United States Hunter Jumper Association Press Release
Lexington, KY----August 14--When Liza Boyd and Brunello claimed victory in the Classic Hunter Round of the $200,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, their performance said it all.
"I think we can safely say he's not retired," said Boyd of her 17-year-old two-time Derby Champion. "That's a question I've gotten a lot this year, and I don't think he wants to be retired. He felt like he was 6 years old again. The horse is amazing; I'll never have a horse like that again. I get a little emotional thinking about him. He tries so hard and loves what he does and makes my life so easy. He's really, really special, and I can't thank him enough."
Their scores of 90.5, 91.5 and 93 for a 287 total just edged Mindful and Kelley Farmer, whose scores of 92, 92 and 90 and a 286 total had led until the very end, when Brunello and Boyd, last in the field of 79 starters, took the course in the Kentucky Horse Park's Rolex Stadium.
"When I saw that I went last yesterday [in the computer-generated draw], for a moment I was like, 'Oh no!' But it's better than going first, and sometimes that horse and I do better the more pressure we're under," she said. "So, going last was good; it pumped me up and pumped him up. It was a really, really good class, and I think going last was to my benefit-luck of the draw."
Boyd, of Finally Farm in Camden, SC, will return tomorrow evening for the Handy Hunter Round to try for her third consecutive Championship title. "It's just fun, but it does get emotional," she said. "I almost cried when I came out of the ring; he just keeps feeling better and better every year."
The Classic Hunter Round featured a track of 13 obstacles that simulated the fences found in the hunt field----such as logs, brush and walls ----with heights ranging from 3'6" to 4'. The course offered riders an opportunity to pick up bonus points by taking any one or all of the four optional fences set at a minimum of 4'3 in height (no maximum height).
The judges included Linda Andrisani, Rick Fancher, Danny Robertshaw, Claudia Roland, Mike Rosser and Steve Wall, who were split into panels of two and placed in strategic positions around the Sheila C. Johnson Ring.
Farmer, of Keswick, VA, was the busiest rider in the Classic Round, with six mounts. She and Mindful, the 2014-15 Leading Horse of the International Hunter Derby Championship Qualifying Series, had one of their trademark performances, with the elegant black gelding soaring over all four high option fences.
"I can't say enough about that horse," said Farmer of the Kensel LLC's 11-year-old Hanoverian. "He's a fantastic horse and went beautifully today, and I hope it goes the same tomorrow."
Farmer also placed sixth with Avatar Real Estate LLC's Dalliance, with an impressive round that received a total of 276 points.
While Brunello, the oldest horse in the field, led the way today, one of the youngest, El Primero, is hot on his heels. The 6-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Numero Uno-Zo-Special) earned 280.25 points for third place for owner Bryan Baldwin and Meralex Farm.
"He's the newcomer to the derby world," said rider Sandy Ferrell. "He just turned 6 this year. He's a baby and probably one of the youngest ones out there. But I think it's safe to say for any horseman you're going to fall in love with that horse. His athletic ability is endless, as is his desire to perform. I think we're just seeing the very beginning of his career."
After a short jumper stint in Europe, El Primero was imported to the United States where he quickly found his true niche in the hunter ring. He began the First Year Greens on the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida and made his USHJA International Hunter Derby debut at Devon (PA), where he placed second in the Classic Round and sixth overall.
"He's just an incredible animal," said Ferrell, of Bernville, PA. "He's got such a wise soul and so in control of everything. I count my blessings every day to have this horse and a remarkable team behind me."
Jennifer Alfano, of SBS Farms in Buffalo, NY, displayed not only her incredible riding talents but also amazing grit and determination. After jumping to top scores with Billie Steffee's Maggie May going sixth in the order, she returned aboard her own Miramar 35th in the order. They jumped a brilliant first fence, but then Miramar caught his toe upon landing and fell, catapulting Alfano to the ground. They both regained their feet and slowly walked out of the ring.
Fifteen horses later, Alfano returned to the ring with Helen Lenahan's Miss Lucy, jumping a beautiful round to scores of 88, 88 and 89, good for fifth place. She also returned later with her 2012 International Hunter Derby Champion Jersey Boy, where yet again she earned scores in the high 80s, with 85.75, 89.5 and 86.75 for eighth place.
"Jen's just amazing," said trainer Susie Schoellkopf. "She's very sore, but she's OK. We were so appreciative of everyone's support, and everyone was so nice. All she worried about was the horse. The vet got to him right away, and he looks fine. He's going to be sore tomorrow, but there's no apparent injury."
Coco Fath, of Fairfield, CT, won the top Junior Owner Rider Award in today's Classic Hunter Round. She finished 28th aboard Chemie Ancar with a 249 total. Fath also placed fourth last month in the USHJA Hunterdon Cup Equitation Classic.
Piper Benjamin, of Lake Forest, IL, finished in 25th place and earned the top Amateur Owner Rider Award aboard Corvine.
Farmer once again won the 2014-15 Leading Rider of the International Hunter Derby Championship Qualifying Series with $135,850. Mindful, owned by Kensel LLC, won the 2014-15 Leading Horse of the International Hunter Derby Championship Qualifying Series with $47,610.
Courtney Calcagnini earned the Leading Developing Pro Rider of the 2014-15 International Hunter Derby Championship Qualifying Series with $23,600.
This year the riders will once again contest a tiered Handy Hunter Round format. The top 25 pairs return for action in the $158,800 Section A Handy Hunter Round, with 12 horses shown by Tier I Riders and 13 horses shown by Tier II Riders.
The $39,700 Section B Handy Hunter Round includes a field of 20 riders, with seven jumping for Section B money only. The scores for the 13 Tier II Riders in the Section A Handy Hunter Round carry over to the Section B Handy Hunter Round.
The remainder of the field was invited to contest the $10,000 Derby Challenge, supported by Moyer Farm LLC, and 35 entries are on the order of go for tomorrow.
To view the full results and to see the orders of go for tomorrow's Handy Hunter Rounds, please visit www.ushja.org.
The USHJA, in partnership with the EQSportsNet, is providing a free live webcast of the evening's activities, beginning at 3 p.m. ET. For a complete schedule of the evening's competition, please see the USHJA website.
The 2015 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, Grand Prix/Pikeur/Konigs,McGuinn Farm, The Gifted Paddock, Shapley's, Ariat and Bill Rube; Hospitality Sponsor: SmartPak; Donors: Janet Peterson, Ron Danta, Danny Robertshaw and Douglas Wheeler. The USHJA Official Sponsors include: Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Standlee Hay Company and Charles Owen, Inc. USHJA Contributing Sponsors including Perfect Products and Professional's Choice. The Official Broadcast is EQSportsNet.