There was a feeling of déjà vu in the R+L Arena this afternoon as Jason Berry and Kalanov Equestrian’s Abudabi captured the win in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby for the second week in a row with an identical overall score to the week prior. Taking the feeling of familiarity one step further, Isabel Harbour and IHM Equine, LLC’s Fitz (Numero Uno x Kootje) took second place for the second week in a row, also earning the same overall score as last week.
Though first and second place remained the same, the course for this week’s $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby asked very different questions of horse and rider than last week’s course. The derby course for Week 8 of ‘Winter in the Midwest’ at World Equestrian Center was designed by Keith Bollotte of North Carolina and featured a more classic hunter course in the first round. This week’s course was designed by Tucker Williams of Ocala, Florida and featured bending lines that stretched from the quarter line across the diagonal and a one-stride-to-five-stride line, giving the course a decidedly handier feel.
Will Baker and Alice Baker’s Quadori III set a high standard early in the class. Fresh off of an 11th place finish in last week’s highly competitive $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby against 40 entries, Baker and the 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding caught the judge’s eye with their rhythmic first round, taking all four high options for a score of 87.
Harbour and IHM Equine, LLC’s Fitz (Numero Uno x Kootje) contested the course midway through the order. The pair clocked an impressive performance in last week’s derby, earning scores of 88 and 90 for an overall score of 178, and a second place finish. Harbour and the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding carried their performance into this week, taking all four high options and earning a first round score of 88.
Berry and Kalanov Equestrian’s Abudabi rode near the end of the order. In last week’s derby, the duo earned a pair of 92 scores for an overall score of 184, ultimately winning the class. This afternoon, Berry and the flashy liver chestnut gelding showed off their brilliant style and took all four high options for a score of 93, the highest score of the first round.
The ring was refreshed and the top 12 entries returned for the handy round. Competition was fierce with a high cut-off score of 82.5. Baker and Quadori III returned about midway through the order, taking handy inside turns to fences 2 and 3 along with a tidy rollback turn inside of the island after the trot fence. The pair took all four high options for a score of 89, bringing their overall total to 176, the new leading score. Next to attempt the handy course was Harbour and Fitz. The pair mimicked Baker’s inside track, also taking all four high options for a score of 90, raising their overall total to 178 and moving them into the top spot. Last in the order were Berry and Abudabi. The pair expertly navigated the inside turns and all four high options, earning a score of 91 and bringing their overall total to 184 to win the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby for the second week in a row.
Berry of Jason Berry Stables in Staunton, Virginia took a moment to chat with us ringside about the win, “This week’s course was very different from last week’s course. Last week it was more of a regular hunter course in the first round while this week’s first round was all bending lines and related distances. Also, in this week’s handy round, you could be a little handier and take more inside turns. We didn’t do the inside turns last week, but they came up easily this week. Even the tight rollback after the trot jump was easy for Abudabi. He rides perfectly no matter what the course asks of him.”
Kosta Kalanov of Kalanov Equestrian in Barrington, Illinois typically trains Abudabi, but is currently relying on good friends and fellow professionals to ride and show his horses due to an injury. Kalanov was thrilled with Abudabi’s back-to-back wins, “We are happy to see our boy win again. Jason’s support is great. He is a nice professional rider with a lot of experience. Abudabi is from my country, Bulgaria. There are a lot of good riders there who produce nice horses, but it’s far and not many people know to look for a horse there. When the horses are imported from there they get to enjoy the easy American life. Abudabi is a horse that really enjoys his job. The combination of a rideable horse and a professional rider with a good feel makes the job easy. We were really lucky again today and we are, of course, going to celebrate tonight!”
Abudabi’s owner, Traci Ribeiro, also shows Abudabi in the Adult Amateur Hunters. Like Kalanov, Ribeiro could not have been more pleased with Abudabi’s performance in this afternoon’s class. Ribeiro explained why she and Kalanov have chosen to let their horses keep showing through Kalanov’s injury, “A lot of people have been riding our horses since Kosta has been hurt. We’ve had a few people ask us why we are having other people ride our horses. We’re doing it so that people understand what it’s like to ride a horse that Kosta found and trained. All of the horses that Kosta trains are really special horses. They ride a certain way and are adjustable to any rider. As Abudabi’s performance shows, it’s been very successful!”
$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Results
- Abudabi, Jason Berry – 93 | 91 | 184
- Fitz, Isabel Harbour – 88 | 90 | 178
- Quadori III, Will Baker – 87 | 89 | 176
- Haiku, Aida Sanchez Long – 86.5 | 87 | 173.5
- Just Magic, Carly Haimerl – 83 | 85 | 168
- Irascibull, Jenna Drago – 82.5 | 83 | 165.5
- At Last, Jason Berry – 84 | 77 | 161
- News For You, Meg Howard-Fuleky – 83.5 | 76 | 159
- Wish List, Matthew Piccolo – 85 | 73 | 158
- Breathless, Robert Stucky – 85.25 | 71 | 156.25
Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.