The $50,000 Meijer Grand Prix of Michigan highlighted Week II of competition at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) on Sunday. Twenty-eight combinations went head-to-head in the Grand Prix Ring, but it was Liza Finsness who brought home her second consecutive win with her own Shiver.
After just missing first place on multiple occasions throughout Week I, placing third in the $30,000 Welcome Stake and second in the $50,000 Great Lakes Grand Prix, presented by East Wind Farms, the pair returned to the Flintfields Horse Park to claim the two biggest prizes of Week II, also winning Friday’s $30,000 Ingram Family Welcome Stake.
“Honestly, it’s been a blur,” Finsness shared on her back-to-back wins. “It’s been so good. I am so happy with how Shiver is going right now. I don’t think he’s ever gone any better. Federico Sztyrle and Chris Ewanouski, my trainers, keep him fit for me when I am away, so when I fly in to do these things he’s ready for me. We know each other so well that we’re able to do that. He’s been so great in the jump-off lately. I think we’re really getting the hang of it.”
Course designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil challenged horses and athletes over a difficult first round course, where only three were invited back to jump-off after going clear.
Scott Lenkart and Ziezo, owned by Fleur De Lis Farms, were first to return for the tiebreaking round, stopping the timers in 43.098 seconds with 8 faults.
Finsness, 23 years old of West Palm Beach, Florida, piloted her 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding to the first double-clear performance of the afternoon, clocking in at 41.768 seconds.
“I knew I wanted to try to get nine in the first line so I went for that,” she said of her plan for the jump-0ff. “I know that he’s really good through the turns so I turned tight back on the third jump. I just wanted to kind of take it easy through the double – that’s where I wanted to slow down. We sliced the verticals, he’s so great with that. He’s super careful. He can jump from a standstill basically. We got that flyer to the last one and I think [that’s how we won it].”
Twenty-year-old Kelli Cruciotti was the final athlete to compete in the jump-off and knew she had to be clear with her own Hadja Van Orshof in order to attempt to beat Finsness.
The pair did just that but finished in a more conservative time in 43.081 seconds to capture second place honors, while Lenkart finished in third place.
Finsness brought Shiver up from the low junior jumpers and has been partnered with him for almost seven years. Between exams and classes at the University of Kentucky’s physician assistant school, Finsness trains and competes with Chris Ewanouski and Federico Sztyrle at Napinday Horse Sales, Inc. in Wellington, Florida, and Lexington, Kentucky.
GLEF will return with another Equitation Tuesday on July 17. Week III (July 18-22) will also feature the first international competition of the circuit with a FEI CSI2* rating, and will highlight the $35,000 NetJets Welcome Stake CSI2* on Friday and the $50,000 North Face Farm Grand Prix CSI2* on Sunday at 2 p.m.