It was a night that will be well remembered, and a win well deserved. The Rolex Stadium was packed at the Kentucky Horse Park as the Handy Round brought the 2012 $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals to a close during the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show.
|Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy (Kendall Bierer/PMG)|
One of the industry’s most successful hunter professionals, Jennifer Alfano, led the victory gallop aboard her renowned mount Jersey Boy. Elizabeth Boyd and Brunello rode to the second place honors, while Scott Stewart and Garfield took the third place award.
After a 12-month qualifying period, the hunter elite were invited to compete for the coveted championship title. With a record number of 95 entrants, the Derby Finals got underway yesterday in the Rolex Stadium, with the top 30 horse and rider combinations returning to tackle the handy hunter course. The scores from the Classic Hunter Round carried over into tonight’s competition, factoring into the overall score for each pair.
The esteemed Rob Bielefeld, Patrick Rodes, Linda Hough, Geoff Teall, Betty Oare and Scott Williamson had the pleasure of judging the rounds tonight, scrutinizing the style and handiness of each trip. Steve Stephens of Palmetto, FL, designed the final course and riders were able to increase their overall score by attempting the high options, adding an additional point per fence to their base score, as well as earning ‘handy points’ from the judges’ panels for their ingenuity and ability.
Eventual winner Jennifer Alfano remarked, “I thought the course was great. It was really my kind of a course because you could really just keep galloping; you could stay really smooth and just stay on a good pace. There were no places where you really had to slow down if you didn’t want to, which is the best thing for me and Jersey Boy.”
Scott Stewart was the twenty-second in the order to take on the course; however, his finesse with Garfield, owned by Alexandra Crown, made the pair truly shine. He posted scores of 88, 90 and 95 with all four high options and top handy points of 8, 10 and 8. It seemed as though no one would beat his high-scoring round, but with eight more to compete, the onlookers watched with anticipation.
Lillie Keenan entered the ring and left absolutely nothing to chance. She sliced the opening turn to the first fence, making a grandiose attempt to best the competition with her mount Monterrey’s handy ability. She was dually awarded 10 bonus points from each judging panel for her veracity, but her final score of 304 was only good enough for the sixth place finish. Her effort did however set the pace for the remainder of the pack.
Fellow young rider Victoria Colvin rode Inclusive, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, to the impressive scores of 91, 85 and 93. She also chose all four high options and her strong pace and tidy turns provided the pair with 8, 7 and 8 handy points. She eventually earned the fourth place position as her trainer; Scott Stewart continued to hold the lead on Garfield.
Stewart’s score stood unyielding as each pair put out their best, but fell shy of the top tier. It wasn’t until Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy, owned by SBS Farms, Inc., took their turn at the course that the possibility of defeat seemed plausible.
“Pretty much I kept my plan,” Alfano explained. “Originally I was going to go inside the carriage to the third jump, and I just didn’t think I could do nine strides in the first line and get inside. Like I said, Lewis’ best thing is galloping. I thought for me and him the best thing would be to keep galloping, get it in nine and get around it, and make it up elsewhere. It worked out perfect.”
The chestnut gelding strode into the Rolex Stadium and seemed to brighten beneath the lights. Although Alfano chose to avoid a risky turn to the first or third fences, she kept a pace that outshone all those prior. Jersey Boy is well known for his handiness, having competed with Alfano in the irons for the last three years, and earning prestigious titles including the 2012 Horse of the Year.
“Finally!” Alfano exclaimed as she exited the ring from her victory gallop. “I really am so happy to win because I have done it all four times and I feel like Jersey Boy really deserved to win this class. He was awesome, right from the minute I started schooling-tonight he just felt perfect. He was really loose and galloping, and sometimes he can be a little snarky in the schooling area, but tonight he was perfect; he was ready.”
Following consecutively was Elizabeth Boyd with Brunello, owned by Janet Peterson. She piloted him to a stellar second round, falling just a hair shy of the top score by only a half-point difference. She was awarded the scores of 89, 89 and 94 from the judges, also taking additional points for her high options and a 9, 8 and 8 for their handiness.
“Brunello deserved the second place honors tonight,” Boyd described. “I love that horse like crazy, and I know him so well. I am thrilled to be in the top three with him, he was excellent out there tonight, and I really enjoyed the course.”
