Lexington, KY - The night was filled with anticipation and excitement as the nation's top hunter riders gathered beneath the lights of the Rolex Stadium tonight at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show. The evening began with the $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby where renowned hunter rider Louise Serio took the championship prize aboard Corvine. The $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby turned into a nail-biter as 14-year-old Victoria Colvin went neck and neck against Jennifer Alfano, with the junior rider eventually emerging victorious.
Riders were tested over a classic hunter course designed by Bobby Murphy, and the top 12 scoring combinations advanced into the handy hunter round. The course was beautifully set, and was reminiscent of a hunt field. The two-round course included stonewalls, oxers, standalone verticals, gates, brushes and an in-and-out. Four high options were offered to the riders as a way of earning additional points on their base scores. The decision to take the higher option came down to whether or not the horse would still be able to demonstrate their style and grace with effectiveness. Additional points were also awarded to riders who demonstrated "handiness" and an elevated amount of difficulty.
Tammy Provost aboard Libretto, owned by Alliy Moyer, was the first of the field to attempt the first round course during the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Earning a score of 81.5 for their efforts, the pair earned a spot in the handy round. They eventually rose in the ranks to the overall score of 169.5 and the fourth place prize after putting in a solid handy round. Provost opted not to take any of the options, but Libretto's fluidity around the course earned the pair a second-round score of 88 with their handy bonus points.
Jennifer Alfano piloted the talented Miss Lucy, owned by Helen Lenahan, to the third place position after taking an early lead in the handy round. They took all four high options, made tight rollbacks and had a strong hand gallop, with the judges dually awarding their efforts with a score of 92.5. Alfano and Miss Lucy's score held solid until it came down to the final two.
Alfano entered the ring atop two-time horse of the year, Jersey Boy, and knew that he was going to shine. "Tonight was just one of those nights," Alfano explained. "I could feel that he was on from the beginning, and I couldn't have asked for him to do any better. Jersey Boy always excels in the handy round, and tonight he was nothing short of fantastic."
The pair was awarded the handy score of 100.5, a half-point over perfect. In addition to their first round score of 87, they had a total score of 187.5. It seemed as though the competition was going to end there; however, 14-year-old Colvin stepped forward aboard Inclusive, and made sure to leave nothing to chance.
"I was just going to go smooth, have a nice round," Colvin explained. "During the handy, we rubbed one jump, so I knew I needed to be really handy and make up for it somewhere. I knew that Inclusive has scope, so the options were not even a question, but we took a little risk by taking the inside turn to the wall, and went for a strong hand gallop to fence six."
As the judges released their scores, and the numbers were tabulated, it became apparent that the overall scores were going to be close as Colvin also earned a score of 100.5. Due to their first-round score of 93.5, Colvin overtook Alfano and Jersey Boy's score and garnered the championship award with a total score of 194.
"I've been riding Inclusive for two years, and he's really nice and funny," Colvin smiled. "He flips his head and he nudges you, I have to describe him as having a good sense of humor. We had a lot of fun out there tonight, and I like it better under the lights, it's just a different environment."
Colvin looks forward to continuing her competition at the Kentucky Spring Series in the Junior Hunter divisions, but long-term goals include qualifying with Inclusive for the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals to be held during the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park in August 2012.
Earlier in the evening, Louise Serio was awarded the top call for her exceptional efforts in the $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby. This was the first of six National Hunter Derbies sponsored by Hallway Feeds, with a leading rider bonus for professional riders and junior/amateur riders alike. A field of 30 riders participated in the series debut, but only one of them would come out the champion, and tonight it was Serio and Corvine.
Corvine, owned by Timothy Wicks, was purchased about a year and a half ago at the VDL Auction in Ocala, FL. He competed in several divisions during the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, but the horse is wise beyond his years. Tonight, the pair took the lead early in the class with the highest first round score of 90. Serio guided the gelding over all of the possible options in both the first round and the handy. Their second round score of 88 made them a shoe in to win with the cumulative score of 178 points.
