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Lillie Keenen Double Winner in $30,000 Pony Invitational Classics

WELLINGTON, Fla., March 30--For the first time in the history of the Winter Equestrian Festival, the top hunter riders of each amateur division Sunday were given the chance to compete for $130,000 in prize money. Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's stadium-sized International Arena with its Olympic quality footing was the venue and the first time most competitors had ridden in what has been the high performance centerpiece of the CN Winter Equestrian Festival presented by Zimmerman Advertising.

The classics started with the small ponies and finished through the Junior/Amateur Owners. The winners were pinned after an accumulation of scores over two rounds. The top three high score totals rode for ribbons and the thrill of a victory gallop in the International Arena.


The morning started with the Small Pony Hunters.The blue ribbon, cooler, and medal was awarded to rider-owner Allison Toffolon, 12, of Bronxville N.Y. and the 14-year-old gray mare, Aspen Spring. The pair completed the first round with the second high score of 82.5 and took the lead after completing the second round for the high score of 87.5 giving them the winning total of 170 points. Toffolon rides with trainer Patricia Griffith and Heritage Farm of Katonah, N.Y.

"I was really excited because the only other big ring I've been in was pony finals," Allison said. "I'm glad it (the Invitational) was in the big ring because she has a small stride and it is easier to keep her going in the big ring. I thought it was a good idea to have a chance for all the kids to show how they can ride in the big ring. The other rings happen all the time but this makes it a big event. I want to thank Dominique for helping at the barn and getting our ponies ready."


In the medium ponies, the leading pony and rider to execute the course with the most grace and accuracy was Lillie Keenan, 11, of New York and the 12-year-old gray mare, Light Up The Year, owned by Katie Dinan, LLC also of New York. Keenan rides with trainer Patricia Griffith and Heritage Farm of Katonah, N.Y. The pair finished the initial round with the score of 85 and completed the second trip with a score of 88 giving them the leading total of 173 points.

"We call her Millie and she' really fun to ride because she's not spooky," said Lillie. "I was really nervous coming in because it is such a big ring but she was good. This was my first time in the big ring because this was the first year they had a class like this."


Making a debut to finish her day in the International ring, Lillie Keenan took home first and second honors in the Large Pony Invitational on both of her mounts. First place honors were awarded to the 10-year-old bay gelding, Vanity Fair, owned by Keenan. Vanity Fair and Keenan scored a 83 in the first round and a 85 in the second for a total of 168 points, just above the 165 points she scored on her other mount, Beau Rivage.

"I was a little less nervous but still nervous," Keenan said. "They both do their job well. I think it was a fun class and a good idea to give us the chance to go in the big ring and show our stuff. It takes the best pairs (pony and riders) to do that."


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Photo: Lillie Keenan of New York and Light Up The Year, 12-year-old gelding, receiving awards for winning the $10,000 Zimmerman Invitational Medium Pony Hunter Classic at the CN Winter Equestrian Festival Sunday.


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