Michael Dennehy and Double Down Earn Top Honors in the USHJA National Hunter Derby

Michael Dennehy and Double Down owned by Daphne Bytnar. Official Photos by Captured Moment Photography

By Brooke Goddard

LEG Shows & Events’ Summer in the Rockies series has gotten off to a sizzling start with SIR VI (July 8-12) at The Colorado Horse Park. Friday’s highlighted event was the USHJA National Hunter Derby as 30 horses and riders took to Peter Grant’s course with the top 12 returning for a handy round. After two rounds, it was Michael Dennehy and Double Down owned by Daphne Bytnar who earned the judges’ highest marks with a total score of 180, taking home the Vita Flex Victory Pass Award. Thank you to Vita Flex for their ongoing support of the Summer in the Rockies series. Read on below to learn more.

In second place was Jordan, owned by Gentry Beresford and piloted by Marisa Metzger to an overall score of 177. Rounding out the leaderboard in third place was Caruso trained by Harriet Bunker with owner Grace McReynolds in the irons for a score of 175.5.

“Double Down is a really pleasant horse,” Michael commented. “He is very consistent and even, and he has a beautiful look. I didn’t want to throw too many surprises at him. I tried to just have two smooth rounds and it worked out great. Marisa Metzger put down some great rounds and there was a lot of solid competition out there.”

Course designer Peter Grant was pleased with how Michael rode his courses. “Michael rode both rounds perfectly, and Marisa rode very well too,” he observed. “They even added in some turns that I didn’t see. I liked that the scores kept getting higher in the second half of the handy round.”

As a Colorado-native and lifelong horseman, this win was especially meaningful for Michael. “It feels great to be back at a horse show,” he shared. “This time away from the show ring has made me even more appreciative of how lucky we are to do this for a living. I’ve remembered how much I love horses and competing. We love horses, and at the end of the day, we want to do right by them.”

“This was also my first time competing since my father, Wilson, passed away in April,” Michael added. “He was my first trainer and taught me the majority of what I know about horses. Over the past few years, Karen Healey has also been instrumental in guiding me and giving me tips for the show ring.”

Michael has had a great experience so far at Summer in the Rockies VI and he is looking forward to competing next week as well. “I’ve grown up riding and showing here at The Colorado Horse Park,” he noted. “We’ve gotten to know Charlotte and LEG show staff over the years. It’s nice to have them back managing the shows here. We’ve brought our entire barn to these first two weeks.”

If Michael and Double Down repeat their USHJA National Hunter Derby win next week, Michael will be receiving a $750 LEGIS Hunter Rider Bonus. The LEGIS Rider Bonus is an awards program that provides cash rewards to Hunter Derby and Grand Prix riders who win two or more designated classes in a series on the same horse. The program is sponsored by LEGISequine.com, Horsemen Insuring Horsemen. There is up to $10,000 of bonus money available this season! Click here to learn more.