Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 21
Standing on the ramp waiting to head into the Rolex Stadium, can be one of the hardest moments for a rider during the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships. At that point, your warm-up is done, and your plan is mostly set; all you can do is wait for your turn and ride your best.
For Hunt Tosh, who had a solid lead following the classic round, that nervous moment was stretched out. First, his closest competitor after Day 1, the 2019 winners Tori Colvin and El Primero, scratched when the gelding developed cellulitis in a front leg. Then, his closest remaining competitor, Scott Stewart and Hudson, who were down 11.5 points after the classic round, had a refusal at fence 2.
Turns out, having such a big lead makes things even a little more nerve-wracking.
“When Tori had to scratch her horse, and then when Scott’s horse made a mistake, the nerves kicked in a little bit because I had a little bit of a gap,” said Tosh, who was thinking, “Just don’t completely mess up. Don’t fall off right now; that’d be bad.”
Tosh needn’t have worried. Though Cannon Creek, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cancara—Tiffany S) owned by the Wheeler family, is new to the hunter ring, he showed no signs of greenness under the lights that have caught out even experienced competitors. He galloped boldly around the course, powering off the ground over the final high option.
“[Cannon Creek] was great,” Tosh said. ” It was a fun class to win.”
Judges Tom Brennan, Carleton Brooks, Kim Dorfman, Hope Glynn, Mike Rosser and Andrea Wells rewarded them for their efforts with base scores of 95, 93 and 95 giving them a two-round total of 315, a solid eight points ahead of second-placed finisher Samantha Schaefer and Caristo.
This is Tosh’s second victory in the class; he won with Lone Star 11 years ago to the day.
“Lone Star obviously was such a wonderful horse, then to have one equally as fun and tries as hard as he did and the scary thing is how much they look alike,” Tosh said. “My daughter [Maddie] did a side-by-side of them earlier, and it’s funny; they’re almost twins. So it is really fun.”
Because Hunt had a comfortable lead heading in, it would’ve been easy to play it safe and not jump all the high options, but he said it was never a question.
“My horse is so scopey; he does that so easy,” he said. “I kind of walked all the high options, and I kind of made my plan and stuck with it. I thought, if I overthink it, I for sure will make a mistake. It was a lot of trips to watch, and I’m usually better off not paying that much attention and kind of sneaking in the last minute and doing it. I kind of stuck to my plan from the beginning.”
Schaefer was equally pleased with her performance, as Caristo, an 8-year-old Holsteiner (Casall—Bordeaux) owned by R & R Hunter Horses LLC, competed in the Platinum Performance USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships earlier in the week. She’s been a force to be reckoned with in the derbies with her veteran partner In The Know, however, he sat the week out after a minor injury while competing at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (Michigan) a few weeks ago.
“We weren’t even sure if we were going to do this class tonight,” she said. “We were really happy with him yesterday. He finished 10th, and I guess my expectations were just kind of see how it’s going. My plan was to jump all the high options, and it just kind of all happened. I thought he was with me the whole round. I really couldn’t have asked him to be better.”
Though perhaps the happiest person of the night was third-placed finisher Liza Boyd, who moved up from eighth with Cassico, a 10-year-old Holsteiner (Carrico—Trevigiana) owned by Rebekah Warren. The three-time winner of the class was goofing off on the podium and playfully bit into the bronze medal she was given.
“So I was thinking back: This is my fourth time being third, and it was the most fun,” she said. “The podium, I mean I was acting psycho; I was so excited about these medals and the podium; it was really fun. Whoever thought of that, thank you guys, because it was almost as fun as winning.”
“Because she hadn’t done that very often either,” Hunt joked.
“And we were like do we look at [the medals]? Do we bite them?” Boyd continued. “I know [Schaefer’s] friends with McLain [Ward]. I was like, can she get him on speed dial to make sure we’re doing it [right]? One time, I saw Laura Kraut staring at hers. It’s fun for us hunter riders because we don’t get this opportunity and this is the Olympics for us, so it’s a big deal.”
Laena Romond also had a great evening, finishing fifth in the Section A standings as well as winning the Section B championship (which is open only to Tier II riders, who are outside the Top 40 money-earners in the derby program over the last four years) with her own Uptown, an 11-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chippendale Z—Lorraine).
“I bought him sort as an investment, maybe equitation horse, and he excelled at the derbies, and he’s won a few checks, so as long as he keeps doing that, I can keep doing it and it works,” she said. “I honestly kind of have to pinch myself that I own a horse that’s capable of doing something like this. That was special.”
Full Results Section A (These results rank Romond and Grace Debney, who are Tier II riders, below all the Tier I, but their scores place them fifth and ninth respectively. Their scores are also listed in the Section B results below.)
Read all of our coverage of the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships here.
We will have a full analysis of the competition in the Sept. 6 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.