Wednesday, May. 29, 2024

Need To Know: The Handy Round of the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby

March 29—Wellington, Fla.

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March 29—Wellington, Fla.

If you saw the live feed of the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Winter Equestrian Festival on coth.com, you already know Tori Colvin and Vaillero topped the handy round and earned the overall title. We’ve got the inside scoop on what didn’t show up on the live feed, as well as course analysis from today. For full coverage, check out the April 13th issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.

New To The Derby Game

Vaillero has been competing with Colvin in the equitation all season. Colvin and trainers Andre Dignelli and Patricia Griffith of Heritage Farm decided to enter Vaillero in one of the biggest hunter derbies on the calendar on a whim. So they swapped lighter shoes onto the 7-year-old Zangersheide (Vaillant—Highlight Z) and sent him into his first hunter class of his career on Thursday.

“We didn’t practice any natural obstacles, but we thought we should after we saw the course!” said Colvin, 17.

Colvin chose a steady rather than extremely bold route, which paid off with the highest mark of the day, a 90, on the way to blue. She lay third after yesterday’s classic round.

The other top placings are new to this class too. Darcy Hayes held onto her second-place standing from yesterday with Say When, who normally competes with owner Danielle Baran in the adult amateur ring. But she’s won classes in the Canadian Hunter Derby program on him as well, including a major class at the Royal Winter Fair (Ontario.). Hayes is a professional out of Sorensen Stables in Caeldon East, Ontario.

Fourteen-year-old Coco Fath moved up from ninth to third on her equitation partner, Chemie Ancar.

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Where Things Went Wrong

Course designer Bobby Murphy has been working on the handy track all week, which was set on the grass field at the Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian center. With 14 obstacles, there was plenty of room for mistakes over the course. The height of the jumps wasn’t the deciding factor today—the biggest oxer on course today reached 4’4 ½”—but the unfamiliar field and variety of fences played a big role.  

Murphy filled in the double liverpool combination with straw bales for a two-stride in-and-out, and put a low fence in the grob. Unlike in previous years the course didn’t include “Mount Wellington,” the big hill at one side of the field.

The grob made its first appearance in hunter combination in Wellington, and was set as an option. A few horses dug in their heels at it, like fifth-ranked Red Ryder (Hannah Isop) and Colvin’s veteran derby partner (and Chronicle of the Horse Hunter Horse of the Year) Inclusive hesitated there. Colvin chalked it up to freshness, as that gelding came onto the field amped up and, in Colvin’s words “in jumper mode.”

“He was just a little quick the whole round,” she said. “He was a little undone.”

The tabletop bank did in class leader, Mindful, who declined to jump off on the first try with Kelley Farmer up.

By The Numbers

•Three of the top five horses compete primarily in the equitation: Vaillero, Chemie Ancar, Monterrey.

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• Two horses in the top 10 are brand new to the United States this year. Both Balero (Patricia Griffith) and In Private (Kelley Farmer) have been here a matter of weeks.

•Despite falling out of first-place position with Mindful, Kelley Farmer’s day wasn’t a wash. In Private moved the furthest up the leaderboard—from 17th up to seventh— after a strong handy round. That horse was just gelded three weeks ago, and got to Lane Change Farm from Europe about 10 days ago.

Balero (Griffith), Zidane (Amanda Steege) and Monterrey (Kelli Cruciotti) all moved up nine places a piece for ribbons.

•Nine of the 25 entries were piloted by juniors: Fath with Shoemaker and Chemie Ancar, Colvin with Inclusive and Vaillero, Liana Cohen with Ballon and Sancho, Ali Tritschler with Original du Rietz, Kelli Cruciotti with Monterrey, Helen Voss with Cashmere. One amateur competed as well: Rindy Dominguez on Eclipse.

•Judges Susie Humes, Chance Arkelian, Bob Crandall and Danny Robertshaw gave Asten and Erynn Ballard the most overall handy points (both panels awarded marks of 8) but a stop on course knocked them out of ribbon contention.

Click here for full results.

Catch up on show jumping in Wellington with pictures and news from last night’s $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix and this great story of a top U.S.-bred jumper at WEF.

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