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Manhattan's Marie Griffis wins 1st-ever Gaucho Derby in South America

Marie Griffis out on her own on one of the flatter faster sections
Posted at 9:07 AM, Apr 05, 2020

MANHATTAN — The Gaucho Derby is a horse and human endurance race that spans 310 miles over 10 days through the tough terrain of Argentina. Manhattan's Marie Griffis took part in it a few weeks ago.

Living in Montana, it helped Griffis navigate through the ever-chaging weather during the race.

“That coupled with our experience and perhaps our training in the winter in Montana got us through and neither of us had any issues,” said Griffis.

She wasn’t doing it alone. Her partner had a horse who helped lead the way through the bogs, which Griffis describes as the most difficult part of the race.

“She had a horse who would smell the bog and then he would either very willingly step out on the bog or he would shy away," Griffis said. "We learned that if he would shy away then we wouldn’t do it."

With the race being a few hundred miles in her rear-view and only a few miles away from the finish line, the chance to grab first place almost came to screeching halt.

“My horse actually slid down the mountain quite a ways until it got stuck in some rocks," said Griffis. "It got banged up, but I was able to get it out of there and the person riding with me was a vet and he checked it out and said, 'You’re OK, you’re not going to hurt him to ride.'”

After getting back on track, she took home first place. However, there was no time to celebrate with COVID-19 shutting things down across globe.

“I’m excited that I got to do this experience," Griffis said. "I had to put any celebrating on the back burner because as soon as we passed the finish line it was, 'Hey, by the way, the borders have closed from Argentina to America, so you have to get a whole new plane ticket.'”

Although Griffis was enthused to finish first and complete the race, it doesn’t sound like a repeat is in the cards.

“I have no desire to go back and do that race. It was very, very dangerous," said Griffis. "I watched a lady almost die on that race. Her horse flipped over backwards and they fell 100 feet down the mountain, and I can’t believe she and the horse are still OK.”