Lillie Keenan and Pumped Up Kicks were pumped up just enough Sunday afternoon to win the $125,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. The 15-year-old rider and Chansonette Farm, LLC's Pumped Up Kicks closed out three weeks of spring shows at HITS-on-the-Hudson with the only double clear of the day, cracking the code to Canadian designer Danny Foster's track.
The pair started competing together at the start of the winter circuits in Florida this year and Sunday marked the first grand prix victory for both. "My horse does better the bigger and harder the course," said Keenan, who hails from New York, New York. "The scope he has is unbelievable – I have yet to jump a fence where I feel like he is actually trying."
Foster of Milton, Ontario set a 14-obstacle course with 17 jumping efforts in the first round. The first four riders picked up faults before Laura Chapot of Neshanic Station, New Jersey rode Quointreau Un Prince, owned by herself and McLain Ward, to a clear round. She was joined by four more over the course of the 26-horse order with the likes of Jimmy Torano, Margie Engle, Patty Stovel and Keenan capping a five-horse jump-off.
Not shy to give credit where credit is due, Keenan was grateful to her trainer Andre Dignelli and the crew at Heritage Farm for preparing the horse she affectionately calls "Kicks" for grand prix competition. "I bought him to show in the High Junior Jumpers, but after showing in a handful of grand prix over the last few months, he has really stepped up and hasn't put a foot wrong yet."
Pumped Up Kicks, a 10-year-old German-bred gelding may have been one of the younger and smaller horses in the field, standing at barely 16.1 hands, but he flexed his muscles in the jump-off. "He's a special horse," added Keenan. "I am new to these classes and we never thought this was where he would excel, so I kind of feel like I am growing up with him."
In the jump-off, Chapot returned first but saw trouble at the second jump of a double combination at the sixth fence of the track and picked up four faults for a refusal and ten time faults.
Torano of SW Ranches, Florida and Marley Goodman's Blue Sky Van de Olmenhoeve had been the second clear in the first round and returned to catch a rail at the same double combination for four faults and a final time of 45.91 seconds. Engle of Wellington, Florida and Royce, owned by Elm Rock Partners, LLC, returned third and posted the fastest jump-off round in 43.21 seconds, but collected four faults from a rail at the second fence in the course.
Stovel of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania and her own Carigor Z were on their way to a clear round and the win before a heartbreak rail at the last fence of the jump-off came down and gave her four faults in a time of 45.06 seconds.
"I entered the ring while Patty was still jumping and she was having an effortless jump-off. I thought there was no way she was going to have any rails, but she just got unlucky at the final fence," said Keenan who entered the ring last and erred on the side of caution, taking her time with a clear round as her top priority. "I knew that if I had a rail I was going to be one of slower times, but I had to take the chance – we had a plan for every fence and I knew that I had to stick to that plan." Her plan worked and she jumped to a clear effort in a time of 51.87 seconds for the win.
With one of the richest Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix qualifiers now hers, Keenan admits that showing in September's big-ticket event during HITS Championship Weekend is a real possibility. "It's the ultimate goal and is always in the back of my mind, but I don't want to get too excited about it," she said with a smile. "He can definitely jump it, but I am just going to keep doing what I am doing and see what happens."
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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