Twenty seven stunning hunters took to the R+L Arena tonight to contest the first $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby of 2020. The course for tonight’s class was designed by Bobby Murphy of Lexington, Kentucky and emulated the hunt field with flowing forward lines, plentiful cedar brush and even a charming chicken coop-flanked fence. Tonight’s Derby saw fierce competition with a cutoff score of 80.5 for the handy round and scores ranging high into the nineties. Michael Britt-Leon was unstoppable, taking first, second, third, fourth and eighth place aboard Kelly Sims’ Private I (Corrado x Verdi), Bacchus (Bisquet Balou x Feliz V/D Donkhoeve), Eleventh Hour (Christ x Baloubette), True Enough (Catoki x Hauptstutbuch Chardas Fürstin) and Downtown (Dollar x Kornett), respectively.
Britt-Leon rode first in the order aboard Kelly Sims’ Bacchus (Bisquet Balou x Feliz V/D Donkhoeve), a seven year old Hanoverian gelding. The pair have built a fantastic rapport in the Green Hunters, preparing them well for this evening’s Derby. Britt-Leon and the flashy bay gelding were flawless in the first round, setting an incredibly high standard for the class with a score of 93.5, which would prove to be the highest score of the first round. The pair later returned for the handy round, smoothly executing inside turns to fences one through five and earning a second score of 95, bringing their overall total to 188.5, ultimately landing in second place.
The next ride for Britt-Leon was aboard Kelly Sims’ Private I (Corrado x Verdi). The duo also compete often in the Green Hunters and Private I also competes in the Amateur Owner Hunters with Sims. This evening, Britt-Leon and the handsome eight year old Oldenburg gelding mirrored Britt-Leon’s first round, earning a score of 93. The pair returned for the handy round, navigating an additional inside turn to fence six and earning a jaw-dropping score of 98, bringing their total score to 191 for the win in the class.
Shortly after, Britt-Leon rode Kelly Sims’ Eleventh Hour (Christ x Baloubette). Britt Leon and the eye-catching bay gelding also show in the Green Hunters with great success. Tonight, Eleventh Hour was hot on the trail of Britt-Leon’s first two mounts, earning a first round score of 92. The pair returned for the handy round, also opting for the extra inside turn to fence six, earning a score of 96 for an overall total of 188, taking the yellow ribbon.
Britt-Leon also had fantastic rides aboard Kelly Sim’s two additional horses, True Enough (Catoki x Hauptstutbuch Chardas Fürstin) and Downtown (Dollar x Kornett). Britt-Leon and True Enough earned scores of 89 and 89.5 for an overall total of 178.5, moving them into fourth place. Downtown caught the judge’s eye, earning scores of 87 and 88 for a total score of 175 for a highly respectable eighth place finish.
Britt-Leon of Windsor Stables in Alpharetta, Georgia stuck around after the awards ceremony to chat with us about all of his incredible spate of performances in tonight’s class, “It was a very good course. I feel like the course designer set us up to show all sorts of different moves, whether it was the open gallop or a short turn, or the open gallop to a short turn. There were a lot of different options. The first round was more of your classic round. All of my horses have been doing great all week. This is the beginning of the year for us so they all moved up divisions and are all jumping a bit brighter, which has been excellent. I think that followed through to this evening. Even though it wasn’t a huge course like an International Derby, it was still big enough that they were jumping bright. It’s also nice here that everything is inside. It really lets us bring the green horses together and gear them up for indoors later in the year.”
When asked about first place finisher Private I, Britt-Leon replied, “Private I is one that is a really special horse. He’s a lot of fun. He’s such a classic hunter and jumps great all of the time. Getting those scores is always wonderful on him. He does the Amateur Owner Hunters with his his mom Kelly Sims. Kelly has a beautiful farm in Alpharetta, Georgia, so she gets to have all of her horses at home and they get a lot of attention. We bought him in March, went to International Derby Finals and had success there. He is the easiest, sweetest horse. He doesn’t require a lot before you ride. You can get on and go. He is a character on the ground, though. He’s in your pocket all of the time and pushes you around a little bit. He’s the ham of the barn, I would say.”
We also asked Britt-Leon about his other mounts in the class, “Both Bacchus and Downtown are six-coming-seven year olds. This was Downtown’s first Derby and Bacchus’ third Derby, so that was really exciting to get them both into the handy round. Eleventh Hour is a new horse for another client of mine Eleese Shillingford, who also rode in the Derby tonight. She finished sixth on Odyssey, so we were first, second, third, fourth and sixth. That was neat. It was busy having back to back horses, but I thought they all jumped great and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
When asked about his business, Britt-Leon replied, “I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I operate Windsor Stables out of Alpharetta. We have a little over thirty horses in training. I’ve been on the east cost for three years now – I moved from Los Angeles where I spent my whole life and had my whole career and business. We travel pretty consistently to all of the A and AA shows. I also have a whole riding school started up at home that someone else runs for me, so that’s exciting, too.”
Britt-Leon also added a personal note, “I’d like to say thank you, not only to the World Equestrian Center who puts on a fantastic event, but to my clients as well. It’s really an honor to have such supportive clients who allow me to pick great horses for them, then allow me to showcase those horses for them. I’m very fortunate to have that. Thank you to Kelly Sims, Eleese Shillingford and her family, and everyone who is so supportive. They keep this going – not only me, but our sport.”
$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Results
- Private I, Michael Britt-Leon – 93 | 98 | 191
- Bacchus, Michael Britt-Leon – 93.5 | 95 | 188.5
- Eleventh Hour, Michael Britt-Leon – 92 | 96 | 188
- True Enough, Michael Britt-Leon – 89 | 89.5 | 178.5
- Vendome DH Z, Summer Hill – 88 | 90 | 178
- Danika K, Samantha Rothman – 89.5 | 87 | 176.5
- Odyssey, Eleese Shillingford – 86.5 | 89 | 175.5
- Downtown, Michael Britt-Leon – 87 | 88 | 175
- Fusion, Kelsey Epperson – 81 | 84 | 165
- Vulcan, Charlotte Clark – 81.5 | 79 | 160.5
Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.