nimbus made a mistake in the one tempi changes and in the final centerline to keep his marks down from the standard of day one. He and Zamora ended on 63.949% on Sunday for a two day score 64.9%.
“So many things had to go right in order to get here and so many generous people helped me to raise the money,” said Zamora. “It cost $4900 each way to fly him.”
Zamora, from Irvine, CA had a fundraiser sponsored by Ketel One Vodka and a silent auction to help fund the trip for her owner Diane Morey. They were both determined to make it happen and Zamora made the trip worthwhile.
“I’m so honored to be here,” said Zamora of her owner. “I’m very grateful to have her generosity behind me.”
Jodie Kelly and Manhattan remained third overall despite splitting the top two on the day. Mostly picking up 6s and 7s, they improved their score by more than a point from Friday. Overall their score of 63.6% was good enough to hold their spot.
Efird Stays on Top in Juniors
In the Junior Individual Test, serving as the second half of the Junior Championship, 17-year-old Bonnie Efird and Magie Noir and Taryn Briones with Ghita firmly held their top two positions from the first day ending on scores of 68.85% and 64.65% respectively.
Efird’s test featured good half-pass and flying changes representing the polish that garnered them good scores on Friday. Magie Noir, a 13-year-old KWPN mare, demonstrated good paces and good composure throughout the test. Overall her score of 67.125% was more than enough to win the entire division.
“I thought my ride was much better than Friday’s,” said Efird. “I fixed my mistakes – most of them. My mare was had more spunk today and I think that helped up my score. I’m really thankful this has been my goal for along time. There is so much positive energy here.”
17-year-old Briones solid performance held her ground with Magie Noir. Having traveled all the way from Snohomish, WA the pair made the trip worthwhile – capitalizing on very good work in all three paces. The 9-year-old Hanoverian mare kept her composure and put in good flying changes. They were third to Meagan Davis and Cachet in Sunday’s test, Davis picked up a score of 64.95%
“I was happy with my test,” said Briones. “I was a little shaky in the reinback on the centerline but overall I was happy with it.”
Both Briones and Efird hope to return to the North American Junior Young Rider Championships.
Davis and Cachet hung on for third place driven by their dynamic second place performance in the individual test. Cachet, another 9-year-old Hanoverian mare made it a clean sweep for the mares in the Junior Championships.