Traverse City, Mich. – July 12, 2020 – The allure of prize money and valuable World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) points brought a sea of skilled hunter horse-and-rider combinations to the forefront for the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby on the last day of Week Two of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC. Held during the first of two WCHR weeks in Traverse City, the class offered a chance for contenders to vie for points to help them earn a slot in the WCHR Finals at the Capital Challenge Horse Show later this year. Turning in two exemplary rounds that earned a total of 180 points to fend off the pack, the partnership of Maggie Gould and Vida De Roca NPF came out on top to secure the tricolors and the lead spot in the victory gallop.
Held in the Polk Family Hunter Ring, the contest showcased the talents of 50 entries, including Libbie Gordon on Ucatoni, the Week One winners of the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. As the class progressed and pairs took their turns over the natural obstacles, a series of top-tier competitors emerged as the frontrunners thanks to scores in the mid-80s and up to the 90-point threshold. Following the classic phase, owner-rider Kaitlin Porath held the lead aboard Breaux with a score of 90, followed closely by Maggie Gould and Vida De Roca NPF’s first-round tally of 89. Just a half-point behind, *Cash* carried Alexander Alston to the third-place spot at that point with 88.50 points. Speaking to the high quality of the competitors, the cut-off score for the top 12 that would return to the handy round ultimately ended up at 86.75 points.
Back for the handy round, the track offered a series of inside turn options as well as other opportunities for challengers to shine. With only five pairs left to ride, Hunter Holloway and Ruby Tuesday sat atop the scorecard already with what could have proven to be a class-winning score of 176.50, made up of individual marks of 87.50 and 89. As the third-to-last to go, Alston and *Cash* ensured the lead changed hands, just barely nudging the leaders off the top spot with a second-round score of 88.50, matching their earlier points, to finish on a total tally of 177. Not to be outdone, Gould and Vida De Roca NPF usurped Alston and his mount, upping the best cumulative score thus far to 180 after earning 91 points for their handy performance, only the second pair to hit the 90-point benchmark. Though the original frontrunners, Porath and Breaux, put in a good effort, they were unable to stay on top, solidifying Gould and Vida De Roca NPF as the victors in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby.
Thanks to their score, Alston and Alston Alliance LLC’s *Cash* finished as the runners-up, followed by Holloway and Britta Belline’s Ruby Tuesday in third position. For his victory Sunday to cap off the second week of riding, Vida De Roca NPF was awarded the distinction of the Platinum Performance Hunter Horse of the Week.
Earlier in the week in the Hillside Farm Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under division, Tessa Downey rode her own Spectacular to a near clean sweep to capture the division championship and also the title of Grand Junior 3’6” Hunter. On Friday, the first day of divisional competition, Downey and Spectacular navigated to an early lead thanks to a first-place finish and second-place result over fences. Returning Saturday as the frontrunners, the duo maintained their winning ways to clinch the top spot on the scorecard three times in a row, nabbing blue ribbons in the handy, over fences and under saddle. Earning points from a series of consistent performances, Katarina Ammann and Balousock B.B.S. were named the reserve champions.
In the Large Junior Hunter counterpart division for the 16-17 age group, Alexia Rule and Monday Balous, owned by Donald Stewart, scored points in four classes to earn the championship honors as well as the Grand Reserve Junior 3’6” Hunter title. Friday’s efforts from the partnership would prove tough to beat, garnering them results of two first-place ribbons over fences and a second place under saddle. On Saturday, Rule and Monday Balous earned third place in the handy class, which was enough to keep them at the top of the overall leaderboard. Ridden by Sophia Ahearn, Esperanza Imports LLC’s Screenshot were awarded the distinction of reserve champions after turning in ribbon-worthy rides in four of the division’s five classes.
The $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby concluded hunter competition at Flintfields Horse Park for the week, but hunter competitors will once again return to the ring for the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, beginning Wednesday for the third week of competition.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Maggie Gould – $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby winner
On Vida De Roca NPF:
“This is a new ride for me and it is only the fourth horse show that I’ve ridden him. I got to ride him at the very end of [the Winter Equestrian Festival] before it was shut down. He’s a 7-year-old and he competes in the young hunters and this was his very first derby.”
On her win:
“[Vida De Roca NPF] was fantastic, he was really good. He was good in the first round and I think he came back even better in the handy and it was his first ever handy – first rollbacks, first trot jump, and he was spot on. I would love to thank Tiffany [Morrissey] always, she is my biggest supporter and allows me to do outside catch rides, because it’s not one of our horses, and she stands there and helps me. Of course, I’d love to thank Melissa Hirt for the wonderful opportunity to ride her nice young hunter hopefully for years to come.”
On her plan for GLEF:
“We did Week One and this week, and I think hopefully the plan is for [Vida De Roca NPF] to have next week off then have a little bit of vacation. Then I am hoping to come back Week Four ready to do the National Derby again.”
“Every year I think they do something to make this place bigger and better. Last year they did the pavilions and the new rings down below. The footing is fantastic and every year I come there is something better than the year before. I love it here and I can’t wait to come back year after year!”
$10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby:
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total
1. Vida De Roca NPF / Maggie Gould / Melissa Hirt / 89 / 91 / 180
2. *Cash* / Alexander Alston / Alston Alliance LLC / 88.5 / 88.5 / 177
3. Ruby Tuesday / Hunter Holloway / Britta Belline / 87.5 / 89 / 176
4. Iwan / Madison Rauschenbach / Madison Rauschenbach / 88 / 88 / 176
5. Calipso / Jef Lauwers / Johnnie Matrin-Carey / 88.25 / 87.5 / 175.75
6. Coronation / Sterling Malnik / Sterling Malnik / 86.75 / 87 / 173.75
7. EB Corsega Z / Hunter Holloway / Eduardo Braun / 87.25 / 86 / 173.25
8. Madewell / Jacob Pope / Richard Cunkle / 87.75 / 76 / 163.75
9. Keebler / Riley Hogan / Donald Stewart / 87 / 59 / 146
10. Breaux / Kaitlin Porath / Kaitlin Porath / 90 / 47 / 137
11. Baron Z / Tiffany Morrissey / Heidi Chase / 86.85 / 49 / 135.85
12. Handwritten / Greg Crolick / Jon Cotton / 88.15 / 44 / 132.15