On a gorgeous Friday afternoon during Blenheim Spring Classic IV, seventy horse and rider combinations took to the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park’s grass Pacific Field in two National Hunter Derbies. Out of twenty-nine entries in the $15,000 USHJA National Hunter Professional Derby, Nick Haness (Temecula, CA) claimed the top two spots on West Coast Equine Partners LLC’s, Notorious and Morrison respectively. Amateur rider Parris Cozart Collins (Ojai, CA) and Uno Mas topped the forty-one-horse field in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Junior/Amateur Derby. Thomas Hern (Plymouth, MA) set both courses judged by Tony Sgarlata (Raleigh, NC) and Rob Bielefeld (Wellington, FL).
In the professional section, Haness outshined the competition earning top scores of 90 & 96 on Notorious and 87.75 and 94 with Morrison. ‘Handy’ Haness, as he is known on the West Coast, chose to jump both mounts over all the high options. With two flawless second rounds, it was Notorious’ remarkable jumping form that wowed the judges for the win.
In an interview conducted prior, both Sgarlata and Bielefeld mentioned that they want a horse that is both athletic and has a captivating presence when they enter the arena. “I think the most exciting part of the derbies here at Blenheim is that we have so many nice horses and good riders, both in the professional and non-professional divisions, that we can look at the nuances and the little things that separate them,” commented Sgarlata.
For Haness, having such a wonderful owner to ride for has been a blessing. “It has been a tremendous few weeks for West Coast Equine Partners and Gail Ellis who received the Arthur Hawkins Award of Excellence Award earlier in the series. We were admiring her years of owning great horses and today was just another prime example of her owning such a nice field…Her horses were first, second, and third in this big class. The horse that won the class is the newest horse we have added to the string, so this was very exciting.”
Haness originally found and purchased Notorious on a shopping trip in Europe and after selling him to Alexis Taylor of Aleron Stables, Ellis decided he must be part of her talented group of horses.
“This was very exciting to have this success very early on. It was my first derby on this horse. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. He jumped beautifully and I know Ms. Ellis is very proud to own him finally.”
Third place honors were given to Karli Postel and Cortese for their competitive scores of 87 and 92.
In the junior/amateur section, Parris Cozart Collins secured the win aboard her own Uno Mas with impressive scores of 94 and 87. Rounding out the podium was Skylar Wireman and Kate Parker’s Simply Irresistible with scores of 89 and 91 for their efforts; Ariya Nathu’s Rolo and Augusta Iwasaki placed third on scores of 87.5 and 90.
“I was probably a hair too cautious at times, but I wanted to put in a nice, solid round. My horse jumped great and he just went super well for me,” said Collins. “I have had him for four years. He has been a delight to bring along. I got him when he was green and I love bringing green ones along. He has just been a super pleasure, I love him.”
During the award ceremonies both riders were presented by Alexandro Meeks of Solea Equestrian with a custom Solea show coat and Dada show shirt. Shady Lady Sun Protection also awarded each winner with a his and her face scarf. Notorious and Uno Mas were adorned with Equitex coolers, and as top owners both Gail Ellis and Collins received a gift certificate from Topline Design Ribbon Wreaths. Trainers Shari Rose & Devon Gibson were each presented with a tack room pillow by Nick Byassee’s Equestrian Design Group, LLC.
Besides providing top sport for the hunters, these derbies also served as a pre-curser for what’s to come as Blenheim June Classic II plays host to the inaugural $20,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Southwest Regional Championships.
Tracy Brooks, chairperson for the USHJA National Hunter Derby Task Force, explained the benefit of having national hunter derbies: “The national derby, in general, is a great situation to put people in. It matures juniors and the other nice part is that today it’s split for the professionals and non-professionals. It is a great pressure situation for people that is different from a regular class or classic with more jumps, a more challenging course, and overall, just something different … it is great for people and horses who want more of a challenge but aren’t quite ready to jump 3’6” or compete in an International derby.”
|Click here to view the full results of the $15,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Pro
|Click here to view the full results of the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am
All Photos: McCool Photography