Devon, Pa.—June 5
Jen Alfano found a perfect way to follow up last year’s win in the USHJA International Hunter Derby at Devon aboard Jersey Boy: winning it again.
She and her longtime partner scored a wire-to-wire finish in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on the final day of the Devon Horse Show.
Fellow regular derby winners Liza Boyd and Brunello came closest to challenging her blue with a monster hand gallop to the last. Westerly Farm’s Sailor’s Valentine and Holly Orlando rounded out the trio of chestnuts in the top three. Junior Lillie Keenan finished fourth and sixth on her C Coast Z, and Enso, respectively.
“I was a little worried in the first round because he was a little frisky,” said Alfano. “In the handy he felt unbelievable. When he wants to win, he wants to win.”
The Devon derby has come under fire for years for having the same jumps in the ring as the previous 10 days. So this year management shipped in fences from the Chicago Hunter Derby to change up the game, but course designer J.P. Godard kept the fences natural and low-key, with nothing looking radically different than throughout the week.
Godard built a straightforward classic course marked by broken line after broken line, precipitating plenty of swaps and cross-canters. But the bigger problem came in the form of felled rails. While the fences mainly lingered around 3’9” with the bigger options set at 4’3”, and the start list had all capable hunters, at least seven of the 28 entries dropped at least one pole in the first round, including horses like Rock Star (Louise Serio), Bases Loaded (Kelley Farmer), Poetic (Maggie Boylan) and Rock On (Serio).
The rails came all over the course, but the final oxer, an option set in the middle of the ring, came down the most.
“The last jump was hard,” said Susie Schoellkopf, who owns Jersey Boy and trains Alfano. “It was a big oxer with dark rails heading into the crowd, and that’s tough.”
Thirteen riders returned for the handy round, as the final two riders tied for 12th place. That trip started with a set of option oxers set not far from the in-gate, followed by a rollback to another oxer. The last broken line of the second course, a tight turn to a trot fence followed by a hand gallop down to a final oxer separated the pack. Praise and Farmer stopped at the trot fence, and many riders didn’t establish a true hand gallop to the last.
Last to go, Alfano sealed her championship ribbon with tight turns late in the course and plenty of pace to the last. The judges rewarded her with marks of 89 and 88, with bonuses of 7 and 8 to top the second round and claim the overall title.
Watch a video of Jersey Boy’s handy round.
“He’s always a great handy horse, because he has a loose natural gallop,” said Alfano, Buffalo, N.Y. “He can gallop and turn at the same time, which is rare.”
Jersey Boy won his last derby at Kentucky Spring and earned the high performance title earlier this week. That win helped boost Alfano to the leading lady rider title at Devon.
Top 10 results follow, and check out the official Devon website for full results. Hungry for more Devon news? The Chronicle has more photos, news, stories and video.
$25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Top 13:
1. Jersey Boy/Jen Alfano
2. Brunello/Liza Boyd
3. Sailor’s Valentine/Holly Orlando
4. C Coast Z/Lillie Keenan
5. Sienna/Patricia Griffith
6. Enso/Lillie Keenan
7. Clearly/Kelley Farmer
8. Onassis/Sarah Ward
9. Miss Lucy/Jennifer Alfano
10. Above All/Patricia Griffith
11. Fielding/Lindsay Rentz
12. Praise/Kelley Farmer
13. Coin Toss/Kelley Farmer