Count Me In/Beth Underhill

Count Me In/Underhill scorch Groupby Grand Prix jump off

Rob Massey/Guelph Sports Journal

ROCKWOOD — Count Me In was in his element and Beth Underhill rode that to victory in Saturday night’s $40,000 Groupby Grand Prix, the feature event of Angelstone Tournaments’ The International meet.

“He’s just a very willing, kind horse who loves his job,” Underhill said moments after getting doused with champagne on the top step of the podium. “He loves to go fast, so that’s an advantage in a jump off, for sure.”

The fourth of six horse/rider combinations to go in the jump off, Count Me In/Underhill put down a time that Lansdowne/Conor Swail and Corette/Keean White couldn’t match. They followed in that order and finished second and third respectively.

“He did everything I asked him to do,” Underhill said of Count Me In. “I knew I put pressure on Connor coming behind me, who is such a fast rider, and Keean as well. I was comfortable that I had done the best I could and whether we ended up first, second or third, I was just thrilled with my horse and what he did for me tonight. I couldn’t be more excited with what we accomplished together.”

Count Me In/Underhill scorched the jump-off course with a time of 34.383 seconds while Lansdowne/Swail were runners-up at 35.009 and Corette/White third at 36.145.

Others to have clear trips in the jump off were Dillinger/Swail who were fourth at 36.748 and Rubens Ls La Silla/Vanessa Mannix fifth at 39.461. Hera Van De Kouterhoeve/White knocked down a rail for four faults.

The International wraps up Angelstone’s Summer Tour of three major meets in as many weeks. Underhill brought Count Me In for the final two weeks as they competed in last week’s The National, but skipped The Champions meet the week before that.

“For me, I wouldn’t do three weeks in a row with the same horse and I just have the one horse doing the grand prixs so I have to spot him a little bit so he stays fresh and happy,” Underhill said. “I don’t want to overuse him. For me, the two weeks was just perfect. He had last week to kind of build and then this week he was even more comfortable under the lights and with the crowd. It takes an adjustment for a young horse to get comfortable with that and I really felt tonight he was at his ease and gave me his very, very best.”

Count Me In/Underhill had been 11th in Thursday’s $35,000 Kubota Open Welcome with four faults in a 12-horse jump off. They were 11th with four faults in the first round of The National’s feature, the $86,000 Engle & Völkers Grand Prix that had a three-horse jump off. That followed a fourth-place finish, also with four faults in the first round, in The National’s $49,700 Greenhawk Open Welcome that also had a three-horse jump off.

This season has been Count Me In’s first year on the grand prix circuit.

“He’s nine, which isn’t terribly young, but he didn’t start jumping until he was about six so he is relatively inexperienced at this level and just moved into the grand prix level this year,” Underhill said. “We’re still on a little bit of a learning curve, but he’s such a quick learner and a fast adapter that he’s skipping grades as he goes.”

And the year’s been a successful one for the combination.

“He’s been fabulous,” Underhill said. “He won the $100,000 grand prix in Ottawa and he’s been placed in the top four many times this summer. I’m careful as I bring him along that he stays confident and each time he goes into the ring, he learns something new.”

Saturday’s grand prix saw six horse/rider combinations pinned with a single fault for a time violation in the first round. They didn’t knock any rails down, but exceeded the 76-second time limit for their trips.

Finishing seventh to 12th respectively were Carimba B/Erynn Ballard, Deko De Landetta Z/Nicole Walker, Ridley/Daniel Coyle, Itty Bitty/Kelly Soleau-Millar, Calgary 56/Quincy Hayes and Stanley Stone/Kim Farlinger.

The International wraps up Sunday with the $35,000 PDI Sunday Classic. There are 27 horse/rider combinations entered for the 1 p.m. event.