Louise Serio and Castlerock Gallop to Victory

Wellington, FL -  The first round of the $50,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby began today with largest field ever in the history of the class.  Seventy-five horse and rider combinations vied for the top spot in the first round of the class, which took place in the E.R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.  There wasn't an empty seat in the house, and golf carts lined the entire perimeter of the ring as the sun highlighted the arena.

Louise Serio and Castlerock, owned by Bryan Baldwin, earned a whopping total score of 205 points to win the first round of competition.  They sit in the prime position for the second leg of the competition, which takes place under the lights in the International Arena on Saturday, April 3.  The top twenty-five riders from round one will be invited to compete in the second round, which will follow the 2010 FTI WEF Circuit Champion Awards, which will start at approximately 6:00 p.m.  

The course, designed by Bobby Murphy, of Lexington, KY, was beautifully presented, and consisted of ten numbered fences, four of which had height options.  The course started over a long run to an inviting vertical, and featured two bending lines, a two-stride combination, and finished over a long run to another oxer, where riders were able to show off their hand-gallops.  There were four jumps that had height options on the course, including an old-fashioned hay bale jump, as well as a 4'3" oxer out of a bending line.  

Riders were scored in the first round by two panels of judges over a traditional hunter classic course, and were awarded bonus points for style and height.  Each horse/rider duo was awarded a bonus score out of a possible ten points that was given by the judges' discretion based on the horse's jumping presence and the rider's brilliance over the course.  Each pair was also awarded a bonus point from each of the two judges' panels for every larger height option they chose to jump, and could earn a potential of eight bonus points for height.  

No one could catch Serio and Castlerock today, and the closest contender was Kelley Farmer, who rode Nancy Amling's Taken to the second place with a total score of 204 points.  Just behind Farmer to finish out the top two was Scott Stewart and Fashion Farm's Summer Place, who received a total score of 203.5 points. Ten points currently stand between the third and fourth place finishers, and Maggie Jayne, with Pony Lane Farm's Namesake, holds the fourth spot with 193.5 points. The cut-off to return for the second round after today's competition is 170 points.

The competition in this year's hunter derby is far more competitive than ever before. Average scores from this year's class were vastly higher than the scores from Hunter Derbies held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in years past. In order to advance to the second round this year, riders needed an average score in the 80s, wherein the past, riders have advanced to the second round with scores in the 70s range.  

Serio is accustomed to jumping four feet with Castlerock, whom she usually shows in the Regular Working Hunters, and was worried that the smaller options might cause a problem for him. "He's used to four foot, so my biggest concern was that he would just canter over the lower jumps. The first jump is kind of small, but after that the rest of them were interesting enough to keep him interested in them," Serio explained of the course.

Serio discussed her strategy for this two-round class, "I wanted to try to have a good round today. It's a cumulative score, so you want to do as well as possible today, so that you can try to do well tomorrow night, too."  

Serio has shown under the lights in the International Arena with Castlerock, a ride she has had for four seasons, a couple times in the past, and is hopeful for tomorrow night. "Castlerock is really good and handy. He's really consistent and won the handy out there in the International Arena during hunter week, so its probably more up to me because he's very consistent," she acknowledged.

Hunter riders came from all over the country to show in this prestigious class this weekend.  "It's awesome that we're finally getting to ride for big money and have big important classes that are special events, and that people come to watch. It's about time that happened," Serio said of such an outstanding event taking place at the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.

Round two will take place Saturday, April 3, following the 2010 FTI WEF Circuit Champion Awards, which will start at approximately 6:00 p.m.  For full results or more information, please visit www.shownet.biz or www.equestriansport.com.  

Top 25 Finishers in Round One of $50,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby

  • 1.   Castlerock, Louise Serio, Bryan Baldwin: 205
  • 2.   Taken, Kelley Farmer, Nancy Amling: 204
  • 3.   Summer Place, Scott Stewart, Fashion Farm: 203.5
  • 4.   Namesake, Maggie Jayne, Pony Lane Farm: 193.5
  • 5.   Topsider, Caroline Weeden, Margaret Shank Benjamin: 192.25
  • 6.   Travino, Patricia Griffith, Heritage Farm: 191.5
  • 6.   Due West, Shane Sweetnam, Popish Farm LLC: 191.5
  • 8.   Brunello, Elizabeth Towell Boyd, Caroline Clark Morrison: 190.5
  • 9.   Listen, Kelly Farmer, Jane Gaston: 189
  • 9.   Allejandro, Katherine Dinan, Katie Dinana LLC: 189
  • 11.  Sander, Kelsey Thatcher, Pony Lane Farm: 188
  • 12.  Jaded Palace, Schaefer Raposa, Pine Hollow Stables: 186
  • 13.  Declaration, Scott Stewart, Fashion Farm: 185
  • 14.  Borealus, Katherine Dinan, Katie Dinan LLC: 183
  • 15.  Peridot, Tamara Provost, Stephen Martines: 182.5
  • 16.  Rex the Wonder Horse, Kris Killam, Moral Masuoka: 182
  • 16.  Jersey Boy, Jennifer Alfano, SBS Farms Inc: 182
  • 16.  World Time, Victoria Colvin, Scott Stewart: 182
  • 19.  Avalon, Lyman Whitehead, Visse Wedell: 180
  • 20.  Maui, Tiffany Cornacchio-Morrisey, Gate Goodman: 179.5.
  • 21.  Early Applause, Kelsey Thatcher, Pony Lane Farm: 178
  • 22.  Valedictorian, Lillie Keenan, Chansonette Farm LLC: 176
  • 23.  Sublime, Kelsey Thatcher, Pony Lane Farm: 174
  • 24.  Felicci, Alexandra Vespico, Alexandra Vespico: 173
  • 25.  Croquet, Caroline Weeden, Karen Lackinger: 170
  • 25.  Bella Blue, Maggie Jayne, Pony Lane Farm: 170

The 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 13 through April 4. WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are "AA" rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $5.5 million in prize money will be awarded.

Photo Credit: Louise Serio and Castlerock won the first round of the $50,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby at the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. © 2010 Randi Muster/Mustphoto, Inc., Official Sport Photographer of the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.