Ebony cantered into the lead at the State College (Pa.) $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby and never looked back.
According to trainer Rachel Kennedy, she knew almost immediately that it was Ebony’s day.
“As soon as he heard the national anthem, he started swinging his head in the schooling area and that was it,” Kennedy said. “He was all business.”
With Kennedy in the irons, the 10-year-old Dutch-bred gelding wowed the judges, producing the top two rounds of the class. Ebony scored an 86 and 87 in the first round, as well as receiving all four possible height bonus points for a combined score of 181.
Due to their first-placed finish in the first round, the duo returned last to take on Kerry Kocher’s handy hunter course, which featured tricky rollbacks and a hand gallop to an option fence. Riders were also required to walk through an open gate before cantering the final fence.
Many riders elected handier tracks, involving tight turns that showed off the athleticism of their mounts, but no one nailed the hand gallop quite like Ebony. Kennedy’s risk paid off, as judges rewarded Ebony with two impressive scores—an 89, with 8 style points and 3 height points, and an 88, with 10 style points and 3 height points—for a combined second round score of 201.
“After all those huge scores, I planned to really gallop. The ‘Brianne Goutal’ in me came out. I know he will gallop and be on it,” Kennedy said. “That’s what gave me two scores in the 100s, which I’d never been close to before.
“I knew as soon as I galloped in there to jump 1,” she continued. “I just dropped the rein on his neck, and all I had to do was steer him to the jumps.”
Louise Serio jumped Joy Ride and Sailor’s Valentine to second and third place, respectively. Joy Ride, owned by Sarah Connelly and trained by Joanne Copeland, was a one class mount for Serio.
“I thought, if I don’t go this weekend, it will be wrong,” Copeland said. “We have to go.”
Luckily for Joy Ride and Copeland, Serio agreed to the ride and set out to win the class. After sticking to a tough course in the handy which included an outside 4’ option that offered a handy figure eight to the final log, Serio and Joy Ride were awarded with scores of 83 and 84 from the teams of judges, as well as 9 and 6 style points and 3 height bonus points, respectively.
“I knew I was second so my goal was to move up,” Serio said. “I thought the handy round was really good; he was really brave.”
Serio and her regular derby mount, Sailor’s Valentine, took the smooth approach in the handy, concentrating on staying focused and steady. The duo, which placed second in the $15,000 The Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, plans to take a little time off before resuming derby competition this fall.
- Ebony, ridden by Rachel Kennedy
- Joy Ride, ridden by Louise Serio
- Sailor’s Valentine, ridden by Louise Serio
- Zidane, ridden by Mary Lisa Leffler
- Uptown, ridden by Christina Nealer
- Fielding, ridden by Lindsay Rentz
- Fleet Week, ridden by Rachel Kennedy
- Sam Adams, ridden by Ashley Foster
- Just Dessert, ridden by Mary Lisa Leffler
- Lucky Luke, ridden by Jill Shull
- Naf-Naf, ridden by Kelsey Bernini
- O So Soxy, ridden by Kelly Jones