Ocala, FL - March 12, 2012 - It was an incredible night for the 2012 $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the HITS VI Ocala Winter Finals. Spectators gathered together as the anticipation continued to rise, waiting to see who would take home the victory. In the end, it was SBS Farms' Jennifer Alfano who executed brilliant rides throughout the two-round event, rising to the top of the leaderboard with four horses.
She and her veteran mount Jersey Boy took the top honors and led the victory gallop, proving unbeatable throughout the competition. Alfano also guided Miss Lucy to the second place finish, completing flawless rounds and earning top scores from the judges.
The evening began as riders were tested over a classic hunter course, with the top 12 horse and rider combinations advancing to the handy hunter course. The scores earned in the classic hunter round were combined with the handy hunter round, combining the two round totals for the event's overall results. The course definitely proved to be no easy feat. It mimicked a picturesque hunt field, testing horse and rider alike as they navigated the course and vied for the top honors and the chance to make it into the esteemed top 12. Jersey Boy took an early lead with the high scores in the first round totaling 187 points from the panel of judges, and Miss Lucy did not fall far behind with her first-round score of 170 points.
"The course was great, it was beautiful and it rode really nicely," Alfano stated. "I thought they did an excellent job with the entire course and both Jersey Boy and Miss Lucy jumped outrageous during their rounds. We have been showing them sparingly over the last few weeks in Ocala, so they were fresh and happy-they love being out there and I think they have a good time."
Four of the horses Alfano exhibited earned scores high enough to declare a position in the top 12 and compete in the handy round: Jersey Boy, Mis Lucy, Michigan Avenue and Castell. The short track has always been Jersey Boy's strong suit, as seen by his previous accolades and top wins. Saturday night proved no different for the fabulous pair as they astounded judges and earned the second-round score of 210 points for a combined total of 397 points, a score that proved untouchable.
It was Miss Lucy with Alfano in the irons who stayed consistent into the second round, using their scope and pace as an advantage, the panel of judges awarded the team with a score of 209, ranking just behind Jersey Boy, but good enough to eventually earn the reserve honors for the night with an overall score of 379 points.
"Jersey Boy and Miss Lucy were both fantastic," Alfano described. "Honestly, the results could have gone either way. Both of them did so well and received such great scores, I was thrilled with the way everything turned out."
The success did not end with Jersey Boy and Miss Lucy as the night continued and Alfano earned high scores aboard her other two mounts. Alfano and Michigan Avenue had a nostalgic ride, completing the two-round derby as their first premier class since his sale to the Hays Investment Corporation at the 2011 Capital Challenge. The pair has continued to earn numerous ribbons over the past few weeks at HITS Ocala, and tonight was no exception. Together, Alfano and Michigan Avenue earned an overall score of 298 points, ranking in the ninth position. Alfano capped off the top 12 with the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center's very own Castell, picking up the 12th place position after two fantastic rounds.
"Castell was great, he did so well for his first time," Alfano smiled. It was apparent that the professional rider had a busy night, riding the four horses to the top honors in the derby.
"It was a little chaotic and busy," Alfano laughed. "All of my horses did great and I am really excited for our final week in Ocala and the derby in Wellington. Jersey Boy and Miss Lucy were perfect, and Castell is improving with every class and new experience. When he trotted in the ring he perked up a little bit, but then he relaxed and went beautifully-it was great for his first time."
This upcoming week wraps up SBS Farms' stay in Ocala, FL, with the HITS VII Ocala Winter Celebration. The team will head to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL, for the Winter Equestrian Festival where Alfano and Jersey Boy will compete as the defending champions of the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.
Based out of Buffalo, NY, SBS Farms' Susie Schoellkopf and Jennifer Alfano run one of the foremost show hunter training operations in the country, and travel nationwide to compete in the nation's most prestigious horse shows. SBS Farms, Inc. continues the proud tradition of the Saddle and Bridle Club as one of the top show stables in the northeast. Schoellkopf is also the Executive Director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, which houses both The Buffalo Equestrian Center as well as SBS Farms. Built in 1922, the 160-stall facility is a historical landmark, with its unique English Tudor and gothic style architecture. For more information on SBS Farms and the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, please visit www.thebtrc.org.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy took the top honors Saturday night at HITS VI Ocala Winter Finals. Photo By: Hunter Messineo.