The air felt tight with eagerness as Stewart entered the ring aboard his second mount of the class, Dedication, owned by Fashion Farm. They had proven their brilliance in yesterday’s Classic Hunter Round; however, Stewart had admitted his hesitation going into today’s Handy Round. With Dedication still being a green mount, and not having very much experience under the lights, Stewart went into the second-day with no expectations, merely the hope of experience for his young horse.
“Dedication schooled great out there, but I caught him off guard with the miscalculation going to the in-and-out. He would have jumped the oxer, but I didn’t want him landing in the middle,” Stewart explained. “To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be great. I was expecting to do a little better, but I didn’t really have high expectations. He is still a green horse, and it was all experience.”
Jennifer Alfano was the rider that trounced all others and took the coveted championship title. The diligent team proved consistent, remaining at the top and securing the win. Alfano smiled wide as she led the victory gallop with Jersey Boy, a triumph considered well deserved across the board.
Earlier in the afternoon, riders previously ranked 31-60 were invited to return for the Consolation Round, a recent innovation to the Derby Finals Agenda. It was Erin Bland and Weatherly who rode to the top of the rankings. Although the pair had competed in the middle of the pack, their beautiful handy effort caught the judges’ eyes as they rode to the high-scoring round of 280 points. Their combined two-day total earned them the blue ribbon, as well as the Leading Amateur-Owner Rider Award.
Junior rider Allison Toffolon and Class Action were awarded the second place finish with an overall score of 276 points for their efforts, ranking just ahead of Gary Young and Gold Coast, owned by Becky Nuth, who secured the third place position.
USHJA High Performance Hunter Committee Chair, Ron Danta beamed at the conclusion of the night, “I think the greatest thing about the newly developed format this year is the Consolation Round. It brought in a lot of young riders and amateurs. It made them feel that no matter what, they came all this way and still had a chance to do a handy round and a chance at the prize money. It’s not always about winning; sometimes it is about the experience and the mileage you give your horse.”
Saturday marked the end of the 2011/2012 USHJA International Hunter Derby Series, but soon the 2012/2013 Series will get underway as a new group of elite horse and rider combinations will compete for the right to qualify and return next year for the opportunity to snatch the winning title at the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals.
For more information about the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows please visit http://www.KentuckyHorseShows.com
$100,000 USHJA INTERNATIONAL HUNTER DERBY FINALS RESULTS
1 JERSEY BOY, JENNIFER ALFANO, 588.250
2 BRUNELLO, ELIZABETH BOYD, 588.000
3 GARFIELD, SCOTT STEWART, 575.000
4 INCLUSIVE, VICTORIA COLVIN, 569.000
5 BASES LOADED, KELLEY FARMER, 557.100
6 MONTERREY, LILLIE KEENAN, 556.500
7 TAKEN, KELLEY FARMER, 553.500
8 FRIDAY NIGHT, SANDY FARRELL, 533.250
9 SIENNA, PATRICIA GRIFFITH, 531.000
10 RALPH LAUREN, BRIAN FEIGUS, 527.000
11 CARLSON, TAMMY PROVOST, 520.000
12 COPPERFIELD, PETER PLETCHER, 511.250
13 ARICO, PATRICIA GRIFFITH, 506.750
14 YES INDEED, JACK H. TOWELL, 506.250
$15,000 DERBY CONSOLATION ROUND RESULTS
1 WEATHERLY, ERIN BLAND, 492.750
2 CLASS ACTION, ALLISON TOFFOLON, 486.000
3 GOLD COAST, GARY YOUNG, 480.250
4 DOLCE, SUE TAKATA, 471.000
5 CASTLEWELLAN, ERIN MCCABE, 461.000
6 BROOKE, RACHAEL HERKOWITZ, 461.000
7 BLACK LABEL, MARTIEN VAN DER HOEVEN, 450.500
8 ISLAND TIME, TIMOTHY MADDRIX, 445.850
9 DRUMLINE, NICOLE LYVERE, 443.000
10 PROMISE ME, CHRISTIAN ROGGE, 433.850
11 DINNER FOR TWO, REBECCA REYES, 426.000
12 CATALYST, WINN ALDEN, 423.000