Prior to Saturday during week four of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF), Greg Crolick had never won the USHJA International Hunter Derby in Traverse City before. With Carole Chase’s Chappy, he made the dream a reality by topping both rounds of Saturday evening’s $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by Copper Fox.
“It’s my first win here in this derby,” Crolick, from Clarkston, MI, said. “I’ve been second four times and third a few times, and I’ve been right up in the top four a lot but never first.”
Chappy and Crolick went second in the starting order of 23 elite pairs in front of two judging panels consisting of Scott Fitton with Bob Crandall and Kat Mulkey paired with Nancy Sefried. Over Andy Christiansen’s first-round course, they scored a 181, taking the lead and holding it through the end of the class, hoping to capture the elusive title. Returning last for the handy round, Crolick laid it all on the line with the 12-year-old gelding by Chacco-Blue, earning a score of 185 for the win.
“Chappy makes me look good,” Crolick remarked. “He’s a wonderful horse. I’ve had him for two and a half years and he’s very easy to get to the ring, easy to the jumps, tries so hard and he does help me look good. It worked today, for sure.”
Courtney Lenkart moved up in the standings from third to second in the handy round with Glorieus, owned by La Primera Hacienda, LP. Jacob Pope and Unbelievable, owned by Forget Me Not Farm, earned the highest second-round score of 187, ultimately placing third.
Though Chappy showed the whole horse park what he was made of in the handy, Crolick admitted he had to hold back from how much he wanted to let the horse go and take real risks.
“Chappy is so brave and sometimes I want to ride a jumper-style jump-off because you can really challenge him at the jumps,” Crolick explained. “I’ve learned with him to try to keep that energy and not get too fast. He’s a tall and very long horse, so sometimes that’s worked against me. He doesn’t always turn [well] but today he was great and we had a few left turns in the handy where I could really be tight and still make it look good.”
Christiansen’s courses provided a few challenges to some entries, but for Crolick the courses were ultimately exactly what he needed to rise to the top. “They were very inviting,” he said of Christiansen’s courses. “He made a great course. I didn’t think it was too trappy. A few rails came down but I thought it was very inviting and very nice.”
After winning the USHJA National Hunter Derby during GLEF III, Chappy is well prepared to take on USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships in August.
“This will be his third year going,” Crolick continued. “We’ve unfortunately had bad luck the last two years. We’ve been wonderful in the first rounds going back really high up, and last year we had a freak rail in the middle of an in-and-out. Hopefully we can keep it up two weeks from now.”
Only a few hours from home, Crolick feels a special connection with the Traverse City Horse Shows and enjoys his time each month coming to compete with his horses and clients. “We love coming here for the month of July,” he said. “It’s a lovely place to be. We live three hours south and it’s beautiful up here this time of year. The prize money they’re offering is great, every time we come there are new improvements and it just looks beautiful.”
With his son, Brady, in tow helping to celebrate his win, Crolick had a passionate cheering section as he came home with the top prize. “The biggest thing [my son] wants to do is come hug the horses and give me a high five. It’s really nice to see him there. I was second two weeks in a row in June and he was right there just so excited that I was in the top three,” he shared.
For his win, Chappy was named Platinum Performance Hunter of the Week for the second week in a row during GLEF.
Just before the evening class got underway, Juan Daniel Dominguez of Pinecone Farm scored a repeat victory, topping a competitive $2,000 Grooms’ Class, presented by Meadowview Farm, and took home top honors from the judges.
Hunter derby action isn’t over for GLEF IV. Sunday features the $5,000 3’ Non-Pro Traverse City Derby and the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, presented by Makoto Farm.
Grace Defoe Dominates Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship
Rising equitation superstars took center stage in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring Saturday morning for the annual Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship, putting their best efforts forward to try to take the top call. After three rounds of competition, it was Grace Defoe, of Perrysburg, OH, who captured the victory.
Going 11th in the starting order of 31, Defoe, who trains with Missy Clark at North Run, recorded a first-round score of 88 over Andy Christiansen’s course. As the round came to a close, she sat in third place. The top 12 returned for the second round, after which Defoe and four other riders; Tessa Downey, Katelyn Vandenburg, Isabelle Ehman and Alexa Elle Lignelli, were invited back to test for final results. Defoe was named champion after all five riders rode the test.
“In the second round, my first jump I thought was a little too fast and long so I wanted to fix that and bring it back,” Defoe explained of her strategy coming in for her test, which she believed to be the strongest part of her day in the Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship. “For the final test, I wanted to have quieter jumps because after the first jump there was a quiet turn then after the second jump I had to hold the counter canter. Both of those came up pretty well, and same with the oxer. I wanted to slow her pace to the last jump because there was a halt after that.”
The win came aboard Tanzanite De Semilly, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, owned by Wolfstone Stables & Sales together with North Run. A partnership several months in the making, Defoe knows she can rely on her partner for big classes like this and is looking forward to bigger equitation finals come the fall.
“I’ve had ‘Tanza’ for a while and he’s amazing,” she said of the horse. “He does nothing wrong. He’s so quiet, doesn’t spook at anything, and does anything you ask him to. He’s so sweet on the ground too.”
The Traverse City show season has been good to Defoe and Tanza. “Here he’s been doing really well at the [THIS] Equitation Tuesdays,” Defoe said of their performances so far. “We won the Medal and the Maclay, and otherwise he’s just been doing well in other classes like that. This is one of my bigger accomplishments, I’d say.”
As trainer of the winning pair, Clark received the lionshare of a $10,000 Trainer Award presented to the trainers of the top-four finishers. Also sharing in the award were John Brennan, Donald Stewart and Peter Pletcher. Clark, who had several riders showing in the championship, gave Defoe specific instructions to not let the horse’s stride get away from her. “I have a tendency to get going and I’ll keep looking for the next jump [too early]. She wanted me to sit down in the corners and collect a little bit,” Defoe explained.
For her win, Defoe was presented with a Traverse City Horse Shows gift bag and a Butet saddle, sponsored by Riders Boutique. Jack, Tanza’s groom, won the $500 K. M. Williams Groom’s Award for his efforts in preparing the horse for competition.
As her junior career continues, with two more seasons of indoors remaining, Defoe’s main goals are to place in the equitation finals, attend Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search Finals, and to move up in the levels of the Junior Jumpers.
“I love it here,” Defoe said of Flintfields Horse Park. “It’s pretty close to me which is nice because we can just drive up here. I also love the area because there is the lake and it’s really fun, and the weather has been so nice.”