THERMAL, CA- The long-awaited HITS USHJA International Hunter Derby Tour is officially under way after Saturday’s first of four $100,000 nationwide events. Under the lights of the HITS Desert Horse Park Grand Prix Stadium, hunter riders from across the west coast and beyond gathered to take their chance at the two round derby with a $30,000 first place payday, but Kelley Farmer, of Keswick, Virginia, and Dalliance, owned by Avatar Real Estate LLC, proved in this case, that the east coast is the best coast.
Thirty-four competitors attempted the first round Hunter Classic course set by Rian Beals, of Saugerties, New York, as two panels of judges including Jimmy Lee, Carole O’Brien, Jeanne Marie Miller and Diane Carney, critiqued their craft. Unique to the derby format, in addition to the base score, each judging panel awarded an Option Bonus Score consisting of one additional point for every higher height option fence jumped.
Farmer took the lead by four points after round one with scores of 94 and 90 for a total of 184. However, it was still anybody’s game with the top 12 competitors returning for round two over a handy style course.
“The course was big, but rightfully so for the money at stake,” said Farmer. Although she had initially been concerned about showing under the lights, her scores proved that wasn’t a problem. “At night, under the lights, it’s deserving of the money. The ring, the class, the quality of all of it was top notch.”
Round two began, and the course proved to be a challenge as the first several competitors all scored below 80. That all changed when Michael Leon and Celano, owned by Robert Peters II, fifth in the order, navigated his way to score of 94 and 97 for a round two score of 191, which added to their round one score of 165, for a total of 356.
Sixth in the order was Jenny Karazissis aboard Undeniable, owned by Hope Town Farms. They, who received a round one score of 169, were cool under pressure and finished with scores of 92 and 99 for 191 and 360 total for the lead.
The leader-board continued to change when seventh in the order, Nick Haness and Spot On, owned by West Coast Equine Partners, LLC, were the third combination in a row to receive a total round two score of 191. Added to his round one score of 171, Haness moved into first with a total of 362.
Tenth in lineup was Tara Metzner riding Tammy Williams’ High Five. Knowing that the next two horses would both be piloted by Farmer, the round one leader, Metzner didn’t hold back. Metzner gracefully guided her mount through the course to a round two score of 195, which added to her round one 180.5 would give her a 375.5 for the top spot.
The final two trips of the day belonged to Farmer. Eleventh in the order with Point Being, owned by Larry Glefke and Kensel LLC, she received a score of 191.5, which added to her round one 1803, totaled 374.5, just one point behind Metzner. Anchoring the order with derby superstar Dalliance, Farmer finished the day with the round high, a score of 209, for a total of 393 and the blue ribbon.
“Dalliance has won a few derbys already; this was his third,” continued Farmer. “No matter what I needed to do, he was capable of doing it. I knew Tara was going to go for it. She has a lovely horse, and she’s a great rider and I knew she wasn’t going to hold anything back.” Metzner received second place with Farmer and Point Being in third, Haness in to fourth, and Karazissis in fifth.
“It’s great that Tom and HITS are bringing this kind of money to hunters and to derbys. We’ve been pressing the industry to do that, and finally someone has. We will definitely be back to support it,” added Farmer.
The HITS Hunter Derby Tour continues with the next event scheduled during the Ocala Tournament, February 23-28, at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida. The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit Prize List, including the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby specs, is now available online at HitsShows.com.