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Penny Brennan and Sun Tzu Steal the Show Winning $25,000 Fieldstone Grand Prix

RELEASE: May 18, 2013
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Kendall Bierer for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

Penny Brennan and Sun Tzu (Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group)
Penny Brennan and Sun Tzu (Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group)
Halifax, MA
- The long-awaited $25,000 Fieldstone Grand Prix was hot with competition this afternoon for the fourth day of the Fieldstone Spring Festival. It came down to eight horses in the jump-off, vying for the coveted first place finish. Penny Brennan and Sun Tzu proved victorious, blazing the way from the start of the jump-off with one of only four double-clear efforts. She was the pathfinder with a time of only 46.036 seconds. Brennan rode to a 1-2 finish with her veteran mount, Japan, while Amanda Derbyshire and Attach II took the third place honors.

Keith Bollotte of Culleoka, TN, designed an extensive course to challenge the exhibitors during the $25,000 Fieldstone Grand Prix today. He used 15 efforts in the first round including a vertical-oxer double combination, an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination, a fan jump, hard rollbacks, a triple bar and a liverpool. Only eight of the entrants were able to go clear over the first round. Penny Brennan and Sun Tzu led the class from start to finish as the pathfinders in the first round with the first clear effort, as well as the first to set the pace during the jump-off.

Those who moved into the second round were faced with new obstacles in the jump-off. They began over the opening red brick oxer and then made a dash toward a hill where they were faced with a skinny vertical. The descent from the hill proved the most efficient in the task to shed the seconds, as riders then took a newly introduced oxer. A left hand turn brought them to the vertical-oxer combination. They then had to race toward the bank and complete a vertical as they turned left for the liverpool. Upon landing they had to make a sharp right rollback to the final vertical to seal their fate.

Although Brennan was the first to tackle the short track, she did not approach it with any form of hesitation or doubt. Sun Tzu is named accordingly after the legendary General attributed to the philosophy and literature of the masterpiece the Art of War, and today he went to war, having already won. They took off from the in gate in a flash, clearing the first oxer with ease and moving to the skinny on the hill without faltering. She sliced the turn down the side and moved straight forward to the third obstacle, covering the ground with a steadfast pace. After landing, she took the inside turn to the double-combination and then raced forward to the bank, jumping up the side and shaving the time with her move. The crowd was aghast as she cleared the final two obstacles and tripped the timers in 46.036 seconds, nearly ten seconds faster than the time allowed.

"When I walked the course I felt I would be adding in places because there were banks and some spooky jumps, but he just carried me around and we did the numbers. I made an inside cut in the first round because the time was tight today. He was awesome and made it in under the time allowed, he pretty much showed me the way," Brennan stated. "He can also really run, and I had no idea! Ironically enough, when I was in a class last week with him we had a time fault. This is my second time riding him so I had no idea he could run like that and turn. I just decided to try; he really stepped up out there."

Brennan continued, "This horse takes you to the jumps and is very honest, so you don't have to plan too much with him. I don't know how I figured it just happened. He came with a shaggy mane and long whiskers, and sometimes you just have to look past the cover. You just have to sit on and look right into the soul, into him. When a horse comes to me with great big eyes like that, they are usually a champion."

Amanda Derbyshire was the next in the ring, and although Attach II rose to the challenge, their time of 47.939 proved conservative in the end. She took a similar path to Brennan, but they could not match her pace across the ground, earning her the eventual third place finish. James North and Wardetta S attempted to take on Brennan, as well, and although they did complete the course leaving all rails in their cups, they were unable to match the pace, finishing in fourth with a time of 52.029 seconds. Brennan returned to the short course to compete aboard Pay It Forward, but a rail down at the double after a hard slice cost them the clear finish, placing them in fifth. North was awarded the sixth place finish with The Man To See, while Juan Jose Lavieri and Don Pedro took the seventh place. Newcomers to the Grand Prix scene, Addison Gierkink and Lady Macbeth DH, rounded out the top eight.

Brennan was the last one to take on the course with her final mount, Japan. As her more veteran mount, she knows Japan inside and out. It came as no surprise that she would try to catch her own time, racing over the obstacles with the bay gelding to take the second place finish in 47.125 seconds.

"I could not even beat Sun Tzu out there with Japan, my fastest horse, and I always win with Japan," Brennan said with a tone of astonishment. "Japan is probably one of the easiest horses in my life. He just needs a fast good ride, you can be long, you can be deep, it doesn't matter. He still wants to move the jumps up and he doesn't think about anything except for moving the jumps up and going over them."

The $5,000 High Junior/Amateur-Owner Competition was filled with anticipation as exhibitors gathered to show on the Grand Prix Field this morning. They were welcomed by nothing but clear skies and a crisp wind as they took on the intricate course. It was Rio with Emily Bickford in the irons who captured the coveted Classic victory, as well as the division's championship honors.

Bollotte's course was comprised of 12 efforts spread out amongst the greenery of the Grand Prix Field. He utilized a vertical-oxer double-combination, oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination, a Liverpool, a skinny vertical atop the daunting hill, and the final obstacle uniquely set upon the bank. The jump-off began over an oxer and then led forward to the Boston Red Sox vertical on the bank. With many options from which to choose, riders had to decide if they would ride down the bank or slice the turn by jumping down from it as they headed to a new skinny vertical. After landing they then took the red brick oxer set on the diagonal and made a right rollback to another oxer near the in gate. As they landed, they were forced to open their stride as they approached the final obstacle, the black-and-white EquiFit oxer where they raced to stop the clock.

Emily Bickford and Rio were the first to clear the opening course. With competitors still behind them, Bickford began to formulate her plan for the jump-off as she waited with eagerness. This week at Fieldstone was the first time Bickford and Rio had competed in the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers. They must have found their calling, because with only three horse and rider combinations qualifying for the short course, they outran their competition for the victory.

Bickford was the only rider to jump the second obstacle and make a right hand turn down the bank to shave the seconds. She also chose to slice several of the turns with Rio, a choice that put him a little too in front of her leg for the penultimate obstacle where they had the back rail fall to turf. Their time of 35.902 seconds proved unbeatable as they each consecutive rider attempted to post a clear round.

"We went over to Ireland in November of 2012 and we saw him and fell in love. I rode him for about five minutes and couldn't wipe the smile off of my face," Bickford said. "I trained with Paul in Wellington all Winter, and we have come a long way."

Bickford continued, "I love it here, we always support Scott Clawson and the Fieldstone horse shows. The course was very welcoming; we had worked out most of the kinks. The grass was great, and it was a lot of fun. We really went for it today, and this felt great to take home the win."

Myrto Iliadis-Koutsikos of Athens, Greece and Voila HE started the course conservatively, with their eyes set firmly on the blue ribbon; however, a rail at the third obstacle forced them to change their plan. Possible victory hung in the difference of seconds between she and Bickford. Although both ended with a four-fault total, Iliadis-Koutsikos' time of 42.832 seconds only proved good enough for the second place. Abby Bertelson and Sandra Z rode to the third place finish with their final time of 46.667 seconds. Bickford was awarded the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Championship, while Iliadis-Koutsikos and Addison Gierkink took home the reserve championships.

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