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All Roads Lead to Triumph for Keri Rankin in the USHJA International Hunter Derby

GULFPORT, MS.—FEB 27, 2009—Keri Rankin of Eads, TN based Spring Mill Farm partnered with Crossroads-owned by Mary Jane King have won the 2009 Gulf Coast Winter $10,000 USHJA ASG Software Solutions International Hunter Derby presented by Dietrich Insurance, held at the Harrison County Equestrian grounds.

This morning’s event started with the equivalent of a red carpet stroll with Shadbelly jackets, shined boots, braided manes and tails all around as a talented mix of 51 professionals and amateurs jogged before this year’s panel of four judges-Brian Lenehan, Scott Alder, Skip Thornbury, and Meg Skaffgaard. Following the soundness test, the top of the order Caroline Gillen aboard Soulja Boy prepared to take on the first round course of 10 obstacles from the imagination of designer Allen Rheinheimer comprised mostly of natural materials such as logs, brush, and gate planks. Within the track riders encountered 3 options with height choices of 3’6 or 4’ as well as bending and broken lines throughout. Only the top 12 scores would be invited back for the handy round two.

“It was a great hunter course. I thought it was very straight forward, no real traps in it and allowed you to gallop around.” Keri shared. Early in the first round Leah Curtiss a junior rider from Mobile, AL lead the pack riding Cabana Boy with a high score of 168. Several rides later Leah’s trainer Holly Shepherd tied the score with another 168 aboard Selma and Kenneth Garber’s entry Heirloom. The lead shifted as yet another student of Shepherd’s, Courtney Frederick piloted Omega D’Elle to a 169.5 score for owners Equestrian Investments, LLC. Five more horses found Keri and the coming 8 year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Crossroads landing a 179 to take over the top spot. “He’s amazing. Simply amazing.” Keri said of her mount and added, “And the course allowed the horses to jump some of the bigger options if they wanted to. It was a lot of fun.” Asked if she felt there was any troublesome spots on the first round Keri offered up, “I think some of the straight up and down verticals without the ground lines were probably a trap for some of the horses, but I feel overall everyone did well.”

Still in hot pursuit of Rankin during the first round were Sean Steffee of New Orleans riding Mouse for owner Emma Boyce to a score of 171.5 and Palm Harbor, FL’s Mary Eufemia with Paula Pell’s Unbelievable turning in a score of 173, well above the 164 cut off to assure their return. But as the initial round concluded it was still Keri and Crossroads leading. Ribbons were awarded to the top twelve who would in turn move one ride closer to the $10,000 prize.

Moving to round two, where designer Rheinheimer upped the ante in the handy 12 fence layout that included a sizable brush jump after which riders tracked right to trot over a small log. However, the p’est de resistance came at the #11 obstacle, a gate that riders were to open while mounted, walk through it and pick up a hand gallop to the final brush oxer. Keri and Mary Haley Hamm’s Polaroid were the first pair back and executed an easy gate maneuver earning them a score of 161 to be added to their first round 164 for a total of 325. Some riders fell victim to the gate, but when asked if it was a concern for either of her two mounts Keri replied with a laugh, “No, we didn’t practice. They’re just good horses.” One of the youngest riders Leah Curtiss and first mount Cabana Boy had a smooth approach to the gate obstacle which the judges scores reflected with bonus points for a 173 second round total and overall score of 341 giving them the lead position. Bringing a 173 into the final round Mary Eufemia and Unbelievable scored multiple bonus points for their handy ride adding another 167 to achieve a 340. “He’s just a horse full of heart! Gives his best everytime.” Mary said of “her buddy”. Next into the ring was Grand Bay, AL fav Holly Shepherd with the Mary Walker owned Ashbury bringing a 176.5 forward and the pair did not disappoint the crowd surrounding the arena with a second score of 179, giving them the new lead with an overall 355.5 and only one horse remaining.

Partnered with Crossroads since July of last year Keri said a quick and easy bond formed, making it easy for the young gelding to trust her requests in the arena. So when the question of opening a gate in the middle of a ring full of jumps arose the gelding sidled up along side it like an old pro as Keri reached for the latch and they passed through. Immediately picking up the hand gallop to the last fence- up and over they flew flawlessly. Once the applause quieted the final numbers came over the speakers…190 and an overall winning score of 361. Asked what’s next for the dynamic duo Keri smiled and said, “A week off for him! And maybe a day for me.”

Presenting a host of goodies to this morning’s winners was sponsor Shawna Dietrich and Carol Michaels of The Classic Company. Along with the custom ribbons from USHJA, the top placings also received fine leather leadlines and/or custom leather halters with engraved plates commemorating the event, all courtesy of Walsh Harness and Saddlery.

Official results for the Derby were:

1st Crossroads owned by Mary Jane King and ridden by Keri Rankin

2nd Ashbury owned by Mary Walker and ridden by Holly Shepherd

3rd Cabana Boy owned and ridden by Leah Curtiss

4th Unbelievable owned by Paula Pell and ridden by Mary Eufemia

5th Heirloom owned by Selma Garber and ridden by Holly Shepherd

6th Mouse owned by Emma Boyce and ridden by Sean Steffee

7th Polaroid owned by Mary Haley Hamm and ridden by Keri Rankin

8th Retour owned and ridden by Leah Curtiss

9th Gratuity owned and ridden by Hayley Barnhill

10th Suited For Business owned and ridden by Christina Fisher

11th Omega D’Elle owned by Equestrian Investments and ridden by Courtney Frederick

12th Nose Better owned by Caroline Milot and ridden by Hayley Barnhill

The Gulfport Winter Classic continues with more hunter/jumper and Grand Prix action through March 15th. Admission is free and the public is invited to enjoy the exciting competition throughout the week along with a $25,000 Grand Prix each Sunday as well as the race for the of the $10,000 Budweiser High Point Grand Prix Rider, presented to the top rider, calculated by earned points of the six-week series.



Photo: Keri Rankin & Crossroads ©Flashpoint Photography

**Photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release

 

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