Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Rumba Reigns Supreme In The Derby Finals

John French and Rumba made their presence known at the inaugural $100,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals today, Aug. 22. After scoring a perfect 400 points from the panel of judges and claiming the classic round victory earlier this evening, French and Rumba returned to post a beautiful handy performance that clinched the victory in Lexington, Ky.

Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy placed a close second, while junior Laura Pfeiffer and Foreign Encounter were an impressive third.

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John French and Rumba made their presence known at the inaugural $100,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals today, Aug. 22. After scoring a perfect 400 points from the panel of judges and claiming the classic round victory earlier this evening, French and Rumba returned to post a beautiful handy performance that clinched the victory in Lexington, Ky.

Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy placed a close second, while junior Laura Pfeiffer and Foreign Encounter were an impressive third.

The top 25 qualifiers from yesterday’s 52 starters jumped the classic round at 6:30 p.m., and then the best 12 returned in reverse order for the handy hunter class that started around 8:30 p.m.
 
French, Redwood City, Calif., had won the qualifying class the previous day and joked that he’d hoped that he hadn’t wasted his best round because that score wouldn’t carry over to today. He need not have worried, as Mountain Home Stables’ gray Danish Warmblood was just as impressive tonight and wowed the spectators and the judges.          

“He’s a fabulous jumper and a beautiful mover and was magnificently ridden. What else can you say?” noted judge George Morris who presided over the class with Danny Robertshaw, John Roper, Jimmy Torano, Linda Hough, Jim Clapperton, Julie Winkel and Ralph Caristo.

French was thrilled with Rumba’s victory and spoke highly of the gelding’s performances. “He was amazing,” said French who especially enjoyed the feeling Rumba gave him over the USHJA signature fence in the classic round. “He just kicked into gear and jumped it great.”
 
French admitted he does feel nervous in pressure situations such as tonight, but he noted that Rumba isn’t the type of horse to let you down. “Once I got on him, it gets easier. He has such a relaxing stride that he helps me to relax too. And he always rises to the occasion,” said French.
 
Alfano and Jersey Boy made it perfectly clear as to why they’d won the derby series title this season after they nailed the handy round, earning scores of 99, 97, 100 and 99 to move up from third to place second overall.
 
“He was awesome,” said Alfano after the handy. “I went back in third place, so I knew I had nothing to lose. I just went for it. He just felt better and better as he went.”
 
Pfeiffer and her mount Foreign Encounter earned the crowd’s approval after a lovely classic round that qualified them for the handy. Then, with a beautifully ridden handy round, Pfeiffer moved up to claim third.
 
Tonight’s classic course featured many open galloping lines, natural fences of many shapes and sizes, with options for bravery. A line of dark brown rails without a significant ground line, the higher option at fences 4 and 5, became a trouble spot as several horses misjudged the top rail. Some riders who went later in the order opted to jump the 3’6” coops or chose to jump the first coop and then angle to the second set of rails.

The handy course offered riders many opportunities to show off their mounts’ handiness and scope. The skinny double brush midway through the course caused some consternation during the course walk. And, true enough, the only two run-outs occurred at this element, including a heartbreaking moment for Tammy Provost, whose Peridot dropped from second to 10th after he took a dislike to the fence.

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This skinny double brush was also part of a second test. After jumping the fence the riders were asked to roll back around to the right, come back to a walk and slip between the two brush elements they’d just jumped. Few horses had any difficulty with this maneuver.

The final three fences offered some different routes for riders to choose as they could angle a line of fences, take a tight rollback option, or a wider route depending on their preferences. But the final fence, the firewood pile, provided the opportunity for a grand finale. A few riders, including Alfano and Pfieffer, kicked into the next gear and galloped the fence to the whoops and whistles of appreciative fans.

Peter Pletcher was the only rider to have two mounts in the top 12. He placed fifth with Dominick and seventh aboard Camira.
 
Jessica Springsteen and Tiziano were on target in the handy class when, after powering over the USHJA signature oxer midway through the course, his exuberance overcame him and a few bucks marred an otherwise lovely performance. They placed sixth overall.
 
Hardin Towell went for a big score in the handy aboard the eager and scopey Castello, but a tight rollback to the squirrel at the end of the course didn’t quite work out the way he planned, leaving him in eighth.
 
Mary Lisa Leffler galloped all out with Sam Adams, claiming ninth, while close friend and fellow Marylander Rachel Kennedy and Ebony placed 12th after a refusal at the skinny brush.

Curtain Call and Courtney Calcagnini made a great impression throughout the competition, but one mistake in the handy round left them in 11th.
 
Horse/Rider/Round 1 Score/Round 2 Score/Overall Score

1.  Rumba/John French/400/382/782
2.   Jersey Boy/Jen Alfano/381/395/776
3.  Foreign Encounter/Laura Pfeiffer/346/385/731
4.  Early Applause/Maggie Jayne/358.5/362/720.5
5.  Dominick/Peter Pletcher/355/358/713
6.  Tiziano/Jessica Springsteen/368/305/673
7.  Camira/Peter Pletcher/347/325/672
8.  Castello/Hardin Towell/344/316/660
9.  Sam Adams/Mary Lisa Leffler/344/318/652
10.Peridot/Tammy Provost/390/175/565
11. Curtain Call/Courtney Calcagnini/372/140/512
12. Ebony/Rachel Kennedy/329/173/502

Full results here.

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