Competition in the International Ring at Wellington International drew to a close on Friday afternoon during WEF 4 with a total of 50 top hunter combinations taking to the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by BluCreeq Spirits. Over an efficient hunt-and-go format course designed by Andy Christiansen, the lead was firmly in the hands of Jennifer Hannan of Wakefield, RI, and 20-year-old Mindful early in the one-round challenge.
The hunt & go format consolidates two rounds into one with both a classic and a handy element. Two judging panels were responsible for producing each pair's combined score after a course that consisted of four possible high options and utilized both the expanse of the ring to allow riders to open their horses stride and incorporated a series of rollbacks and inside turns to demonstrate handiness across the second half.
Hannan guided Mindful to impressive scores of 92 and 94 to land a win for owner Selma Garber’s Kensel LLC. Wellington’s own Jimmy Torano finished second on a 93 and 92.5 riding Laskano, a 12-year-old Westphalian gelding by Los Angeles, for owner Isalou, Inc. Rounding out the top-three placings was Nick Haness of Temecula, CA, on scores of 93 and 92 riding Queen Celeste, a 13-year-old Holsteiner mare by Cassini I, for owner Glade Run Farm.
“To have a horse like Mindful, who’s 20-years in age, for eight years is just a privilege,” said Hannan of the Hannoverian gelding that started his career as a jumper in Canada. “Every round and class I get to do on him is a gift. He was a little playful after the third jump and it just made me so delighted.”
Of the hunt-and-go course, Hannan said, “I thought the course had a nice flow to it. The first line definitely had some questions; it was a bit of a forward five and for whatever reason that end of the ring was a bit spooky today. The high options were interesting and had good substance to them. It’s great that they’re using this ring to put the horses on an even playing field with the jumpers and this ring shows itself so well.”
When asked about the quality of hunters she’s seeing in Wellington this year, Hannan noted, “Overall quality is really high right now. I think everyone has very nice horses and the hunter sport in general has a buzz to it right now. There’s a lot to look forward to in this sport.”
After presenting Hannan, Garber and Mindful’s team with winner’s awards, Cynthia Payne, Founder and Managing CEO of BluCreeq Spirits, noted, “This is a full-circle moment for me because I used to compete in Wellington. It’s home for me, so to now be able to sponsor and support WEF is really special. I think it’s a superb elevation of the hunter sport to be in the International Arena at WEF, and hunters are the foundation of equestrian sport in America so it’s well deserved to see them here. I’m excited and proud for the sport.”
Founded and run by equestrians, BluCreeq Spirits is the official gin of Wellington International and gives a portion of its sales back to equestrian charities.
The Flock Rocks the BrainJuice U25 Team Event
The self-named “Rock the Flock” flew to victory in the $25,000 BrainJuice Under 25 Grand Prix Series Team Event on Friday afternoon with consistent performances from Charlise Casas, 22, Isabel Coxe, 21, Hallie Grimes, 21, and Teddi Pritzker, 21. Taking center stage in the Global International Arena at Equestrian Village, 14 four-person teams of up-and-coming international riders gained invaluable experience in a nations’ cup format event.
After posting the lowest scores from the opening round, which included performances from all four members of each team and afforded one drop score, six teams advanced to the tie-breaking second round. Returning in reverse order of the current standing, Triple M, Team Rakowsky, Ladies Man, Coquette Team, Core 4 and Rock The Flock – inspired by Coxe’s 5 Roosters group and Pritzker’s 3 Flamingos farm – were ultimately able to advance onward.
The winning team – led by chef d’équipe Tiffany Foster – chose a unanimous MVP in Casas after she piloted Emotion de Riverland to a double-clear performance for the team with only a single time fault carrying over from the first round.
“This is an amazing platform for developing riders and developing horses to get into different atmospheres – we get to practice all the big things that we will see in the future,” said Casas. “It’s a privilege to have those opportunities in one place when we're close to our homes and our barns.”
Of the horse she rode to a near-perfect day, Casas said, “I got her about a year ago and she's been a very different ride for me. I usually have quicker footed, hot, light type horses and she's a little bigger strided and stronger. It's been fun throughout the year to develop her into the horse that I can work with as well as I have. For me, it's a great result that shows our progress.”
