BY LAUREN MAULDIN
Sometimes it can feel hard to stand out in the hunter ring, but a beautiful, black horse and a 100 score in the handy is a good way to set yourself apart from the crowd.
Michael Tokaruk had a fantastic showing at HIPICO Santa Fe Summer’s Fiesta Week, winning the $1,000 Professional Equitation Class with Vulkano’s Boy and topping a field of 19 in the $10,000 USHJA International Derby with Trademark Darmanville. All of that would be exciting enough on its own, but the derby win brought a few bonus firsts along as well. It was Trademark Darmanville’s first derby ever, and handy scores of 96 and 100 earned Michael his first 100.
“I was surprised when I heard the score,” Michael explained, “but I took all the high options in both rounds. He’s super brave and scopey, and I tried to be as handy as possible with my track and gallop, so I was rewarded with a lot of bonus points. They make a huge difference to your score in these derbies!”
The twelve-year-old Selle Français gelding might be new to hunter derbies, but he is a veteran at the top shows. With his owner, he jumped up to the High Amateurs, and won the USEF Medal & ASPCA Maclay at WEF with TJ Omara. Michael started working with the horse early last summer when his owner went off to college. “I jumped him in many big National and FEI Grand Prixs all over American during the past year, with top placings in many classes. We even jumped a 1.60m WEG qualifier class in Traverse City,” Michael said.
After earning multiple tri-colors in the High Performance hunters, the team’s derby debut was met with a beautiful course designed by Skip Bailey. “The derby field is gorgeous here in Santa Fe, and the jumps looked and rode fantastic,” Michael said. “The first round was very flowing with lots of unrelated distances and two two-strides. The handy round had lots of options, which is always fun to use your creativity to play to your horse’s strengths.”
Though Michael admits that he jumps a lot more Grand Prixs than he does derbies, he enjoyed the change of pace. “It’s like riding a jump off in slow motion,” he explained. On course, he takes each jump as it comes while setting up the next as early as possible. “I felt like in the handy right from the second jump (which was the first high option) that he was really trying hard, and I loved that feeling. He was all business, and jumped beautifully throughout to really give it his all. Everything worked out just the way I wanted it to—I love it when that happens!”
Since Trademark Danville is for sale, Michael plans things one show at a time. “His future will belong to his next owner, but I think he’s enjoying the derby ring so far!”