Wellington, Fla.—April 2
There was someone missing from the crowd of well-wishers cheering on Kodachrome and Kelley Farmer as they took a victory lap around the field after the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
Kodachrome won this very same class last year with professional Russell Frey in the irons. Frey passed away unexpectedly in May of last year at the age of 56, and last year’s derby win in Wellington was his last class with Kodachrome. Farmer had helped Frey with Kodachrome in the past, and the horse’s owner, Nina Moore, decided to have Farmer take over the ride last year. Farmer notched many top placings with Kodachrome in 2016, including a reserve champion finish at the 2016 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship (Ky.), but coming back to win this class was particularly meaningful.
“I’m thrilled for Nina. I actually just called her, and she was very emotional and very excited and thrilled for the horse,” Farmer said. “I’m really honored that Nina let me continue where Russell left off and keep going with what Russell had planned for that horse, because he had big plans for this horse, and [Kodachrome] has done nothing but try to succeed and accomplish them.”
Farmer and Kodachrome had to fight their way up from a fourth-placed finish in the classic round of the derby on Saturday to capture the overall win on Sunday. There was a shake-up at the top of the standings when Saturday’s class leaders Like I Said and Maggie Jayne got deep to a spooky fence and dropped from first to 10th overall, and Saturday’s second place finishers RCF Onyx and Tori Colvin landed from a large oxer, tripped and nearly fell to the ground, with Colvin then electing to pull up and retire.
That left Farmer and Kodachrome at the top of the standings with Peter Wylde and MTM Hands Down just a hair behind them for a second-placed finish. (Wylde and MTM Hands Down won the handy round, but took second after scores were combined for the overall.) Farmer and Wylde were happy to see that both rounds of the hunter derby were held on the grass field this year. In previous years the first round was held on footing in a ring, and only the handy round went on grass.
“There have been some horses that when Sunday is the first time they’ve ever seen that field, and it’s the handy, and you’re flying at the first jump, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, what is happening,’ ” Farmer said. “I think having both rounds out here lent itself to more horses going well and being comfortable out there and not being startled and having stage fright.”
Riding in big open spaces on grass comes quite naturally to Farmer; it’s how she practices at home with all of her Lane Change Farm horses.
“I would love to show out there every week. We’re not big on rings,” Farmer said.
Wylde’s ride for the derby MTM Hands Down is not new to the hunter ring, but derbies are a novel trade for him. The horse has made a name for himself in the large junior hunter division with owner Annabel Revers, but this appearance in the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby is his second derby showing.
“The horse went great. I’m thrilled that he won the handy round; that was fun,” Wylde said. “He turned really well, and I knew I had nothing to lose. I was ninth coming into the handy, and I really needed to go for it. I was happy to get 10s from both judges in the handy scores.”
Wylde plans to target USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in Lexington, Ky., with the horse, and he hopes to possibly have his student Revers in the irons for it.
Third place remained unchanged from Saturday to Sunday with Aeroplane and Amy Momrow scoring consistently to capture the yellow ribbon. Aeroplane is another junior hunter-turned-derby-horse.
“This is our first year really stepping up into the international derbies consistently, and he’s a really, really solid, consistent horse,” Momrow said. “He’s very brave, and he really enjoys being on the grass.”
Click here for full results from the class, and check out The Chronicle of the Horse magazine for more in-depth coverage from the final week of the Winter Equestrian Festival.