Wayne, IL – Equifest I featured the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby at Lamplight Equestrian Center. Twenty-nine riders took the opportunity to show off their horses to the judges Frank Willard, Pat Bostwick, Oliver Brown and Thom Brede.
Dean Battaglia designed the derby track in the scenic Wisconsin Equine Main Hunter Ring with bending lines and long approach single jumps. Four high options were available on the bending lines and the beautifully landscaped facility added the final touch to the class. Early in the class, Tiffany Hammack and Ducati set the pace scoring 90 plus four high options for 94. Molly McAdow and Charlie Brown were the next highest early score with 86 plus four for 90. It wasn’t until the bottom of the class that Jennifer Alfano and her mount Candid, earned a 91 plus four for a total of 95 to take over the lead. Rounding out the top scores in round one was Russell Frey with Kodachrome, earning an 87 plus four for 91, keeping the top scores close.
Scores of 83 or better returned for the second round with Alfano and Candid at the top of the leader board. Riders tried different inside turns between the gaps of the jumps with Holly Shepherd and Cascaron, owned by Margaret Camp, being one of the first to try some tighter turns to move up the ladder. The pair earned an 89 for a total of 173. Doug Boyd and Mimi Rothman’s Calido’s Son, also did an innovative turn after the bending line, turning to the right, the opposite of the rest of the class. His efforts earned a 91 for a total of 177.
Hammack rode a smooth round on Cassie Berke’s Ducati to earn a 95 to go with her first round score of 94 for 189, taking the lead. She also earned a 92 on her second ride for Berke, Claudius, also in the hunt for a good ribbon with a total of 181. Frey played it safe with a nice tidy round and a good gallop to the last jump on Nina Moore’s Kodachrome. Moore owns the Lamplight facility and was ringside to watch her new horse perform.
Alfano put in a beautiful, smooth round with a nice gallop to the last jump, earning her a 97 for the new high score of 192 and the top prize. Alfano has had a good run at Equifest, earning several division championships earlier in the week in the hunters and last year, she won the International Derby aboard Jersey Boy.
Candid was perfectly turned out, right down to his stars. Yes, Alfano’s grooms know her obsession with stars, so they planned the entire evening prior planning how to tastefully add stars to Candid’s hindquarters. They usually checkerboard Alfano’s derby horses but this time, Candid sported three stars on each side instead, and indeed, they proved lucky as he was the star today. “They know I love stars,” said Alfano. “They spent a lot of time planning it.”
As Alfano watched a few of the other rounds, it didn’t change her game plan for the handy round. “The top group was really close. He was so good in the handy,” Alfano said. “When I walked, I had my plan, and there really weren’t any other choices than what I did.” “I’m just lucky that he’s mine,” Alfano added with a smile.
Taking the second place spot was Tiffany Hammack and Ducati, putting in smooth rounds both times. “Going into the handy I was just trying to lay down another good trip and get a high score again,” Hammack said. “It was Ducati’s first derby, so I haven’t ever done anything too handy. I wasn’t sure how handy I could be, but he handled it really well and was great. He was totally game for everything.”
Finishing in third was Frey and Kodachrome, another pair taking on their first derby together. “We got him about a month ago,” Frey said. “We just started showing him in the hunters and our goal is to get him into the First Years and the bigger derbies. I was really pleased with him and I think he’s just going to keep getting better.”
Competition continued in the main hunter ring with a pattern of double victories throughout the rest of the day. The first double victory was Reagan Rast, with a win in the ASPCA Maclay and USEF Pessoa Medal. Rast and her mount, Global Connection, or “Conner,” put in consistent rounds in order to garner the top honors. The Kansas City, Kansas-native spoke highly of her mount, who she just started riding this past April.
“He has such an electric front end but you don’t even feel it too much in the air. He is a talented horse who did well in the metered classes in England as well,” said Rast. Imported in January, Conner is still newer to the Hunter/Equitation circuit but clearly fitting in well. Rast’s goal for the two prestigious classes was to simply get around smoothly. This was Conner’s first time doing both the ASPCA Maclay and the USEF Pessoa. Rast is already qualified for both Maclay regionals and the Pessoa Medal from another mount and plans to attend both Finals in the fall.
Topping both of the Modified Junior/Amateur 3’3” Hunter classes with consistent rounds was Sydney Hott with her mount Primera. Coming in second in both also was Colby Hassfurther and her mount Zilver Star. The third and final double victory of the day was in the Modified Junior/Amateur 3’ Hunter class, with Heather Zuber and Kalifornia winning them both.