The Wiley Arena at the Virginia Horse Center was dressed for success and welcomed back the second installment of the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, presented by The Heisley Family Foundation at the Lexington Spring Encore.
Nancy Wallis of Windsor, New Jersey designed the beautiful course which included an island and impressive natural obstacles enhanced with plenty of greenery.
Show management offered a hunt and go format, and the exhibitors enthusiastically agreed.
Commented Wallis, “The riders were instructed that after the Classic round, they had to return to the trot and go around the island. This would give the horse a bit of a break and allow them to regroup before tackling the Handy portion of the class.”
“We didn’t judge the circle,” said Wallis, “But it is a bit of a long course when you add it all together. The trot circle was supposed to allow them to reorganize and get the pace and handiness required in the second round,” she added.
“The options built into the course are the key in the Handy. It’s a risk/reward situation. One of the biggest challenges in today’s course was the inside turn to the trot fence. My personal favorite jump today was the last fence. It was a big, long run to the fence and the riders could really show off their horses with a hand gallop,” said Wallis.
Besting a field of twenty-two horse and rider teams, Croupier, owned and ridden by Nicole Guthrie of Saint Leonard, Maryland, rode away with the blue ribbon after earning a combined score of 176.
”I was really excited about the hunt and go format and I think it brought a real challenge to a lot of the riders. I had never done that before so I was excited to give it my best shot,” said Guthrie who recently turned Professional.
“We had such a fun time. The course was just decorated beautifully and was so inviting,” she said.
“I thought the trot circle between rounds was actually one of the toughest parts. My guy [Croupier] is really slow and takes a lot of encouragement to go. He thought he was done!” she laughed. “It was a lot of fun watching the other horses’ reactions too when they were asked to go back to the canter after what they thought was a closing circle,” she said.
“There were a lot of questions being asked in the course and it made you think the whole time. There wasn’t a part of the course where you could just sit back. You had to think how to be different, how to set yourself apart and stand out without completely blowing your plan. I thought it was thought provoking,” Guthrie commented.
“There were lots of options built into the course to allow us to show off our skills. ’Cash’ [Croupier] loves the handy trips and inside turns. He loves to be different. He’s a big round boy that takes a lot of leg and I actually talk to him the whole time around the course and tell him to keep going, he’s not done yet,” she laughed. “I’ve had him for a while. He’s 14 this year and is a big love bug. We know each other so well,” she added.
“We’ll be showing in Tryon next, but plan on being back here at the Virginia Horse Center for the Lexington National in August,” Guthrie said.
Comanche, owned by Lee Cesery and ridden by Megan Young of Jacksonville, Florida, took home second place honors for their combined score of 173.
Gable Stone, owned by Diane Semer and ridden by Erin Dombroski of Grimesland, North Carolina, placed third for their combined score of 171 and Bastogne, owned by Ceil Wheeler and ridden by Catherine Wheeler of Keswick, Virginia, earned fourth place honors for their combined score of 169.
Basalt, owned by Heather Bamford and ridden by Marylisa Leffler of Brooksville, Maryland, placed fifth and Quite Foxy, owned and ridden by Krysia Nelson of Keswick, Virginia, placed sixth.
Carero, owned and ridden by Taylor Mitchell of Washington, D.C., placed seventh and Catherine Wheeler’s CarolinaBlue, ridden by Allan Lohman of Poolesville, Maryland, earned an eighth placing.
On Your Mark, owned and ridden by Abby Cole of Ashburn, Virginia, placed ninth and Spider Too, owned by Diane Semer and ridden by Dombroski, placed tenth overall. Dapper Dan, owned by Cooper Batts and ridden by Emily Longest of Hanover, Virginia, placed eleventh and Zeus, owned by Sophia Strahan and ridden by Savannah Welch of Forest, Virginia, wrapped up the class with twelfth place.
“There were some nice riders and horses in this class today-both professionals and amateurs. They all held their own and it was really fun to design and judge the class,” commented Wallis.
Basalt, owned by Heather Bamford of Arlington, Virginia and ridden by Marylisa Leffler of Brookeville, Maryland was the high score National Derby horse over the Lexington Spring Premiere and the Lexington Spring Encore shows and was awarded the Laura Pickett Perpetual Trophy, presented by Rolling Acres.
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