Twenty one stunning Hunters took to the R+L Arena tonight vying for the win in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Many delivered stylish rounds, but it was Renee Lenkart and MacMillan Sport Horse’s Cayman that rose to the top of the class. Cayman’s groom, Alex Ochoa, received the Groom’s Award, which included $100 cash and a $50 WEC Gift Card, for Cayman’s impeccable turnout.
The course for tonight’s Hunter Derby was designed by Tucker Williams of Ocala, Florida and featured natural obstacles a rider might encounter on the hunt field. The course began over a single vertical on the diagonal headed home, nestled between a high and low option fence, then asked entries to canter a birch vertical on the rail that bent to a Tuscan-inspired oxer option. Next, the course led down a bamboo line on the diagonal, then continued up a birch one stride line on the rail that bent to a brick vertical option near the top of the ring. To finish, the course asked entries to negotiate the vertical option on either side of the first fence, then bend to a stone oxer option heading home.
First in the order of go were Week 11 and 12’s $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby winners, Jennifer Nadalin and Daniela Casline’s Stellar (Quintender x Carmen). The pair have begun what one can only imagine as a long Hunter Derby career at World Equestrian Center, taking first place in their second and third Derbies as a team. Tonight, the pair were their usual, elegant, composed selves, navigating the course beautifully and taking all four high options. Nadalin and Stellar earned a score of 88, setting a high standard for the remainder of the class.
Though Nadalin and Stellar held the highest score throughout the first round of the Derby, several additional horse and rider pairs scored into the eighties. Jeff Gogul and Roberts Stables, LLC’s Snowbird (Vingino x Vegannie), winners of last year’s World Equestrian Center and Kentucky Horse Shows’ USHJA National Hunter Derby Series were among those that earned scores in the eighties. The pair managed the first course with precision while Snowbird showed off his natural ability. Gogul and Snowbird took all four high options, earning a score of 86 in the first round.
Also among those scoring into the eighties in the first round of tonight’s Derby were Renee Lenkart and MacMillan Sport Horse’s Cayman. The pair took fourth place in Week 9’s $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby and brought their A game to tonight’s Derby. They rode a lovely first round, taking all four high options and earning a score of 84.5.
Another notable round from the eighties scores was ridden by Michaella Gerlacher aboard Lindsay Dunlap’s Fernando VDL (Baltic VDL x Zialotta). The pair cleaned up in the Performance Hunters during Week 6 of the Winter Series of the Midwest, preparing them for the 3’5″ options on tonight’s Derby course. Gerlacher and Fernando VDL took all four high options, earning a score of 85 in the first round.
The ring was refreshed for the handy round as the top twelve entries prepared to return. The course for the handy round began over the brick vertical option near the top of the ring, then asked entries to bend down the diagonal over the vertical option and stone oxer option. From there, the course asked entries to trot a natural brush fence parallel to the ingate, then continue up the rail over the birch one stride line. Next, the course asked entries to jump the vertical nestled between the vertical option fences, then roll back to the Tuscan-inspired oxer option near the top of the ring. To finish, the course led entries down the diagonal and over a bamboo oxer.
One of the last four to return, Lenkart and Cayman strode into the ring. The pair cantered directly to the first fence, jumped the bending line beautifully in stride, then opted to turn inside of the island at the end of the ring to approach the trot fence. The pair did so perfectly, then continued through the rest of their course, handily taking several more inside turns. Lenkart and Cayman took all four high options and earned a score of 86 for their impressive handy round, bringing their two round total to 170.5.
Next to return was Gerlacher and Fernando VDL. The pair also rode a great course, but opted to not take the inside turn to the trot fence. Gerlacher and Fernando VDL still jumped all four high options and earned a score of 84.5. This brought their two round total to 169.5, placing them just behind Lenkart and Cayman.
Gogul and Snowbird returned next and, while their round was fantastic, it could not top Lenkart and Cayman’s gorgeous round, nor Gerlacher and Fernando VDL’s round. Nadalin and Stellar found themselves in the same position, leaving Lenkart and Cayman atop the leader board for the win in the class.
Lenkart of Wild Oak Farm in Delano, Minnesota stuck around after the Derby to chat with us about her win in the class. “He was a good boy today! Sometimes Cayman likes to play. He gets excited when all of the people get here, but he kept it to himself today, so we’re really happy,” laughed Lenkart. When asked about her ride, Lenkart replied, “I felt great around the course. It was really easy to ride and quiet and interesting. It was fun, I had a lot of fun.”
When asked about Cayman’s personality, Lenkart said, “He’s very friendly. He’s almost like a dog; he likes to give you kisses and put everything in his mouth. He’s my daughter Lilly’s best friend. He’s very playful. He’s a very sweet horse.”
Lenkart also noted, “We love it [at World Equestrian Center]. It’s nice for us to come here in the Winter and be warm and show. My kids have great friends here. It’s been perfect for us!”
$2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby Results
- Cayman, Renee Lenkart – 84.5 | 86 | 170.5
- Fernando VDL, Michaella Gerlacher – 85 | 84.5 | 169.5
- Chemistry, Stefanie Portman – 82 | 84 | 166
- Snowbird, Jeff Gogul – 86 | 79 | 165
- Stellar, Jennifer Nadalin – 88 | 76.5 | 164.5
- C Beyond, Jennifer Nadalin – 77 | 85 | 162
- Abudabi, Traci Ribeiro – 81 | 75 | 156
- Ritz Carlton, Nikki Moffat – 74 | 76 | 150
- Cracker Jack Z, Mara Kranz – 76 | 72 | 148
- La Reve SCF, Renee Lenkart – 73 | 68 | 141