It has a mini World Cup feel to it,” said USHJA president Bill Moroney after Scott Stewart of Wellington, FL topped the leader board in the qualifying round for the 2010 $100,000 The Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals August 20 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Stewart led the way with an impressive ride on Summer Place, an 8-year-old, grey, Sachsen-Anhaltiner gelding owned by Fashion Farm, giving him a score of 377. “Once you qualify, you’re good to go,” added Moroney. Stewart agreed saying, “It’s stressful today because you are just trying to qualify, but tomorrow will be fun.”
Those who qualified will move on to the second round August 21, starting at 6:30 p.m. The top 25 will navigate through a classic hunter course, and from there be cut to the top 12, who will then compete in the final showdown.
Coming in close behind Stewart with a score of 375 was two-time series champion Jennifer Alfano, Buffalo, NY, on SBS Farm’s Jersey Boy, an 8-year-old, chestnut, Warmblood gelding. In third was Liza Boyd, of Camden, SC aboard Brunello, a 12-year-old chestnut Hanoverian gelding co-owned by Boyd and Janet Peterson, scoring 374.
The new Indoor Arena was the setting for the Hunter Derby Finals. The riders were off to an early start as they all competed over a creative Hunter Derby-style course.
Lillie Keenan, of New York City, NY, was the youngest competitor being only 13-years-old, and the first to go. She set the bar high early on, with her second ride of the day, receiving the first 90 from the judges and an overall score of 352 on C Coast Z. However, one 90 wouldn’t be enough to beat Stewart, after receiving scores of 90,93,94 and 92, Stewart and Summer Place pulled ahead. “My horse was great, it was the first time he’s ever shown in an indoor arena, but he was perfect.”
Alfano was also happy with her horse’s performance, commenting, “My horse (Jersey Boy) can be a little bit spooky but he’s great and an excellent jumper so he can get himself out of situations.”
Boyd let us in on her trick to having a great ride on Brunello saying, “I have to make sure not do overdo it, and just keep him happy. I flatted him lightly and let him eat grass with his bridle on,” Boyd joked. “It’s a big no-no but whatever makes him happy today.”
The course was designed by Bobby Murphy from Lexington, KY and Patrick Rodes of Argyle, TX. The brilliantly crafted jumps gave off the vibe of a real hunt through the woods. Everything in the ring was something that you would see on treks through the forest. There were fallen logs, brush boxes, oxers covered in shrubs, hedges, brick walls and gates that looked as though they were from an old fence. The ring was also beautifully dressed with plants and shrubs all along the outside. Creating a course this detailed wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Kentucky Horse Park explained Rodes, who applauded the huge variety of materials they had to work with.
Each rider got one chance to showcase their brilliance to the eight judges. The judges were looking for fluidity, quality movement and cleverness. The riders had to decide on the long way or the tight turn, the high or the low option, getting back to the traditional hunter.
The Hunter Derby has brought back the hunter tradition, helped to recreate the sport and added more awareness. Not only is it just something for the riders, but it allows for an increased spectator following, along with owners and trainers. “The Derby gets the owners more excited to come and watch,” said Stewart. After only two years the Hunter Derby has already expanded. Next year there will be 45 qualifying series compared to the 36 this year. Without the support of the USHJA the sport of hunters would not be what it is today.
At the awards ceremony that followed, all riders received ribbons, a gift from Charles Owen and $1,000 in prize money. The 1st place horse also received a gift basket with products from Ann Hubbard’s Tack Shop.
Sponsoring this second annual event: Title Sponsor: The Chronicle of the Horse, Presenting Sponsor: Dietrich and Company Insurance, Major Sponsors: Charles Owen, Inc., Dover Saddlery, Award Sponsors: Ann Hubbard Tack Shop, Essex Classics, The Clothes Horse, DermaSpa RX EQ, Frantisi & Grand Prix, Personalized Products, McGuinn Farms, Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital.