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Press Release


Geoffrey Hesslink and J'Adore

Geoffrey Hesslink and J'Adore

Martha Ingram and Absolut

Martha Ingram and Cayero

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Geoffrey Hesslink Wins $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby During Week Two of Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, Martha Ingram Tops $10,000 Great Lakes 36 Hunter Classic Leaderboard

Written by: Elaine Wessel
Client: Morrissey Management Group (MMG)
Release Date: 2015-07-12

Traverse City, MI – July 12, 2015 – With the rain finally subsiding to sunshine in the late morning, an anxious group of hunter riders took their turns navigating designer Danny Moore’s natural course with the hopes of earning the largest part of the $5,000 pot in the morning’s USHJA National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Camping World, or the $10,000 Great Lakes 3’6” Hunter Classic. Moore presented riders with a variety of opportunities to earn points throughout the two-phase competition, especially in the handy round, and while some inside option turns posed difficult for a large number of the competitors, those who were able to efficiently ride their chosen track proved why they deserved top marks from the judges.

The first round of competition served to reduce the field in the USHJA National Hunter Derby from the initial 27 down to the 12 returners with the highest scores. Headed into the handy phase, Martha Ingram and her family’s Cayero had the lead with a score of 93, followed by the 91 score awarded to Hillary Johnson and Voyager, owned by Michigan-based Copper Fox LLC. The only two to earn a mark in the 90s, the leaders were trailed by a dense group of scorers in the 80th percentile. Hayley Barnhill with John and Stephanie Ingram’s Ice Time claimed the third spot with an 89, Geoffrey Hesslink and Team Rakowsky Equestrian’s J’Adore scored an 88 to sit in fourth, with another Johnson mount, Sorrento, taking fifth with a score of 87.5. Rounding out the top six spots was Greg Crolick aboard Claybrook Farms’ Encore CBF, earning marks of 87. With the top six separated by only 6 points, it was anyone’s class to win as the second portion of competition got underway.

Riding in reverse order of the standings, the 12th place rider took to the ring first. By the time the sixth-place horse and rider were due to take their turn, the high score was already a 173, which meant that the frontrunners needed to produce a ride equal to or better than their initial scores to have a shot at the blue. Mastering the course better than the rest, Hesslink and his mare earned the highest score of the entire class with a 94, taking all the high options. Although three riders were still to go, Hesslink’s cumulative score of 182 would prove high enough to hold onto the lead.

“We were sitting in fourth place after the first round, so I really wanted to make sure we put in a great handy to make up some points and boost our score. To do that, I knew we should take all the options available,” winner Hesslink reflected on his winning ride. “I liked the options that the course gave us. It was difficult, but gave us several chances to show off in the ring.”

Hesslink and the 6-year-old mare are new to each other, having only competed in the show ring a handful of times together. Regardless of their new pairing, the duo has proven to be a good match early in their career together, putting in strong performances in the Pre-Green Hunters. The champion horse and rider will stay in Traverse City for two more weeks, hoping to earn more top ribbons in the weekly classics and derbies, followed by the travel south to the Pre-Green Incentive Finals in Lexington, Kentucky next month.

“I definitely want to thank my whole support team, especially Ivan [Rakowsky] for helping with this. I couldn’t have done it without them,” the 19-year old was quick to note following his victory gallop.

Runner-up with a score of 179.5, Ingram and Cayero claimed the reserve tricolors and the second position in the victory gallop. Johnson took both third and fourth place with mounts Sorrento and Voyager, respectively, followed by Maria Rasmussen and Whitney Sinclair’s Laredo in fifth. Melissa Donnelly and Corlando 49, owned by Elizabeth Becker, improved upon their first-round placing with a handy score of 87 to move into the sixth spot.

A quick footing drag and a course change later, entrants were prepped to vie for a stake in the $10,000 Great Lakes 3’6” Hunter Classic. Another two-round class, horses and riders had two shots to earn high marks from the judges, and after the first trips, owner-rider Clare Sargent and Coup de Coeur held the top spot with their score of 85. The competition was close, though, with four competitors hot on her tail brandishing tallies of 80 or above. Only one point behind Sargent was Ingram and her grey gelding Absolut, with Kristen Berian and her own Black Gold only one point out of the second spot. Ehrin Rittmueller and Chicago sat in fourth with their score of 82, and Rasmussen and Corporate, owned by Ashley Netzky, held fifth place with an 80-mark.

Tested by the challenges of the handy round, a bit of place-swapping occurred amongst the leaders in the second phase. Only two of the initial top six teams, Ingram and Rasmussen, improved upon their first-round score, with the others falling victim to unfortunate swapped leads, hard rubs, or a downed rail. Ingram took advantage of her opportunity as the second-to-last to ride, knowing that she needed better than an 80 to overtake the lead with only one pair to follow her. Rising to the challenge, she and Absolut garnered an 87 score, pushing them to the top of the leaderboard with a total of 171. Sargent and Coup de Coeur put in a solid trip as the last to go, but were unable to maintain their initial lead earning an 81.

“It’s great that we have been able to ride consistently and see it work out for us in the ring,” Ingram noted. The pair have racked up an impressive number of tricolors and top placing throughout the first two weeks of the series, as well as strong finishes in the weekly derby and classic. Today alone, she earned the reserve honors in the morning derby, only to improve to the champion spot in the classic.

The rider is into her second year with Absolut, a 13-year-old gelding. Coincidentally, the Traverse City show was host to their first ever competition together last year. The Ingrams and their horses will return home tomorrow to Nashville, Tennessee, where Martha rides with trainer Tom Wright, after which they will head to the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show in North Carolina. 

Rasmussen and Corporate, frequent winners this week in the hunter ring, moved up from fifth to third with their high mark of 84, followed by Berian and Black Gold in fourth position. Sargent and her second mount, Albert, clinched the fifth position just ahead of Rittmueller and Christine Braeutigam’s Chicago in the sixth spot.

Today concluded the second week of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, but Week III will kick off this Wednesday for more equestrian action. The week begins with the professional hunter divisions in the Main Ring, with the highlight $2,500 Classic events taking place Saturday and Sunday.

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