The R+L Arena was filled with gorgeous Hunters tonight, all vying for the win in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Twenty horse and rider combinations took to the course, but it was Gabriella Conte aboard CKE Horse Enterprises’ Cavallotto (Hunters Argentus x Ela Noir PJ 3) that emerged victorius. The pair were up against some tough competition, with many entries scoring well into the eighties, challenging Conte and Cavallotto to bring their A-game to the handy round and clinch the win.
Tonight’s $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby course was designed by Tucker Williams of Ocala, Florida and featured flowing bending lines that allowed riders to find their own pace, a two stride combination that encouraged forward riding and four high options that gave some riders a leg up against the competition. The first round began with a vertical near the top of the ring that was centered between two option fences, then rounded the top of the ring and continued down the diagonal over a brick vertical. Entries then rode past the ingate and continued up a birch vertical option that bent to a birch oxer option. Entries rode back down the diagonal through the Tuscan-inspired two stride line, then past the ingate and up a vertical flanked on either side by an option fence. To finish, entries rode across the center of the ring on a slight diagonal over an oxer, then rounded the top of the arena to jump a long bending option line heading home.
Near the top of the order of go was Sabrina Hall aboard her own Vision Quest (Volstrups Casillas x Tingvejgaards Tempo). Hall and Vision Quest have been doing quite well throughout the Winter Series of the Midwest at World Equestrian Center, taking top placings in Week 3 and Week 4 in the Amateur Owner Hunter division. Hall and the eye-catching grey negotiated the course with ease, demonstrating Vision Quest’s natural ability. The pair jumped all four high options with style and earned a score of 81, joining the several entries that scored over an eighty in the first round.
Gabriella Conte and Cavallotto entered the ring about mid-way through the Derby. Conte and Cavallotto have also been doing well during the Winter Series of the Midwest, taking third place in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby just last week. The pair were impeccable in the first round, riding a lovely, steady rhythm with plenty of style and taking all four high options to earn a score of 90, the highest score of the first round.
Last to go in the first round was Melissa Donnelly aboard Jessica Tygielski’s Persuasion. Like their competition, Donnelly and Persuasion have also done well during the Winter Series, taking fifth place in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby in Week 3. The pair delivered an impressive round, taking one high option for a score of 85.
Adjustments were made to the course and the top twelve horse and rider pairs from the first round returned for the handy round. The course for the handy round began on the brick vertical on the diagonal, now heading up the ring, then rolled back for a long approach to the oxer option heading toward the ingate. Entries then trotted a cedar brush fence across the center of the ring, then rolled back to the birch vertical option, now facing the ingate. From there, entries cantered up the long side of the arena to the vertical option at the top of the ring, then jumped an oxer headed down the diagonal and rolled back across the center of the ring to jump the birch oxer option at the top of the ring. Entries then finished over the Tuscan-inspired two stride line on the diagonal heading home.
The first of the top three contenders to return was Sabrina Hall and Vision Quest. The pair took a very handy approach to the course, taking many of the inside turns and jumping all four high options, earning a score of 84 and bringing their two-round total to 165.
Next to return was Melissa Donnelly aboard Persuasion, who also took many handy turns. The pair opted to only jump one high option, earning a score of 82.5 and bringing their two-round total to 168.5, putting them in front of Hall and Vision Quest.
Last to return was Gabriella Conte aboard Cavallotto. The pair laid down a second impressive course, jumping with brilliance and taking all handy turns with ease. The pair jumped all four high options and earned a score of 85 in the second round. This brought their two-round total to 175, placing them atop the leader board for the win in the class.
We caught up with Gabriella Conte after the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby to chat about her ride aboard Cavallotto. “Cavallotto is one of my mom’s customer’s horses,” Conte explained, “He was great, he couldn’t have been any better. In the first round, we got a ninety. In the second round we had a little rub, but did all of the high options and still got an eighty-five.” When asked about Cavallotto’s personality, Conte replied, “He’s really sweet, he’s like a big pet. We’ve had him since he was about six, and he’s ten now, so we’ve had him for a while. Chad Keenum imported him for us.” Conte has a great relationship with many of the horses she rides. A recent graduate of Baylor University, Conte now works for her mom, Rachel Agee, at Harmony Ridge Stables in Dunkirk, Maryland.
$2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby Results
- Cavallotto, Gabriella Conte – 90 | 85 | 175
- Persuasion, Melissa Donnelly – 85 | 83.5 | 168.5
- Vision Quest, Sabrina Hall – 81 | 84 | 165
- Cyrus, Madison Weaver – 77 | 87 | 164
- Askara, Shoshana Altschuler – 80.5 | 80.5 | 161
- Loverboy, Emma Saunders – 77.5 | 83 | 160.5
- Landos Silver Teardrop, Gabriella Conte – 82 | 78 | 160
- The Girl From Ipanema, Shannon Meehan – 79.5 | 76 | 155.5
- Captain Sparrow, Averill Smith – 80 | 74 | 154
- High Five, Holly Kalso – 75.5 | 77 | 152.5