Mumford, NY - June 7, 2015 - With just one horse left to return in the handy round of the $35,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Genesee Country Village & Museum, Amanda Steege and Jennifer Alfano waited on standby prepared to jump-off for the win. The two riders sat tied at the top of the class, with the outcome all up to the final pair: Kelley Farmer and Dalliance.
Kelley Farmer and Dalliance
But as Farmer and Dalliance cleared the final fence on Sunday afternoon, it quickly became apparent that a jump-off to determine the winner would not be necessary. Farmer and Dalliance had turned in a seamless handy round - one that would clinch them the victory in front of the crowd.
"He fits in the league with Grappa [Mindful] and with all of the players," Farmer's partner at Lane Change Farm, Larry Glefke, said of Dalliance. "I'm going to look like a prophet because on Facebook about four days ago I said, 'Believe me. He's a sitting on a win.' He's one of a kind."
The 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, owned by Avatar Real Estate LLC, is a relatively new mount for Farmer, but he has already been knocking on the door for a win with her in the saddle, coming close in classes such as the $50,000 WCHR Open Hunter Classic in Tryon where he finished second.
On Sunday, Dalliance looked every bit the winner over the first round Bobby Murphy designed track spread across the rolling grass field of the Genesee Country Village & Museum's Great Meadow. Farmer and Daliance easily negotiated the hills, an airy log jump, a split rail high option fence set at 4'6," and other impressive obstacles reminiscent of the derby field. Their efforts earned them scores of 88 and 92 from the two judging panels. Those scores, coupled with four high option points, shot Farmer and Dalliance to the top of the leaderboard. At the end of the first round, Alfano sat behind Farmer in second aboard Jersey Boy, and Steege and Zidane rounded out the top three.
The top 12 returned in reverse order for the handy round, which included numerous options for slick inside turns, handy approaches and high and low option fences. Farmer was the first to return aboard Mindful, which gave her the perfect opportunity to test how just how handy she could be while still maneuvering the round successfully.
"On Mindful, I know him so well that I can ask him to do anything," Farmer said. "If there's anything that's possible to be done, he can do it. I knew that he would give me 110 percent."
And that he did. Mindful executed all of the inside options with Farmer to earn the highest handy round scores of the day: a 90 and a 94, plus all four of the high options and two scores of 9 for handiness adding up to an impressive second round score of 210. Those scores would shoot Mindful all the way up from the 12th place spot to an eventual fourth place finish.
Steege and Zidane, owned by Susan Darragh, were the first of the top three to return, and while she elected to take three out of the four high options in the first round, she knew that taking all four in the handy round could prove highly beneficial. That decision paid off well for her as she moved into the lead following her handy round. Alfano and SBS Farms' Jersey Boy jumped next and sat tied with Steege. Then it all came down to Dalliance.
With two scores of 88 from the judging panels, three high option bonus points and handiness scores of 9 and 7, Dalliance and Farmer clinched the victory. With the highest scores from the tie-breaking pair of judges, Steege and Zidane finished in second while Alfano and Jersey Boy took home the third place honor.
Steege was happy with Zidane's performance and was equally happy that she was able to attend The Derby this year, as last year she had to forego it in favor of giving her horses time off following the Devon Horse Show.
"We loved it here!" Steege said. "I really wanted to come last year. I planned this year around getting to come to this event. I actually didn't show [Zidane and second entry Loxley] at Devon this year in order to get to show them here."
Steege continued, "Ultimately everything is geared toward [Zidane and Loxley] being derby horses and hopefully having a good Derby Finals and trying to get to the venues that I feel are original and have the best jumps and have the nicest courses and expose them to large crowds - all of the things that I want for them to be able to handle when we get to Kentucky in August [for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals]. This was a natural fit. It's the epitome of the derbies that we as riders and owners would like to see happen."
Farmer similarly had nothing but rave reviews for the horse show following her victory.
"I have to say that that field is unbelievable!" Farmer said. "That field is not easy though with those hills, but it's beautiful. It's unreal. They built it unbelievably well. Bobby [Murphy] did a great job. They've done a beautiful job having that field ready. The grass - they've done everything they could to make it nice and rideable. I cannot say enough about what Brian [Brown] and this venue have done.
"The course was not little by any means," Farmer continued. "They were sizeable [jumps], but that's what this is supposed to be: real horses jumping for real money. They built it big, but that's how they're supposed to build it. I'll be back for sure."
Glefke concluded, "They've done an amazing job. Believe me, this is where Derby Finals should be. Those are real derby jumps. This is what this sport is supposed to be. It's great. I love to come here. I really try to support these stand-alone events because they're what this business should be coming to."
While The Derby at the Genesee Country Village and Museum was designed to benefit the horses, riders and the hunter derby sport, it also aims to benefit a worthy charity organization. On Sunday, The Derby presented a check for $7,500 to Make-A-Wish of Western New York. The nonprofit grants close to 150 wishes each year to children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions.
Sunday marked the conclusion of the 2015 event, but stay up to date on plans for 2016 on Facebook here.
The Derby at the Genesee Country Village and Museum would not be possible without the help of generous sponsors and supporters some of whom include Buffalo Therapeutic Riding, Elite Equine Veterinary, Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, Hank Parker's Party & Tent Rental, Moe's Southwest Grill, Ponies and Palms Show Stables, SBS Farms, Inc., Shapley's, Stacie Whitbeck, The Plaid Horse Magazine, Wegmans and Valley Vet Supply.
Special thanks also to Midtown Athletic Club for the generous contribution of a one-month family membership and to BeautyMark Medical spa for the donation of a $500 gift certificate. Thanks also to Patti Fowler of On A Fence Designs and Rentals for their efforts in making the hunter derby courses look beautiful.
For more information on The Derby at the Genesee Country Village & Museum, please visit www.tsgequineevents.com.