Traverse City, Mich. – July 5, 2020 – Hunter competitors took centerstage in the Polk Family Ring at Flintfields Horse Park, the host of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, for the first weekly installment of the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby on Sunday. A field of 23 entries vied for the top prize over two rounds of riding, with Libbie Gordon and Ashland Farms’ Ucatoni emerging victorious thanks to back-to-back exemplary rounds that led the scorecard. Finishing on a score of 179, Gordon and Ucatoni were one of only three partnerships to hit the 90-point benchmark throughout the entirety of the class.
As the first derby of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, competitors were eager to take to the ring for the two-round contest, with many proving that they had been training diligently during the horse show hiatus due to COVID-19 by garnering upper-tier scores from the judges. Following the classic round, the cut-off score sat at a respectable 75. Leading the charge as the highest point-earner thus far and earning the advantage of last to go in the handy round was Tiffany Morrissey and On your Mark, who had raked in a score of 94 to top the early leaderboard. Just a few points off the peak spot, Gordon and Ucatoni earned a classic round score of 89, followed closely by Morrissey on her other mount, Baron Z, to benchmark the top-three rankings with 86 points. Jacob Pope and Athos Van Het Poeleind Z sat in fourth place with 85 points, and Caroline Weeden aboard Carnaval rounded out the top five spots with a score of 84.
Whittled down to the top 12, horses and riders returned in the reverse order of their initial scores. As the class progressed, a number of the top contenders turned in handy round scores higher than 80 to keep the results in a tight race. One of the final combinations to return to the ring, Morrissey and Baron Z laid down the first trip in the second phase to hit the 90-point benchmark, jumping to the lead with a total score of 176, eight points ahead of the next-closest competitor, with only three pairs left to ride. Their lead would not last long, though, as Gordon and Ucatoni, already sitting on a classic score of 89, matched the frontrunners’ handy tally of 90 to usurp them and capture the top spot by three points, holding the highest position with marks of 179 and only one pair of returners still to contend. The final duo, Morrissey and On Your Mark had a small safety net thanks to their 94-point classic round score and gave it their best effort, but could not match the performance of Gordon and Ucatoni, solidifying the duo as the highest-scoring pair of the class and the derby victors.
With their cumulative score of 176, Morrissey and Heidi Chase’s Baron Z claimed the reserve honors, followed by Weeden and Stephanie Harris’ Carnaval in third place. Weeden and Carnaval earned back-to-back twin scores of 84 to finish on a composite tally of 168 points.
As the first $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby champions of the series, Gordon and Ucatoni were also awarded the coveted Platinum Performance Hunter Horse of the Week.
Sunday’s competition concludes the first week of hunter riding at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, but equestrian action will resume Wednesday, July 8, for week two of the six-week series.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Libbie Gordon – $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby champion
“My horse’s name is Ucatoni, and he is owned by Ashland Farms. He usually does the equitation and the big equitation but today we decided to try him out in the National Derby and he was a very good boy! He rode really well. I think he likes a bigger ring because it allows him to get on a bigger canter. He has a great gallop so it was fun to be in a bigger ring and get the open gallop that I wanted.”
“This is my second year coming here and it’s one of my favorite shows. I think they do a really great job holding the show for exhibitors because the VIP tent is nice to watch both rings. I think that was a great improvement from last year. They just put on a really nice show.”
On showing in Traverse City:
“The town is one of my favorite horse show towns because it’s so much fun and there’s so much stuff to do. I really like going to the lake after showing, especially since it’s so hot. It’s a good way to cool off!”
$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby:
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total Score
1. Ucatoni / Libbie Gordon / Ashland Farms / 89 / 90 / 179
2. Baron Z / Tiffany Morrissey / Heidi Chase / 86 / 90 / 176
3. Carnaval / Caroline Weeden / Stephanie Harris / 84 / 84 / 168
4. Tik Tok Z / Sarah Duhon / Katrina Shulda / 79 / 86.5 / 165.5
5. Spellbound / Caroline Weeden / Stephanie Harris / 76 / 89 / 165
6. Carluca / Stefano Baruzzo / Donald Stewart / 79.5 / 83 / 162.5
7. On Your Mark / Tiffany Morrissey / Lisa Berger / 94 / 64 / 158
8. Constantine / Devin Seek / Sharn Wordley / 75 / 79 / 154
9. Bon Ami / Maggie Gould / Am Sport Horses Sound Inc. / 80 / 72/ 152
10. Will O Moor Kingsman / Megan Ghere / Cole Horn / 81 / 69 / 150
11. Athos Van Het Poeleind Z / Jacob Pope / Michelle Caroli / 85 / 49 / 134
12. Donatello / Hollin Sutherland / Simply Ponies LLC / 78 / 45 / 123