Twenty eight beautifully turned out Hunters took to the R&L Arena this evening to contest the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. The stands were packed with eager spectators waiting to watch the horses and riders take to the Derby course, designed by Bobby Murphy of Lexington, Kentucky. Riders walked the course, planning their paths and getting a feel for handy turns. The jumps were set at 3′, with four high options placed throughout the course set at 3’5″. The first round began up an option oxer across the diagonal, down a seven stride line on the rail, followed by a long approach up the opposite diagonal to a two stride, then back down a bending line. next, riders rode across the center of the arena on a slight diagonal to jump a vertical option, then continued to a second vertical option at the top of the ring, and ended flowing back down the diagonal to an oxer option. All jumps were flanked with cedar brush, and several incorporated birch rails, adding to the natural appeal of the Derby course.
The first round saw several stellar rides, but none were quite as impressive as Ashleen Lee’s round aboard her own Honor (Quality). The pair found each distance flawlessly and jumped each fence with ease, making the course seem almost effortless. Lee and Honor’s stunning performance, along with their three high options taken, earned them a score of 89 in the first round. Later in the order of go, Lee returned with another of her horses, Red Sky (Amsterdam x Lovelle). Lee rode a lovely, consistent course aboard the large chestnut horse with plenty of flashy chrome. While the pair did not take any high options, they still earned an impressive score of 82 in the first round.
Returning from her victory last night in the $5,000 Welcome Stake 1.35 m aboard Scott Durchslag’s Oliver’s Army (Ogano Sitte x Linotte De Sohan) was Lauren DiTallo. Showing her versatility as a rider, DiTallo took to the hunter course tonight with natural ability aboard High Finance Farm’s HFF Silver Certificate (Redwine x Fiora) and Scott Durchslag’s Classic (Clearway x Ferraraii). DiTallo rode both horses with ease, jumping two high options with HFF Silver Certificate for a first round score of 81, and jumping all four high options with Classic for a first round score of 86.
One of the judge’s favorites from the first round was Miss Mo, owned and ridden by Chelsea N. Kasper. The pair’s ride was quiet and undeniably consistent, and taking the four high options seemed second nature for Kasper and Miss Mo, which earned them a score of 85 in the first round. Another favorite was Catherine Kramer’s Casares. Kramer and Casares delivered a lovely round, taking four high options for a first round score of 82.
A quick adjustment was made to the course for the handy round of the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby reversing the direction of both the vertical option at the top of the ring and the vertical option on a slight diagonal across the center of the arena. In the handy round, riders began with the vertical option at the top of the ring. Most then chose to take an inside turn to approach the second fence, the vertical option across the center of the ring. From there, most riders chose to execute a short roll back turn to set up their approach to the two stride across the diagonal. Once through the two stride, riders continued down the bending line on the rail, took an inside turn to the oxer option up the diagonal, then flowed down the opposite diagonal to the final fence, an oxer option.
Lauren E. DiTallo returned on HFF Silver Certificate toward the end of the pack, opting to take two of the four high options. The pair scored a 72 in the handy round, bringing their total score to 153. Next in the ring were the two 82 scores from the first round, Red Sky and Ashleen Lee, as well as Casares and Catherine Kramer. Lee and Red Sky rode a consistent round, again taking the lower options, scoring a 76 in the second round. This brought their total score to 158. Kramer piloted Casares around the handy course, taking her time to find just the right distances. The pair again took all four high options for a score of 87 in the handy round, bringing their total score to 169, setting the pace for the remaining three riders.
Next in the ring was Miss Mo and Chelsea N. Kasper. While the pair put in a great round, it was not enough to beat Kramer and Casares. Kasper and Miss Mo took four high options for a score of 79.5, which brought their two round total to 164.5. DiTallo then returned for her second handy round, this time aboard Classic. Though they took all four high options for a score of 80.5, the pair could not catch Kramer and Casares’s score either. Their two round total was 166.5, just two and a half points short.
That just left Honor and Ashleen Lee to steal the show, and the pair did not disappoint. The duo nearly duplicated their exquisite first round, but took all four high options this time for a score of 88, bringing their total score to 177, sending them straight to first place. Lee’s large entourage swarmed the ingate as the cooler was placed on Honor, all eager to join the winning duo for their award picture.
We were able to catch Ashleen Lee, owner and head trainer of Freedom Woods in Morton Grove, Illinois and spirit her away from her excited Freedom Woods entourage for a moment to chat about her ride on Honor tonight. Lee was just as thrilled with her win as her cheering section was, especially considering this was just her second Derby win with Honor (their first at Balmoral Park last summer). Adding to the excitement, Lee and Honor were also crowned Champion in the Performance Hunters earlier this week at the WEC Winter Classic #2 show, which was their first Championship award together. Lee and Honor just recently became a team in May of 2018 and seem to already have a fantastic relationship. When asked about her future plans for Honor, Lee replied with a smile, “I’m going to keep him. I want to do whatever he wants to do. We might move up and do the bigger stuff; we’ll see how he feels,” as the large group surrounding Lee and Honor agreed with smiles and nods of approval.
$2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby Results
- Honor, Ashleen Lee – 89|88|177
- Casares, Catherine Kramer – 82|87|169
- Classic, Lauren E. DiTallo – 86|80.5|166.5
- Miss Mo, Chelsea N. Kasper – 85|79.5|164.5
- Red Sky, Ashleen Lee – 82|76|158
- Amalfi Coast, Cole Battershall – 77|77|154
- HFF Silver Certificate, Lauren E. DiTallo – 81|72|153
- Diolita, Jordynn D. Shaffer – 74|78|152
- Viva’s Highlight, Maude Boulanger-Bouchard – 72|77|149
- Niro 8, Liz Atkins – 71.5|64|135.5
- Biscaya, Tess Vindischman – 69|52|121
- Rythmico, Reghan Wiskochil – 75|44|119