John French and Center Court Lead the Victory Gallop in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
Friday, August 9, 2019
Atherton, CA – August 8, 2019 - The $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Presented by Dr. Daryl K. Hoffman is one of the highlights of the Menlo Charity Horse Show. This year’s Grass Hunter Field transformation included a beautiful burgundy, gold and black trimmed carriage as centerpiece. The hunt country inspired fences were embellished with shrubbery, roses, and trees making for a classic Derby course that took the audience and riders back in time. The quick transformation of the grass field would not be possible without the volunteers who joined the course builders to add the finishing touches and strategically placed decorative foliage.
Don DeFranco led the International Derby Committee for 2019, “There’s no business-like show business” said Don with a laugh.“This year our volunteer who kindly provides the greenery for the Hunter fences was let down by his supplier, not his fault, but we had to scramble to get replacement greens. I put an all alert to the committee, and we had more than we could handle in the end.
It really is great to be involved in this group effort. What I have learned from doing this is that when you really need something, people here will step up. I want to thank all of the volunteers, all of the sponsors and underwriters for their help and support, something we could not do without.
The hardest part is that MCHS is a ‘pop-up’ show, so I am unsure how many other shows in the nation are like this. So, it is important to get the enthusiasm going as it is so very labor intensive. All the volunteers are wonderful, and work very hard, so I thank them for their efforts. It really is a group effort. When you have 150 plants arrive on the morning of the event and you have 1.5 hours to decorate the jumps and make it happen, it’s all hands-on deck. Well over 30 people dashed onto the course, after it is set, to decorate the fences. We even had members of the Los Altos Hunt come to support us in their pink jackets which was a lot of fun.”
Simultaneously, a champagne reception generously underwritten by the Whitter Trust took place during the event. Sponsors and their guests enjoyed this highlight while they took in the spectacular horses and riders competing in the Hunter Derby.
John French returned to the Grass Hunter Field after sitting out the 2018 event due to injury. John had the ride on friend and client Kristen Hiller’s Center Court. It is clear that strong relationship built between horse and rider remains firmly in tact, as the two have been separated geographically for nearly a year.
“I am very happy. This is home for us” explained Kristen, “My parents were able to be here, and they have not seen Center Court (Billy) go in a while so it was really nice. I could not be prouder of the team.
We have a huge support team. Pomponio Ranch has been instrumental in bringing him back, along with veterinarian Dr. Philippe Benoit and Crystal Glasser. The horse was really happy which is the main thing for us. Billy will now have two weeks rest before heading to Canada to compete.He will then return for another two weeks of rest before finishing the year in the desert. Billy will return to California where we can keep him on a regime of preventive treatment with the team. Something I learned from my fiancé who plays Polo professionally……to be preventative and not reactive.”
John French was happy to return to Menlo with one of his favorite horses, “This is a hometown show for me, I trained here for twenty-five years before moving south. I think this is my 32ndyear coming here, Monterey was my first show then Menlo was my second before I even moved here. So, it is special, I see a lot of people that I have helped and trained twenty, thirty years ago, I just love the venue and they do a great job decorating the jumps for the class. It is really pretty, and it was nice for the owners as they are from Atherton and they don’t get to see their horse show that often. Their entire family, grandparents, everyone came to see him. I am really pleased that they came to watch, and we were able to win. To win again this week is really great.”
Results: $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
1st Center Court and John French
2nd Romeo and Erin Duffy
3rd Hopeful and Jamie Sailor
4th Frosted Blue and Lexi Wedemeyer
5th When In Rome and Nick Haness
6th Cavito 2 and Emma Borders
7th Quarter Note and Jamie Sailor
8th Cool Casscord and Liz Hutchinson
9th Shameless and Ilana Halpern
10th Jury Duty and Lexi Wedemeyer
11th Fancyful and Kylee Arbuckle
12th Hendrix and Hugh Mutch