Lexington, Ky. – Aug. 17, 2018 – Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the 2018 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship returned Friday to the Kentucky Horse Park for the first of two days of competition, bringing along with it 83 of the country’s top hunter horses and athletes. Since 2012, the program finale has steadily increased in prize money, and this year is no exception, with the overall purse nearing $300,000, a welcome incentive for the collection of skilled entries. With only 40 slots in Saturday evening’s championship handy round up for the taking, competitors needed to showcase themselves well enough to earn a place in the top half of the scorecard to retain a shot at the title. Rising to the challenge in the face of an onslaught of rain, Tybee carried Holly Shepherd to the highest marks of the day to emerge as the early front-runners ahead of a field comprised of both veterans and newcomers.
The 2018 championship, held inside the Rolex Stadium for its ninth year, featured a 12-effort track from designer Alan Lohman, who chose to implement plenty of lofty oxers and the standard four high-option fences for exhibitors to highlight their precision and scope. As the 10th pair in the order-of-go, Jamie Taylor aboard Iwasaki and Reilly’s Small Kingdom set the bar high for subsequent contenders with a total tally of 266 points. The top slot soon changed hands, however, as three-time champion and veteran hunter rider Liza Boyd piloted Maggie Hill’s Tradition just nine trips later to the first 90 score of the day, accompanied by an 86, 89 and 12 bonus points to overthrow the early leaders with a whopping 277 points. Intermittent downpours of rain plagued the morning, and Shepherd and Holly Brown’s Tybee were one of the unlucky pairs to have to face the elements for their classic round. The skilled duo overcame the added difficulty, earning scores of 88, 91 and 92, in addition to 12 bonus points, for cumulative marks of 283 to usurp Boyd and Tradition for the throne with more than 50 partners still left to ride.
As only the 25th to take their turn around the ring, Shepherd and Tybee anxiously waited to see if their place atop the leaderboard would hold. On her second ride of the day, reigning champion Victoria Colvin and Brad Wolf’s Private Practice gave the top contenders reason to worry, electing to jump all four high-options and pulling in a total score of 279, just four points shy of the lead. As 54 more entries continued to come forth throughout the morning and afternoon, many with the benefit of sunny skies, the cut-off score for 12th place continued to rise, ultimately settling on 267.50 as challengers consistently illustrated exceptional rounds that raked in scores in the 80s. However, none were able to catch the leading trio of Shepherd, Colvin and Boyd, each of whom rode within the first 30 in the line-up and only a few trips from each other.
Heading into the final handy phase of competition, Shepherd and Tybee will face-off against a group of top talent, aiming to retain their spot at the head of the class as the last to ride Saturday. Just points off the lead, Colvin undoubtedly hopes to match her 2017 results, jumping from third place after the classic round to the championship tricolor and largest prize money check of the competition thanks to a standout handy portion. No stranger to the winner’s circle and always a threat to the leader, Boyd managed to maneuver her way into both the third and fourth place spots with Tradition and Finally Farm and Westerly Farm’s Clemens, respectively. Tied with Clemens’ score of 276.50 is Tracy Freels’ Red Ryder with Hannah Isop at the helm, while Jenny Karazissis held the reins on the sixth highest-scoring horse, Dulcie Lou Morris’ Big Shot.
The 2018 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship will return to the Rolex Stadium on Saturday afternoon, with horses and athletes pegged to compete in either the Derby Challenge or the coveted handy hunter round, which will determine the new champion. The top 20 highest-scoring pairs have qualified for the Section A portion of the prize money, representing the largest percentage of the pot, while the top 20 tier two duos, determined by money won throughout the year, from the classic round will vie for the Section A and B prize money. Ultimately, the horse and athlete with the greatest composite score from both rounds of competition will be crowned the 2018 champions.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Holly Shepherd – 2018 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship classic round leader
On Friday’s classic round:
“First of all, I think the course was amazing. It was competitive and you had to have a really good horse with some scope and a lot of heart. My horse went super well. He came in the ring and kind of looked at the USHJA sign. I had to tie knots in my reins because they were slipping so badly [because of the rain]. It was the first time I’ve ever had to ride with knots in my reins. [Tybee] jumped around the first two jumps great and then he went around to the third jump and jumped it so hard that I actually wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to stay on. The rest of the course he was really good. He really jumped out of his skin and held his shape together really nicely. It was such a good feeling.”
