Liza Boyd and Brunello Are Unbeatable at USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship

Liza Boyd and Brunello clear the final 4'9" oxer. Shawn McMillen Photography.

Liza Boyd and Brunello clear the final 4'9" oxer. Shawn McMillen Photography.

United States Hunter Jumper Association Press Release

Lexington KY---August 15, 2015---After Brunello and Liza Boyd cleared the final 4'9" oxer in front of a sea of spectators at the Kentucky Horse Park, there was little doubt in anyone's mind that history had been made.

Then, when the base scores of 96, 94 and 94 flashed on the scoreboard along with the No. 1, cheers and hugs enveloped Brunello and Boyd. They had claimed their third consecutive $200,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship by the biggest margin thus far.

"This was absolutely amazing and surreal," said Boyd. "The horse is unbelievable. I was so nervous in the schooling area that I almost couldn't get it together, and I said, 'I should get off and let him do it himself.' He probably would have [scored] 100. He's just amazing. I'm a little bit in shock and so lucky to have him in my life."
Kelley Farmer and Kensel LLC's Mindful jumped to second place overall in Section A with a stellar performance in the Handy, while Brady Mitchell and Emily Perez' Cassanto claimed third in Section A and won Section B, which was open to Tier II riders only.
Mitchell, of Katonah, NY, who had placed fourth in the Classic Round, returned to the ring determined to give it his best shot.
"I'm honored to be in the company of these riders, and I knew that to try and get ahead of them, I needed to do something special tonight," he said. "And I feel like I had the best possible round that I could have had, and I'm absolutely thrilled to be third in this class. It's been like a dream of mine to be in this class, let alone in the top three."
Mitchell's impressive Handy Round on the talented 8-year-old Holsteiner earned base scores of 90, 92 and 88.50, which were second only to Boyd and Brunello.
"I would like to thank the horse's owner, Emily Perez, and Heritage Farm. They took a shot and really believed in me and the horse to come and do this, and I could not be more thankful for the opportunity."
Darcy Hayes, of King City, Ontario, guided Danielle Baran's 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood Say When to an impressive fourth place in the Handy Hunter Round and claimed the reserve championship in Section B.
"I've done him myself in the First Years and Second Years, but mainly his job is an adult amateur hunter, and his owner rides him for the most part," said Hayes. "I do him every once in awhile in the derbies. I don't get to him very often because he does the adults, but he's a very, very nice horse."
Farmer, of Keswick, VA, was thrilled with her horse and thanked her team.
"I mean, I think he speaks for himself," she said of the 11-year-old Hanoverian who was the Leading Horse of the International Hunter Derby Championship Qualifying Series. "He's amazing animal. I'm blessed to have him. He's done nothing but been a great horse for me. The Garbers, Larry [Glefke], everyone...I have a great support team. I got in his way tonight; he was trying to win, and I didn't let him. Liza's horse went beautifully."
Boyd, of Camden, SC, who co-owns the 17-year-old Hanoverian with Janet Peterson credited her team at Finally Farm for helping her achieve yet another major milestone in her career and for keeping the aged chestnut in top form.
"He's a little like his name Brunello, a big red wine from Italy, and he just gets better with age," she said. "He just jumps higher and higher every single year. Like my dad says, 'The horse knows when it counts.' He's learned over the years to peak at the championships, and he certainly did tonight."
The competition in the Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park featured a beautiful Handy Hunter course by acclaimed designers Steve Stephens and Allen Rheinheimer. The fences, supplied by Tucker Williams and Fuzzy Mayo, 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 log trot fence at 5, and for the grand finale, Stephens set an oxer directly in front of the stands, where riders could choose the safe 3'6" oxer or the imposing higher option set at 4'9" to impress the judges one last time.
The judges included Danny Robertshaw and Claudia Roland (Panel 1), Linda Andrisani and Mike Rosser (Panel 2), and Steve Wall and Rick Fancher (Panel 3), who were placed in strategic positions around the Sheila C. Johnson Ring at the Rolex Stadium.
The Handy Hunter scoring included three components. Each judging panel gave their base score for each horse-and-rider combination based on accepted handy hunter judging principles. Then, each judging panel gave their High Option Bonus Score (the number of higher fences jumped) followed by the Handy Bonus score. The Handy Bonus Score consists of between 0-10 points based on each judging panel's opinion of how handily the round was ridden, such as brilliance, pace and tighter turns.
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 $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 included 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 carried over to the Section B Handy Hunter Round and Overall Standings. 
Jennifer Alfano and Miss Lucy were presented with this year's Shapley's Best Turned Out Award. Sally Stith-Burdette was on hand to present Alfano and groom Alicia Heberle with a Shapley's Awards Package.
Olympian Peter Wylde received this year's Rider Style Award. The new award, presented by Bill Rube, went to the rider who best displayed the American style of riding in the ring and sportsmanship outside of the competition arena. The recipient will serve as a role model for preserving the integrity of the sport and maintaining a standard of excellence and tradition in his or her riding.
Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta also provided a $1,500 rider bonus award, of which $1,000 was presented to Liza Boyd for the Section A win and $500 to Brady Mitchell for the Section B win.
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.
Peter Pletcher will now return home to Texas with a blue ribbon and a check for $3,000 after claiming victory in the Derby Challenge with Kirby McCool's CR Beethoven.
Kelli Cruciotti, of Elizabeth, CO, won the top Junior Owner Rider Award in the Classic Hunter Round. She finished 15th aboard Monterrey with a 264 totalå. The pair also placed fifth in the Section B Handy and fourth Overall.
Piper Benjamin, of Lake Forest, IL, finished in 25th place in the Classic Hunter Round and earned the top Amateur Owner Rider Award aboard Corvine. When combined with her Handy Hunter Round score, the pair earned 17th in the Section B Overall results.
Additional awards presented included the 2014-15 Championship Qualifying Series winners.

Virginia-based professional Kelley Farmer once again won the 2014-15 Leading Rider of the 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. 

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.
A special thanks to Kentucky Horse Shows LLC for their outstanding management of the USHJA Championship Week.
For additional information on the 2015 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship and complete results, please visit
EQSportsNet provided live stream coverage and offers on-demand videos from this year's Derby Championship. Please see their website for links.
For full coverage please look for the USHJA International Hunter Derby and Pre-Green Incentive Championships In Stride Digital Special Editionarriving in your email as well as the September print issue of USHJA In Stride. For complete results, please visit

Posted on August 16, 2015 .