Seventy entries filled the Stadium at World Equestrian Center for Derby Friday, featuring the $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6″-3’9″, $15,000 WEC Derby 3′ Open and $15,000 WEC Derby 3′ Non Pro. Each derby featured a stunning natural course designed by Tucker Williams of Ocala, Florida, all including four high options and several opportunities for inside turns in the handy rounds.
The $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6″-3’9″ saw a thrilling win for Amanda Steege and Cheryl Olsten’s Lafitte De Muze (Darco x Everlychin De La Pomme). Steege and the 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding took top honors in the class during Week 6 of the World Equestrian Center – Ocala Winter Spectacular and have been on a roll since then, also taking 1st place last week in the prestigious $50,000 WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. This afternoon, the pair found a near-flawless first round, taking all four high options for an outstanding score of 99. Steege and Lafitte De Muze brought the same finesse to the handy round, taking inside turns to fences 2, 5 and 6, along with all four high options. They earned a second score of 94, brining their overall total score to 193 for 1st place.
Melissa Donnelly and Elizabeth Becker’s Corlando 49 (Cartani x Olanda I) also demonstrated two fantastic rounds this afternoon. Donnelly and the 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding have collected several top ribbons in the $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6″-3’9″ throughout the winter and were impressive again today. The duo earned scores of 87 and 89 for a total of 176 and 2nd place.
Morgan Ward and Bruce Green’s Cypress (Quidam De Revel SF x Kassini) rounded out the top three placings this afternoon. Ward and the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding have also been racking up top placings in the $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6″-3’9″, and the pair collected another yellow ribbon today with scores of 83 and 84.5.
Steege of Ashmeadow Farm in Califon, New Jersey, and Ocala, Florida took a few minutes to clat after the class, “Lafitte has been on a bit of a roll recently. He’s been an amazing partner for me for the past four years. During Week 6 he won the $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6″-3’9″, which really set us up for going to Wellington, where he won the $50,000 WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular, which was a dream for myself and his owner. We came back to Ocala and he had an easy week last week. He had most of this week just hacking and relaxing. Truly, he loves to show, though. You can tell that he starts to get bored and mischievous when he’s not in the show ring.”
She explained, “The next big class that we want to have him ready for is the $75,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6″-3’9″ here during Week 12. Myself, his owner and my boyfriend and barn manager, Tim Delovich, decided that he needed to do one more class, so we entered him in today’s derby. He was amazing. He gets better every time we show. To get a 99 today was very exciting.”
When asked about her plan in the handy, Steege replied, “My plan in the handy is always to start with a good pace and try to maintain that pace all the way around. I try to be as handy as I can. Lafitte jumped the first jump in the handy round really well. He has a very strong jump, but I’ve gotten very accustomed to it and can usually stay with him, but he jumped me loose at the first jump. There was a tight rollback to jump 2, which he did really well. He was smooth throughout the round and did really well.”
She added, “I am so thankful to Lafitte’s team. It takes a village to keep a horse in top form, so thank you to everyone from his farrier, to his vet, to his grooms, to his owner, Cheryl Olsten, and to Tim Delovich. It makes a huge difference having such a great team behind you.”
Steege also won the $15,000 WEC Derby 3′ Open aboard Lisa Arena Davis’ Balou (Balou Du Rouet). The 17-year-old Westphalian gelding is a long-time partner for Steege, and the pair delivered a lovely first round, taking all four high options for a score of 91. The pair returned last in the handy round, with a stylish performance that included tidy inside turns to fences 5, 6, 7 and 9, along with all four high options. They earned a handy round score of 90, bringing their two-round total to 181 for the win.
Belynda Bond and Gesture LLC’s Santana also laid down two stunning rounds. Bond and the 9-year-old Warmblood gelding earned 2nd place in Week 7’s $15,000 WEC Derby 3′ Open and returned today hunting for another top placing. They earned a pair of 87 scores, totaling 174 for 2nd place.
Rounding out the top three placings were Issac Leffkowitz and Redfield Farm’s True Balou (Balou Du Rouet x Carmina). Leffkowitz and the 10-year-old Warmblood gelding earned several ribbons in the Green Hunter 3’3″ earlier this week and were on form. The duo earned scores of 83 and 86, totaling 169 for 3rd place.
Steege took time to chat ringside about her win, “Balou is owned by Lisa Arena Davis and he is 17 years old, this year. We have had him in our barn and have taken him to horse shows for the past 11 years. I showed him a lot as a young horse and, over the past few years, his owner has taken over showing him in the amateur classes. He has only shown once in the past year due to COVID, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for him to show at this facility, so she sent him with me for this week. He did two 3’3″ performance classes earlier this week and got a pair of 87 scores, and ended up Champion of the division. He’s like an old shoe for me, it’s very easy for me to ride him around. I do think it is really impressive for him to take a year off of showing and walk into such a big venue without hesitation. That’s a big thrill for us.”
When asked about her plan in the handy round, Steege replied, “My plan was to start with a nice pace and try to maintain one pace throughout the round. I wanted to be as handy as I could be, and the turn to fence 9 was actually quite difficult, so I was happy to have a partner that I know so well.”
Steege also piloted Elena Barrick’s Truman to an 8th place finish in this morning’s $15,000 WEC Derby 3′ Open, “Truman is a horse that I just met this week. I had the opportunity to catch ride him for Kim Hopkins. He is a young green horse, so he has not done a lot of derbies. He was fantastic, I was really proud of him in the handy round, he just had a little look at the trot jump. I’m excited to maybe do another derby with him in the future.”
She also added, “We are loving World Equestrian Center. We’ve gotten to show here for quite a few weeks this year, and we feel so lucky to have this amazing facility just down the street. I don’t think there’s any facility better than WEC in the whole world.”
$20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6″-3’9″ Results
- Lafitte De Muze, Amanda Steege – 99 | 94 | 193
- Corlando 49, Melissa Donnelly – 87 | 89 | 176
- Cypress, Morgan Ward – 83 | 84.5 | 167.5
- Light Dance, Melissa Donnelly – 81 | 86 | 167
- As Ever, Naomi Gillen – 77 | 81 | 158
- Like Always, Josh Dolan – 70 | 64 | 134
- Caius, Izzy Beisel – 88 | 43 | 131
- Viva Henri, Hayley Anderson – 52 | 67 | 119
- Lonesome Dove, Hillary Johnson – 55 | 63 | 118
- Larrico, Patrick Miller – 49 | 67 | 116
- More Optimistic, Claudia Billups – 47 | 62 | 109
$15,000 WEC Derby 3′ Open Results
- Balou, Amanda Steege – 91 | 90 | 181
- Santana, Belynda Bond – 87 | 87 | 174
- True Balou, Issac Leffkowitz – 83 | 86 | 169
- Hamilton, Kathleen Caya – 80.5 | 88 | 168.5
- In The Black, Hanna Toering – 85 | 82 | 167
- Hula Hoop, Jeannie Savegnago – 79 | 87 | 166
- Reason To Smile, Will Baker – 80 | 85 | 165
- Truman, Amanda Steege – 84 | 76 | 160
- The Dutchman, Brooke Kemper – 82 | 75 | 157
- Justified, Kathleen Caya – 78 | 78 | 156
- Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.