On the rain during her round:
“I’ve never ridden him in the rain because I haven’t had him for very long. [In the warm-up ring], he stopped and put his nose down to his chest and I thought, ‘Oh no.’ His ears went flat. So I just let him walk around, get soaking wet and then I jumped a few more fences and went in. During my round, when I turned the corner [to the two-stride], I was really happy that I had a lot of step and a lot of scope. When the weather is like that, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“He has done some junior hunters and he has been quite a good derby horse for Emily Williams. I started on him about five months ago and did a couple of derbies with him. I just got him back a few weeks ago. He jumps really well. He came right to the party today. He is a great horse. I think his owner, [Helen Brown], wanted to buy a 2’9” horse and he ended up being a little bit of an overachiever for her.”
Victoria Colvin – 2018 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, second place
On Friday’s classic round:
“I didn’t walk the course this year because I was riding and then I had my jumper that I had to go get ready. It was downpouring during my ride though, so I ended up being really focused on that.”
On Private Practice:
“He has been amazing. Every derby that he has done, he’s done an incredible job. He used to do the jumpers and we just got him during this past season in Florida. We haven’t had him that long but every round he does he really tries to win.”
Liza Boyd – 2018 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, third place
On Friday’s course:
“When I first saw the triple combination, I thought that was really different for the hunters. I think a lot of the horses, like Tori’s that was a jumper and mine, who have jumped plenty of triples in Europe, did well with that. I actually don’t think the triple gave anyone any trouble. I thought it was a nice addition. I think that the two-stride was the most difficult. You had to have scope and really ride to it. I actually think that having some jumper miles helped with that part of the course. I really liked that. I think that’s what the derbies are supposed to be. They are supposed to be challenging for the rider and show the scope and ability of these athletic horses. I really liked the course.”
“Tradition is owned by Maggie Hill, a junior at my barn. I actually did not even decide to do him in derby finals until maybe the deadline day. He came from Scott Stewart, who told me a lot of times that he thought the horse would make a great derby horse, but we ended up buying him to be a junior hunter. He did have an injury though so he didn’t start back showing until Florida this year. I think this is the first week that I’ve ever really jumped 4’ on him. Maggie will eventually do him in the derbies herself. I thought we should just go ahead and do the buy-in option so that he could get some experience and Maggie could do him here next year. He really stepped up to the plate today.”
Place / Horse / Owner / Rider / Score
International Derby Classic Hunter Round
1. Tybee / Helen Brown / Holly Shepherd / 283.00
2. Private / Practice Brad Wolf / Victoria Colvin / 279.00
3. Tradition / Maggie Hill / Elizabeth Boyd / 277.00
4. Clemens / Finally Farm & Westerly Farm / Elizabeth Boyd / 276.50
5. Red Ryder / Tracy Freels / Hannah Isop / 276.00
6. Big Shot / Dulcie Lou Morris / Jenny Karazissis / 273.25
7. Aeroplane / Melissa Wight / Amy Momrow / 269.75
8. Miss Lucy / Sharon O’Neill / Jennifer Alfano / 269.00
9. MTM Outbid / MTM Farm / Tracy Fenney / 268.90
10. In The Know / Madeline Schaefer / Samantha Schaefer / 268.85
11. Exclusive / Isalou Inc. / Jimmy Torano / 268.50
12. Gelato / Nicodemus Farms / Victoria Colvin / 267.50
For more information on the 2018 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, please click here.
For more information on the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show, please click here.