This afternoon saw fantastic Hunter action in the R+L arena as horse and rider pairs contested a natural course over two rounds in hopes of taking home the blue ribbon in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Though competition was tough, it was Hunter Derby veterans Jeff Gogul of Wilmington, OH and Roberts Stables, LLC’s Snowbird (Vingino x Vegannie) that emerged victorious. The pair laid down two foot-perfect rounds in this afternoon’s Derby, impressing both the judges and the crowd for a pair of scores in the nineties. This was Gogul and Snowbird’s second $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby win of the 2019 Winter Series of the Midwest, which earned the pair the Reserve Circuit Champion title this afternoon.
The course for this afternoon’s $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby was designed by Keith Bollotte, a course designer with more than thirty years of experience in the industry. The course began down a stone option vertical on the diagonal, then led up the opposite diagonal over a branch oxer. Riders then rounded the top of the ring to lead down a four stride birch line, then led back up the first stone vertical option on the diagonal that bent to a Tuscan-inspired oxer on the quarter line. From there, the course continued down the rail over a two stride brick line, then up a second stone vertical option on the opposite diagonal that bent to a tiki-inspired oxer. To finish, the course led down the diagonal over a log vertical, then up the second stone vertical option one last time.
Near the top of the order of go were Jeff Gogul and Roberts Stables, LLC’s Snowbird (Vingino x Vegannie). Gogul and the eleven year old Dutch Warmblood gelding have a great rapport, taking first in countless Hunter Derbies including the Open $15,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby last Fall during the World Equestrian Center Invitational and the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby during the Kentucky National in September 2018. Gogul and the handsome gray gelding brought their A game this afternoon, riding a flawless first round and taking all four high options for a score of 92, setting a high standard for the remaining entries.
About midway through the class, Julia Hasler and her own Harrison (Enrico V/D Withoeve x Winde Van De Withoeve), a twelve year old Belgian Warmblood gelding, contested the course. The pair took top placings in the Junior Hunters during Week 12 of the 2019 Winter Series of the Midwest, and placed well in the Large Junior Hunters across the Eastern United States in 2018. The pair were a sight this afternoon with Harrison’s eye-catching spotted blaze and incredible jumping style. Hasler and the gelding took all four high options in the first round, earning a score of 83, placing themselves about mid-pack to return for the handy round.
Wrapping up the first round was Doug Boyd of Sapphire Riding Academy in Mettawa, Illinois and Mimi Rothman’s Calido’s Son (Calido I x Pusteblume), a fifteen year old Holsteiner gelding. The pair took the win in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby during Week 5 of the 2019 Winter Series and returned tonight prepared to deliver another stunning ride. They took all four high options this afternoon for a score of 89, the second highest score of the first round.
The course was reset as entries prepared to return for the handy round. The course for the handy round began over the stone vertical option heading home, then rounded the end of the ring to approach the second stone vertical option. From there, the course rolled back to the brick oxer on the rail, then continued through the middle of the ring to catch the branch oxer on the diagonal. The course rolled back again, this time to jump the log vertical on the diagonal, then rolled back a third time to find the Tuscan-inspired oxer on the quarter line. The course then asked for a long gallop to the stone vertical option headed down the ring, then continued past the ingate to jump the second stone vertical option once more. To finish, the course gave entries the option to approach the trot fence parallel to the ingate from either direction, then exit the ring.
Julia Hasler and Harrison returned midway through the handy round, opting to take two of the five possible inside turns on the course and taking the trot jump off of the right lead. The pair jumped all four high options again and earned a score of 80, bringing their overall total to 163, the highest score of the Derby thus far.
None bested Hasler and Harrison’s score until Doug Boyd returned to the ring aboard Calido’s Son. The pair chose to take four of the five possible inside turns, putting their own unique spin on their approach to the third fence by rolling back between two fences. The pair chose the left approach to the trot fence and jumped all four high options, earning a score of 91 for their efforts. This brought their total to 180, upping the ante for Gogul and Snowbird.
Jeff Gogul and Snowbird returned last in the handy round. The pair strode confidently into the ring, again taking each fence perfectly out of stride. Like Boyd and Calido’s Son, Gogul and Snowbird took four out of the five possible inside turns, but opted to take the right approach to the trot fence. The pair jumped all four high options, impressing the judges again for a score of 90, bringing their two-round total to 182 for the win in the class.
Jeff Gogul took a moment to chat with us about Snowbird’s performance in this afternoon’s $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. “We are just back from Florida,” explained Gogul, “Snowbird actually had a quick trip down to Wellington for the final three weeks of the Winter Equestrian Festival. It’s fun to be back and he went really nicely the first round. I was happy with my handy round as well. He really likes his job. He sort of knows the routine now; he’s done so many Derbies with me. This was a lot of turning today and I have to be careful because he gets a little excited about that, so I rode a little softer than I normally would. We did a couple classes outside earlier this week to warm up. He was really good; he stayed relaxed and he rode really nicely for a lot of turns.”
When asked where they are off to next, Gogul replied, “In a week, we’re heading to Kentucky. If there is a Derby, we’ll probably go for that. I’ve won a lot of Derbies with him. He’s been really consistent for me in this class.”
$2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby Results
- Snowbird, Jeff Gogul – 92 | 90 | 182
- Calido’s Son, Doug Boyd – 89 | 91 | 180
- Harrison, Julia Hasler – 83 | 80 | 163
- Riverdale, Tammy Provost – 85 | 69 | 154
- Rhythmico, Reghan Wiskochil – 64 | 82 | 146
- Bollini, Madison Pape – 72 | 71 | 143
- Kingston Lane, Katie Rankin – 80 | 53 | 133
- Cooley Moondancer F, Tina Judge-Boyle – 88 | 44 | 132
- High Five, Katie Gould – 47 | – | 47
Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.