Blue skies and slightly lower temperatures set the perfect backdrop as twenty stunning Hunters vied for the win in this afternoon’s $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Though competition was stiff with the majority of the top twelve entries earning scores into the eighties, it was Junior rider Katie Rankin aboard Roberts Stables, LLC’s Kingston Lane.
The course for this afternoon’s $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby featured bending lines, a one stride line and four high options spread across the expansive Main Hunter ring with a stunning fieldstone and grass berm background. The winding course began at the top of the ring over a stone vertical option, then led to an oxer option heading down the diagonal. Next, the course led up the rail and across the center of the ring over a Tiki-inspired oxer option, then rounded the top of the arena and continued down the outside over a natural branch bending line with a vertical option in and an oxer out. From there, the course led up the diagonal over a birch line, then finished down the rail over a stone vertical that bent to a brick one stride line.
Veteran National Hunter Derby competitors Jeff Gogul and Roberts Stables, LLC’s Snowbird (Vingino x Vegannie) went near the top of the order. Gogul and the eleven year old Dutch Warmblood gelding have taken first in countless Hunter Derbies including the Open $15,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby last Fall during the World Equestrian Center Invitational. The always elegant pair also earned Reserve Champion of the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby class during the 2019 Winter Series of the Midwest at WEC this Winter. This afternoon, the duo lived up to their impressive history, delivering a lovely first round and taking all four high options for a score of 80.
Shortly after, Katie Rankin and Roberts Stables, LLC’s Kingston Lane took to the course. Rankin and the twelve year old Danish Warmblood gelding also frequent the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby at WEC, with fantastic placings throughout the 2019 Winter Series of the Midwest. The pair compete regularly in the Junior Hunter 3’3″ 15 and Under division, taking top placings in almost every class. This afternoon, Rankin and the Kingston Lane were nothing short of amazing, riding the course with natural ability and plenty of style. The pair took all four high options for a score of 85, setting a new standard for the class.
About midway through the order, Holly Helbig and her own Timeless (Sir Caletto x SPS Cleopatra) entered the ring for their debut in the 2019 World Equestrian Center / Kentucky Horse Shows, LLC National Hunter Derby Series. Helbig is part of the World Equestrian Center family, having served many times as the official Horse Show Veterinarian since the opening in 2016. This afternoon, Helbig and Timeless seemed to enjoy their ring time during the National Hunter Derby, executing a lovely, rhythmic first round and taking all four high options for a score of 79.
The course was reset as the top twelve riders prepared to return. The course for the handy round began over the same stone vertical option at the top of the ring, now reversed, then led down the diagonal over a vertical. Next, entries rode up the in of the birch line on the diagonal, now lowered to a trot fence, then rolled back to the brick one stride line on the rail. From there, the course led across the center of the ring over a Tiki-inspired oxer option, then continued over the in of the bending line on the rail, a natural branch vertical option. To finish, the course bent to the oxer option near the end of the ring on the diagonal, and most entries opted to slow to a walk and exit the ring before passing the ingate.
Gogul and Snowbird opted to return early in the order and were determined to set the standard for the remaining entries. The pair were the first to take a handy, perfectly executed inside turn to the trot fence, then continued on the jump all four high options, truly wowing the judges for a score of 88. This brought their total score to 168, making them the new class leader. Helbig and Timeless returned later in the order, riding a flawless course and taking all four high options for a score of 85, bringing their two round total to 164 and moving them into second place. Last to return was Rankin and Kingston Lane. The pair knew what it would take to win the class and left it all in the ring, laying down a foot-perfect course. Rankin and Kingston Lane took all four high options for a score of 86, bringing their two round total to 171, and moving them into first place by three points.
We caught up with Rankin after her victory gallop to chat about her win. “I went in not expecting anything because we just went a couple weeks without riding, so I was really just going in to have fun,” explained Rankin. “I am so thankful for King and everyone at Roberts Stables: Patty, Jeff Gogul and the Roberts for allowing me to enjoy this horse every day. I’m also thankful for my parents for giving me this opportunity and showing me why this is so fun.”
When asked about Kingston Lane, Rankin replied, “Kingston is owned by Sofia Roberts and the Roberts Family. I’ve been riding him for a little bit over a year now. This is not his first Derby win, but this is our first Derby win together, so I’m really excited.”
Rankin also described her strategy for today’s course, “I was going in to it playing it sort of safe, but still going for a higher score. Then, once we were getting down to the final few, I knew I really wanted to win it. So I did what I knew I was good at and what King was good at to help secure a win.”
$2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby Results
- Kingston Lane, Katie Rankin – 85 | 86 | 171
- Snowbird, Jeff Gogul – 80 | 88 | 168
- Timeless, Holly Helbig – 79 | 85 | 164
- Zaffire, Emily Rickert – 77 | 84 | 161
- Marengo, Liana Brown – 77.5 | 82 | 159.5
- Varsity, Meaggan Niesen – 81 | 78 | 159
- Take It Easy, Charlotte Clark – 78 | 78 | 156
- Piano Man, Elizabeth Orosz – 83 | 71 | 154
- Edverdine, Erica Zirkelbach – 72 | 77 | 149
- Guest List, Holly Helbig – 73 | 75 | 148
Our Summer horse shows continue next week with the July II horse show. Stalls are FREE and braiding is not required. Be sure to get your entries in now for our August 7-11 horse show – the last show of the Spring / Summer Series which features a $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. An added plus: there is no braiding required! Reserve your stalls and submit your entries at www.horseshowing.com.
Photos courtesy of Winslow Photography.