Wellington, FL - Louise Serio rode to the biggest victory of her career when she piloted Castlerock, owned by Bryan Baldwin, to the win in the $50,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby at the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. The class was also Serio's first derby win ever.
Second place was awarded to Scott Stewart and Fashion Farm's Summer Place, while the yellow ribbon went to Tamara Provost and Peridot, owned by Stephen Martines. The prestigious class is part of the Chronicle of the Horse International Hunter Derby nationwide tour, and offers one of the biggest purses in the hunter world.
The class was scored cumulatively over two rounds, and the final round took action under the lights in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The first team of judges was made up of Danny Robertshaw and Bob Crandall, while John Roper and Paddy Nyegard were slated in the second position. Keith Hastings and Pat Dodson were the scribes for the two judges' panels. Judges awarded competitors with a score for their jumping rounds, as well as a bonus point for any large height option they chose to jump (out of five available), and a bonus score out of ten points rewarding riders for their handiness.
Bobby Murphy co-designed the course with Skip Bailey and was assisted by USHJA High Performance Hunter Committee Chairman, Ron Danta. The course was set in the International Arena and offered five different height options over sixteen total elements. The course featured a horseshoe bank, a table bank, as well as an interesting one stride in and out that was made up of hay bales, which were arranged in a large circle. Each fence on the course emulated a natural element that would be found on an old-fashioned hunt course. The course had several areas where riders could show off their handiness and flowing hunter strides, and finished over a long run to an oxer option heading towards the in-gate, where riders were asked to hand gallop almost a quarter of the way around the International Arena to the final fence.
"This class had a record breaking number of entries, and we're really starting to see the true progression that hunters are making, as well as a new market for derby horses. It is great for the industry. Hunters can go back to their roots, while still progressing in the industry," said course designer Bobby Murphy.
Louise Serio and Castlerock (left) were untouchable over the two rounds of competition, and Serio earned the highest score of her entire career when the second panel of judges awarded her with a 99 after her brilliant second round. Serio talked about the course, and said, "Obviously the course went quite well for me when I rode it. I wasn't sure when I walked it exactly how it was going to go. I think the circle of straw was concerning to all of us because we really didn't know what our horses would do with it."
"I have to say I thought it all came up really well. I liked my turns, I liked my jumps, and my last jump was long! But, once you commit to something like that you just have to keep going," she smiled.
Serio went last in the class, and entered the International Arena with sheer determination. "I'm competitive, but I wanted this class. Especially when I was coming back (for the second round) on top," she admitted. "That's a hard position to come back in and that's a lot of pressure, and I really wanted this class."
Serio did not show any signs of nervousness when she galloped the nine-year-old gelding around the International Arena and chose the most difficult tracks and heights at each option. Serio finished the class with a bang when she flew to the last fence as the crowd erupted before Castlerock's feet could even touch the ground. "I wasn't thinking much (on my way to the last jump). I was just hoping that I saw something in the future out there. After I jumped the oxer I thought 'reorganize a little bit, then just go like hell.' Scott had just had a fantastic round, and that's a lot of pressure to know that he was right there," she remarked.
Second place finisher Scott Stewart spoke of his mount, Summer Place, "He's a seven-year-old First Year horse that I got last summer. He did a couple of shows in the Pre-Greens, and I think this is maybe his sixth show in the First Years. He's like a big pony to ride. He's really easy to ride."
Tamara Provost and Peridot (right) made the biggest improvement of the night when they went from sixteenth place in the first round and finished the class in third place after all was said and done. "I was so excited after yesterday. I chose to be conservative yesterday, and jumped some of the lower jumps. I was a little nervous yesterday about the crowd on the side of the ring, but I have all the confidence in the world with my horse. I'm very lucky because Steve Martines basically has him to just be a derby horse, so I'm getting a great opportunity," Provost explained of her derby experience.
Riders spoke about how the derby classes are advancing the hunter sport and industry, and Serio commented, "I think the derby is just the whole new level of hunters. It is exciting, challenging, and moving forward to become more and more difficult."
"I think it's really exciting. We do the same thing day in and day out, and it's not exciting enough. This is something that really gets your heart pumping. It's good for the spectators and owners," Provost added.
USHJA High Performance Hunter Committee member, Lynn Jayne, spoke about what a great success the derbies have been as a whole, "I think the USHJA is very proud of what we've done as a community, and we feel that this has really advanced the hunters quite a bit. We are hoping to get approval at the World Equestrian Games and make this an international sport. I think we're moving in the right direction," Jayne noted.
A beaming Serio (left) had a storybook end to the 2010 FTI WEF, and finished by saying, "Anytime you win a class like this it becomes your biggest win. I have to tell you that I'm so grateful and I'm the luckiest person alive. I have great family, friends, and great horses. It's just fantastic."
Sunday, April 4, will be the last day of competition for the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, and all hunter competition will come to a close for the circuit. Equitation will round out the schedule tomorrow morning with the Palm Beach Adult Medal Final.
Final Results: $50,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby
Horse, Rider, Owner Round 1: Judges 1, Judges 2, Bonus Points: Round 1 Score
Round 2: Judges 1, Judges 2, Bonus Points: Round 2 Score Final Score
- 1. CASTLE ROCK LOUISE SERIO BRYAN BALDWIN 91 89 25 205.00 95 99 30 224.00 429.00
- 2. SUMMER PLACE SCOTT STEWART FASHION FARM 90 88.5 25 203.50 93 96 27 216.00 419.50
- 3 3605PERIDOT TAMARA PROVOST STEPHEN MARTINES 81 84.5 17 182.50 94 94 30 218.00 400.50
- 4. LISTEN KELLEY FARMER JANE GASTON 83.5 82.5 23 189.00 90 90 30 210.00 399.00
- 5. JERSEY BOY JENNIFER ALFANO SBS FARMS INC. 86 79 17 182.00 83 88 29 200.00 382.00
- 6. MAUI TIFFANY CORNACCHIO-MORRISSEY KATE GOODMAN 87.5 79 13 179.50 86 84 29 199.00 378.50
- 7. WORLD TIME VICTORIA COLVIN SCOTT STEWART 88 78 16 182.00 88 83 15 186.00 368.00
- 8. DECLARATION SCOTT STEWART FASHION FARM 87 85 13 185.00 75 82 26 183.00 368.00
- 9. DUE WEST SHANE SWEETNAM POPISH FARM LLC 82.5 83 26 191.50 71 75 25 171.00 362.50
- 10. SANDER KELSEY THATCHER PONY LANE FARM 85 86 17 188.00 68 83 16 167.00 355.00
- 11. NAMESAKE MAGGIE JAYNE PONY LANE FARM 85 83.5 25 193.50 60 74 18 152.00 345.50
- 12. BELLA BLUE MAGGIE JAYNE PONY LANE FARM 75 78 17 170.00 73 79 20 172.00 342.00
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: All photos © 2010 Randi Muster/Mustphoto, Inc., www.mustphoto.com, Official Sport Photographer of the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.