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Press Release


Geoffrey Hesslink and J'Adore

Geoffrey Hesslink and J'Adore

Kammie Berns and Beau Solei

Kammie Berns and Beau Solei

Michelle Raue and Carat

Caitlin Shiels and Balida

Hillary Johnson and Sorrento

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Geoffrey Hesslink Continues Hot Streak in $5,000 National Derby at Great Lakes Equestrian Festival III, While Kammie Berns Steals the Show in the Pessoa Medal

Written by: Elaine Wessel
Client: Morrissey Management Group (MMG)
Release Date: 2015-07-17

Traverse City, MI – July 17, 2015 – The highlight event of the Polk Family Main Hunter Ring took place today at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, and competition was fierce as more horses and riders entered the scene during the third week of the series. Junior equitation was also featured, as the Pessoa/US Hunt Seat Medal attracted a group of young riders eager to earn coveted points.

The weekly increase in entries was apparent today as 27 horses and rider duos, 15 more than last week, took to the Polk Family Main Hunter Ring for their shot at the lion’s share of the $5,000 pot in the USHJA National Hunter Derby. Course designer Keith Bollotte’s track tested competitors with a series of rollback turns and long approaches, but perhaps the trickiest element came in the form of an S-shaped line comprised of three jumps, all of which presented low and high height options. It was that line as well as the final fence, succeeded by a long canter around nearly half the ring, that served to distinguish between the top and bottom half of the class this afternoon.

Headed into the handy phase of competition, Caitlin Shiels and Katherine Heywood’s Balida held the lead with a score of 92, but defending champion Geoffrey Hesslink and Team Rakowsky’s J’Adore were hot on their tail with marks of 90. Phyllis Harlow’s Lavish, with David Beisel in the irons, sat in the third spot with their score of 85, followed by the 84 score of Michelle Raue and her own Carat. Hillary Johnson and Copper Fox LLC’s Sorrento rode to the fifth position with a score of 83, and Melissa Donnelly and Bentley, owned by Daniella Rodriguez, clinched sixth with a 79.

Riding in reverse order of the standings, three of the four riders from the top six had improved upon their initial tallies. Second to last to enter the ring, Hesslink and J’Adore also bested themselves to earn another score in the top percentile, garnering a 91 from judges Frank Madden and John Roper. With a cumulative score of 191, the pair took the lead above Johnson’s 175 total score with a 181. The final entry and the leader after the first phase, Shiels and Balida rode their way to second round marks of 82, validating Hesslink as the winner for the second week in a row.

“It feels great. This is such a nice show with great competition and J’Adore has been amazing both weeks. I was really confident coming off the win last week,” Hesslink commented. “It wasn’t easy to show handiness this week. There weren’t really specific inside turns, and the turns we ended up doing were pretty difficult. Most of the other competitors didn’t do them, so that definitely helped us.”

Of J’Adore, Hesslink was eager to give her credit, saying, “She is really my type of ride. She is light in the hand, her knees snap, and she is so handy and listens to me. We get along really well.”

Hesslink rides the winning mare for Team Rakowsky out of Lexington, Kentucky and Wellington, Florida. Although the farm will stay on the showgrounds to compete more next week, J’Adore won’t be one of the rides for Hesslink. Instead, the rider and his trainer, Ivan Rakowsky, plan to rest her until their appearance at the Pre-Green Finals in Kentucky next month.

Claiming the reserve spot behind Hesslink was Johnson and Sorrento, trailed closely by Shiels and Balida. Beisel and Lavish clinched the fourth spot, Donnelly and Bentley took fifth position, and Wickham and Pick 6 fittingly rounded out the leaderboard in the sixth spot.

Pessoa US/Hunt Seat Medal

Just prior to the $5,000 USHJA National Derby, 18 junior
riders took their turns competing for the top spot in the Pessoa/US Hunt Seat Medal. With most of the competitors aiming to tally enough points to qualify for the Finals at the Harrisburg National Horse Show in October, stakes were high for each pair. Unfortunately for a large portion of the exhibitors, a downer rail, swapped lead, or run-out held them out of contention for the rosettes.

Of the original entrants, four horses and riders showcased their abilities better than the rest to lead the pack and earn an invitation to return to the ring for testing. Judges Madden and Roper asked riders to counter-canter directly from the gate to fence one, followed by a tight turn to the second fence, a rollback to the original fence seven, and then one last obstacle leading to a halt and sitting trot back to the gate.

Clare Sargent and Albert, the first to go, produced a solid round to set a high standard for their counterparts. Michelle Raue and grey Carat followed suit, rising to the occasion to mirror Sargent and her horse with two trips left to go. Unfortunately for Dana Wille and Full Count, a deep distance into the first fence led to a shaky start to the test, which would set the tone for the final three fences. Proving that the best was saved for last, Kammie Berns and Beau Solei masterfully navigated the test as the final pair in the ring to earn the champion honors.

“I have been leasing this horse since May, and he is a First Year Green actually, so this is his first time playing in the equitation,” Berns said of her partner in the class. A newcomer to the equitation scene, the fleabitten gelding certainly proved to be versatile with his strong performance.

Berns continued, “I thought it was a good equitation course over the hunter jumps, and the test was simple enough because it is something we have practiced before. I felt prepared headed into the test.”

The points Berns and Beau Solei earned today pushed them over the qualifying benchmark needed to attend the Finals in the fall, which the pair plan to attend. In the meantime, the pair are considering making the trek from their home base to Kentucky in August.

Raue and Carat ultimately earned the reserve placing, followed by Sargent and Albert in third place, with  Wille and Full Count rounding out the top four.

The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival continues this weekend, with champions announced tomorrow in the Junior divisions, followed by the Amateur-Owner classes to be concluded Sunday. Three $2,500 Classics are open to riders hoping to earn a share of the prizemoney. One more week of competition will follow to round out the four-week series at Flintfields Horse Park.

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