"This is my first show with him and our first big class. He was just awesome. He went like an old horse, but he's five years old, so he has a great future as a derby horse," Serio described. "He's just right, he's not cold, he has just enough motor, but you have to tell him to go. He doesn't ever take you anywhere, which is such a nice feeling. He's not going to grab the bit and go anywhere. He's got a huge stride and a lot of scope, so it's a really nice ride."
Serio continued, "I was worried that I was going to do too many crazy things during the handy to try and win, and I just decided to be normal for the first five fences, and then do the short rollback to the trot jump. He has never trotted a jump in a class, but we practiced it in the warm-up ring and it worked out great. We just did tight turns after the last two fences, and I think it really worked to our advantage. He is young, but I can only imagine the future he has."
Professionals like Serio have the opportunity to earn a $10,000 leading rider bonus, something that very few take lightly. "The Leading Rider Award is going to make me come back, even if I just come back for this class, because it's a lot of money. I think it's great. Anytime they can put together a series like that and keep people coming for the classes I think it's great for the sport."
Shawn Casady picked up the second place award with Marigot Bay Farm LLC's Stars Go Blue. He has worked ridden the horse on and off over the past year, competing when the Arani's are unable. The course tonight provided Casady with the perfect opportunity to showcase their relationship. The pair earned a first round score of 82, and upon concluding the handy course; they were awarded a 91 for their handiness and choice to take all four of the offered options. Their overall score of 173 put them only five points behind Serio.
"Stars Go Blue was really on his game today, I couldn't have asked for anything better," Casady explained. "You just have to let him take his time and melt away with him. He needs as little interference as possible, if you let him do his thing, he will take you where you need to go. He loves it."
The ribbons did not end there for Casady as he also nabbed the fourth place ribbon with Conquest Z, owned by Wolfstone Stables. It was Bella Cramer, however, who caught the judges' attention with her picturesque rounds, scoring the third place prize with a total score of 170 points with her mount Emilio.
Tomorrow will conclude the Junior Hunter divisions as the champions are named in their divisions. Sunday will also feature the final event of the first week of the Kentucky Spring Series-the $75,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix, beginning at 4p.m. This will be the final U.S. Show Jumping Team Observation Event at the Kentucky Horse Park.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows or to download the prize list, please go to www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
$15,000 USHJA INTERNATIONAL HUNTER DERBY
Pl Nbr Horse ider Final
1 699 INCLUSIVE VICTORIA COLVIN 194.00
2 596 JERSEY BOY JENNIFER ALFANO 187.50
3 591 MISS LUCY JENNIFER ALFANO 171.00
4 941 LIBRETTO TAMMY PROVOST 169.50
5 96 AMMERETTO DAVID BEISEL 165.25
6 1247 CANNAVARO Z BECKY FRUEHLING 160.00
7 942 CONTEMPORARY ALLIY MOYER 155.50
8 1093CONCERTO LAUREN SOGARD 154.00
9 321 WESTRAY TAMMY PROVOST 137.25
10 592 ROSE HILL JENNIFER ALFANO 134.50
11 356 PICASSO MELISSA MURPHY 126.50
12 620 OCEAN REEF HAVENS SCHATT 120.50
$5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA NATIONAL HUNTER DERBY
Pl Nbr Horse Rider Final
1 1127 CORVINE LOUISE SERIO 178.00
2 1129 STARS GO BLUE SHAWN CASADY 173.00
3 1058 EMILIO BELLA CRAMER 170.00
4 1073 CONQUEST Z SHAWN CASADY 167.50
5 66 ONE SHOT SARAH STURGES 157.00
6 792 PETER PAN EMMA HEISE 145.00
7 1216 HIGHER GROUNDMACKENZIE MACLEAN 140.00
8 244 LAREDO MARIA RASMUSSEN 128.00
9 354 COSMO MELISSA MURPHY 122.00
10 189 TARTE AUX POMPEABODY KOHLER-FO 97.00
11 1098 PORTAFINA CASSIDY ZIMMERMAN 89.00
12 538 BLACK TIE BLAIR BALMER 71.00
Photo Credit: Victoria Colvin and Inclusive won the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.