Courtesy of the United States Hunter Jumper Association:
Lexington KY - August 17 - When Liza Boyd returned to the saddle on June 12 after having her daughter Adeline on May 30, she had a goal.
After a nine-month break from riding and showing, she wanted to return to the $180,040 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, August 14-16 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington with Brunello.
"At first, in the beginning after I just started flatting around, I wanted to be in the top 10. I said, 'That's my goal after having a baby,'" said Boyd. "Then, a week after that I thought, 'Definitely the top three. I'm feeling a little better. We're going to up the goal a little.' And then, more recently, I said 'I'd really like to win.'"
Her plan worked to perfection.
Boyd and Brunello became the first back-to-back winners of the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship after posting the best scores in the Section A Handy Hunter Round. Their scores of 94, 93, 94 with all four high options and handy bonus points of 9, 8 and 8 moved them to the top of the class after placing third in yesterday's Classic Hunter Round.
"I feel like it's a bit of a dream. Pinch me," she said. "I'm just a little bit in shock. He's an amazing horse, and I have an amazing team."
Boyd, of Camden, SC, co-owns the 16-year-old Hanoverian with Janet Peterson. Boyd credited her team at Finally Farm for helping to keep Brunello fit and strong while she was out of the tack.
"I'm just so happy for this horse," said Boyd. "He deserves this. He's an amazing horse and tries so hard."
Tonight's competition at the Kentucky Horse Park featured a beautiful Handy Hunter course by acclaimed designers Steve Stephens and Allen Rheinheimer. The fences and decorations created a feeling of cantering through hunt country, with natural jumps of planks and logs, abundant trees and shrubbery and decorative elements such as carriages and barns. The fence heights ranged from 3'6" to 4' and offered riders an opportunity to pick up bonus points by taking any one or all of the four option fences set at a minimum of 4'3".
The 12-obstacle course featured several areas where riders could show off their handiness with tight turns and rollbacks, a trot fence at 8, and for the grand finale, Stephens set an oxer center ring, where riders could choose the safe 3'6" oxer or the imposing higher option to impress the judges one last time.
The judges included Hap Hansen and Chris Wynne (Panel 1), James Clapperton and Scott Williamson (Panel 2), and Jeanne Marie Dunford-Miller and Julie Winkel (Panel 3), who were placed in strategic positions around the Sheila C. Johnson Ring at the Rolex Stadium.
Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy, the 2012 International Hunter Derby Championship winners, leapfrogged up the standings from seventh to second after posting another trademark Handy Hunter Round that garnered scores of 93, 92 and 86.50 with all four high options and handy bonus points of nines across the board.
"I'm thrilled with Lewis. He was so great tonight," said Alfano of SBS Farms' 12-year-old Hanoverian. "I was pretty far behind, so there was nothing to lose."
Alfano, of Buffalo, NY, said she had a bad warm-up, so she walked into the ring with a good feeling.
"So he didn't school well, which is usually a good sign for him," she said laughing. "The worse your school is, the better he is in the ring. When you're in the schooling ring it's a little hard mentally. He was nervous and spooky and holding off the jumps. I think the biggest jump we jumped was 3'9". But I knew when he stepped in the ring and sighted in on the first jump that it would be OK."
This year the riders once again contested a tiered Handy Hunter Round format. The top 25 pairs from Friday's Classic Hunter Round returned for action in the Section A Handy Hunter Round, with 10 horses shown by Tier I Riders and 15 horses shown by Tier II Riders.
The Section B Handy Hunter Round included a field of 20 riders, with five jumping for Section B money only. The scores for the 15 Tier II Riders in the Section A Handy Hunter Round carried over to the Section B Handy Hunter Round and Overall Standings.
Junior rider Morgan Ward impressed everyone with another stellar performance aboard Comissario and claimed the Section B championship, which was open to Tier II riders only.
Ward, 17, of Milford, NJ, has owned Comissario, a 9-year-old warmblood, for two years and purchased him through trainer Emil Spadone. The pair began their partnership in the junior jumpers and then transitioned to the hunters. They currently lead the USEF Horse of the Year standings in the Small Junior, 16-17, section.
"I was looking for a horse at the time, and I was up in the air for whatever, and Emil told me this was the horse for me," said Ward. "And, sure enough, it was. He was right. Like always!"
Ward and Comissario placed 16th in the Classic Hunter Round and won the top Junior Owner Rider Award after going first in the 75-horse field and setting the pace.
Sandy Ferrell and Stephanie Riggio Bulger's Mayfair jumped to the reserve championship behind Ward and Comissario. This was just Ferrell's second derby with the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding.
"Stephanie shows him in the younger 3'6"amateurs, and that's truly his job," she said with a smile. "I just get to have fun once in a while.
"I'm not a veteran like Jen and Liza, who do this all of the time," added Ferrell. "I was like, 'Wow, these jumps are looking really big.' But when he went as well as he did yesterday, I wasn't worried about anything tonight. He went, and he was fantastic. The jumps were big. I did this two years ago, but I think the specs have gone up since then because I don't remember them being this big!"
The $10,000 Derby Challenge, supported by Moyer Farm LLC, attracted 36 competitors and allowed those who didn't qualify for the Section A or Section B Handy Hunter Rounds to return with a clean slate. The class was held at 3:45 p.m., prior to the Section A and B Handy Hunter Rounds, and gave competitors another shot at one of Stephens' and Rheinheimer's challenging handy hunter courses.
Martien Van Der Hoeven will now return home to Spring, TX, with a blue ribbon and a check for $3,000 after claiming victory in the Derby Challenge with Julie Thompson's Cellino.
Callie Seaman, of Greenwich, CT, finished in 24th place in the Classic Hunter Round and earned the top Amateur Owner Rider Award aboard Carrico. When combined with her Handy Hunter Round score, Seaman and Carrico earned sixth in the Section B Overall results.
Additional awards presented included the 2013-14 Championship Qualifying Series winners.
Virginia-based professional Kelley Farmer once again won the 2013-14 Leading Rider of the Qualifying Series with $145,448.
Mythical, owned by David Gochman, won the 2013-14 Leading Horse of the Qualifying Series with $51,756.
Kristy Herrera earned the Leading Developing Pro Rider of the 2013-14 Qualifying Series with $11,200.
The 2014 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship is generously sponsored by: Major Sponsor Dietrich Equine Insurance; Official Cooler:Blue Ribbon Custom Blankets; Challenge Prize Money Donor: Moyer Farm LLC; Awards Sponsors: Essex Classics, Dover Saddlery, Grand Prix,McGuinn Farm, Gifted Paddock, Shapley's and Ariat; Hospitality Sponsor:SmartPak,; Gift Donors: Janet Peterson. The USHJA Official Sponsors include: Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Nutrena, Standlee Hay Company and Charles Owen. USHJA Contributing Sponsors including Perfect Products and Crown Equine Services.
For additional information on the 2014 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship and complete results, please visit www.ushja.org.
For full coverage please look for the USHJA International Hunter Derby and Pre-Green Incentive Championships In Stride Digital Special Edition arriving in your email as well as the September print issue of USHJA In Stride.