Grimes was off the hook in the second round after her teammates secured the win early and left no need for the anchor rider to jump. “I've done this for four or five seasons now and it's still something that means a lot to us and is really exciting,” she said. “A couple years ago, Richard Vogel won the U25 title and he just won the Grand Prix of Geneva. It’s really cool that we get to have the same opportunity to develop ourselves.”
Rounding out the podium, Core 4 with riders Francis Derwin, Ansgar Holtgers Jr., Stella Stinnett and Tom Wachman took second, while the Coquette Team made up of Maya Ines Denis Champon, Maggie Jacobs, Karime Perez Nunez and Nicole Velazco Magana were third.
WEF 4 is the second week of U25 competition at Wellington International, which culminates in a final during WEF 10.
Amanda Derbyshire and Otto BH Sweep the Win in the $32,000 Dodd Technologies CSI4* 1.50m Speed
International CSI4* action continued on the derby field at Equestrian Village on Friday with the $32,000 Dodd Technologies CSI4* 1.50m Speed. Thirty-six riders took to the timed track designed by Mauricio Garcia (PUR), but it was Great Britain’s Amanda Derbyshire and her own Otto BH (Norton D’Eole x Toulon) who took the win.
The pair topped the field with a clear 65.01 seconds, over a second faster than her following competitor. This is Derbyshire’s and the 12-year-old stallion’s second win on the field this season after taking the top call in the Adequan 3* WEF Challenge Cup during week two.
The 1.50m height seems to be the sweet spot for this duo according to Derbyshire. “He's a great horse. That's kind of his level – the 1.50m – so I use him when I can,” said Derbyshire. “I'm grateful for the entire team, that makes wins like this possible.
“I love riding on this field so I always save him for this,” continued Derbyshire.
With the class being held in the standard speed format, riders had one shot to lay down a winning ride, something that Otto BH specializes in. “He's a fast horse and he's careful. I stuck to the plan I walked this morning and he's very cat-like and economical in his jump,” said Derbyshire. “He's got a big stride so you can go forward to the jumps, especially with the big field on a long run you can really dare him at the jumps knowing that you don't have to slow up too much because he's going to try and clear them.”
Following Derbyshire was Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and Irandole Du Flot (Vivaldi Du Seigneur), owned by Seabrook LLC. The pair cleared the course in 66.06 seconds. Closing out the podium was USA’s Cathleen Driscoll and Donald Stewart’s Idalgo (Catoki x Quidam De Revel). They rounded out the top placings with a clear in 67.55 seconds.
Derbyshire and Otto BH will return to the field for Sunday’s CSI4* Hermès 1.50m Classic, closing out 4* action for WEF 4. Highlighting the weekend schedule. CIS4* riders will return to the field on for the $215,000 MARS Equestrian CSI4* Grand Prix.
Mark Bluman and Zuperman MT Speed to the Lead in $32,000 Griffis Residential CSI2* 1.45m Qualifier
Jumper action closed out on Friday at the Equestrian Village derby field with the $32,000 Griffis Residential CSI2* 1.45m Qualifier. Fifty-three riders took to Mauricio Garcia’s (PUR) course, with 16 returning for the jump-off. The top 45 riders from the class will return to conquer Sunday’s $62,500 Griffis Residential CSI2* Grand Prix.
Taking the qualifying win was Colombia’s Mark Bluman and his own Zuperman MT (Corporal VDL x Cassiano). The pair claimed the win double-clear with a time of 38.66 seconds in the jump-off.
“I got him around June last year. He's an incredible horse, super fun for this type of competition,” said Bluman. “He's only nine so he's a little green for this level, but he’s moved up quickly. He's super fast and careful, it was a fun class to ride.”
Following Bluman was USA’s Nicholas Dello Joio and Dylano Van De Heide Z (Denzel van’t Meulenhof) in second. The pair was the last to go in the jump-off and nearly caught the winning pair with a time of 39.04 seconds. Closing out the podium was Ireland’s Tom Wachman and Lazzaro Delle Schiave (Acodetto 2 x Gluecksgriff), who cleared the short course in 39.69 seconds.
“It's a different atmosphere on the field here for us. We spend 19 weeks of the year at the other grounds so for us to come to this side is refreshing and new,” said Bluman. “It's a nice atmosphere and the grass field is just unbelievable.”
As for the rest of Zuperman MT’s season, Bluman hopes to find the gelding a happy permanent home, but in the meantime will continue competing with him at this level for the season.