Gladstone, N.J. – The 2013 Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search Finals East officially got underway on Saturday at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation Headquarters with competitors completing the first two phases of competition. In the morning, judges Ronnie Beard and Anne Kursinski tested riders on the flat in the Dick and Jane Brown Arena and in the afternoon competitors returned to demonstrate their skill over a gymnastics course. At the end of the first day of competition, Lillie Keenan holds the lead following two phases of competition on a score of 231.25.
Beard and Kursinski were pleased with the entire field and believe the top of the leaderboard demonstrated vast potential for the future in both phases Saturday.
“Anne and I were both very happy with the test; there were no real disasters – some stops here and there but it was spread out. It wasn’t too brutal but it took subtlety,” said Beard. “I think the top group after the flat was just right and you saw that group again excel this afternoon.”
Riding in the fourth group of the day, Lillie Keenan (New York, N.Y.) and Heritage Farm, Inc.’s Clearway earned the highest mark of the day in Phase I scoring 94. The dual Gold medalist from the 2013 Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championship presented by Gotham North showed proficiency on the flat. Keenan, who is trained by Andre Dignelli, excelled in the demanding test put forth by the judges which included lengthening stride in sitting trot, counter-canter on both leads, shoulder-in, turn on the forehand, and turn on the haunches.
Finishing just two points behind Keenan was Michael Hughes (Allendale, N.J.) and Drumnacross Farm LTD’s Zagreb. The 17-year-old, who is trained by John Brennan and Missy Clark, rode in the first group of the day to score 92 on the flat.
Rounding out the top four following the first phase were Mattias Tromp and Charlotte Jacobs respectively. Tromp (North Salem, N.Y.), who is also trained by Dignelli, and Chasonette Farm, LLC’s Zentina B scored a 90 riding in the second group of the morning. Last year’s Phase I winner, Jacobs (East Aurora, N.Y.) and North Star’s Stallone VDL slotted into fourth place on Saturday morning. The Brennan and Clark trainee scored 89 in Phase I.
Riders returned to the Dick and Jane Brown Arena for a second time on Saturday to showcase their talent over a demanding Gymnastics track. Beard and Kursinski tested competitors’ technique and skill over an intricate course which included a variety of combinations, raised trot-poles and a series of three bounces.
As expected the Gymnastics phase produced a shuffle on the leaderboard, as scores were multiplied by 1.5, but Keenan, Jacobs, Tromp, and Hughes all maintained their positions at the head of the field.
Returning for a second time in the afternoon, Keenan demonstrated why she has claimed many of the most prestigious titles in the hunter, jumper, and equitation ranks with another polished performance. Despite Clearway rolling a pole jumping out of the two-stride by the in-gate, the pair was awarded a 137.25 for their second phase. They head into Phase III on Sunday with a total of 231.25.
Jacobs was awarded the second highest score of Phase II, a 138, for her polished effort. The Southern Methodist University freshman climbed into second place after two phases with an overall score of 227.
Tromp maintained his third place position after scoring 136.50 in Saturday’s second session and stands on a total of 226.50 overnight.
After two phases, Hughes stands fourth on a score of 224. He was awarded 132 for his Gymnastics phase.
Allison Toffolon (Bronxville, N.Y.) posted the highest score in Phase II, a 139.50, with her own Class Action, and heads into Sunday’s third phase in fifth place on an overall total of 223.50.
The 2013 Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search Finals East champion will be crowned Sunday following Phases III and IV. In Phase III, all entries will show their ability over a jumper-styled course. Following the conclusion of Phase III, the top four competitors will be called back for a ride-off. Phase IV will showcase the same format used for the Show Jumping World Championships, with each rider completing a course on his/her own horse, as well as the three other riders’ horses. All four riders will start Phase IV with a clean slate on a score of zero.
By Helen Murray
The USEFNetwork.com presented by SmartPak will stream all four phases of the Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East. To watch, visit: http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2013USEFShowJumpingTalentSearchFinals/.
To learn more about the Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals, visit: https://www.usef.org/_IFrames/breedsdisciplines/discipline/alljumping/sjTalentSearch.aspx.