Edited Press Release
June 26, 2022 – San Juan Capistrano, CA –Claire Marie Diamond made an 11-hour trip from her hometown in Utah to Blenheim EquiSports in San Juan Capistrano, CA, for the $5,000 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championship – West, and the 13-year-old made the trip very worthwhile. Aboard her own Stoneledge Special Request, Diamond clinched the win in the derby championship class, held on Saturday, June 25, during the Blenheim June Classic III.
“It didn’t feel real for a while; it was unbelievable!” said Diamond of her win. “I competed in it last year, and I got 10th, which was really big for me at the time, but I’ve wanted to win this for years.”
Diamond and Stoneledge Special Request were one of 32 entries to take on the Scott Starnes-designed classic hunter style course before the top 12 returned for the handy round. At the end of the first round, Diamond held the lead with an average score from the two judging panels of 86.25. Sitting tied in second place with a score of 83.5 were Kathryn Padilla on Buzzworthy and Kalea Iuliano riding So Dapper.
“I usually do get really nervous, but after a really hard week in the [West Coast Pony Challenge] the previous two days, I wasn’t really expecting much so I wasn’t very nervous going into my first round,” said Diamond, who trains with Devon Gibson of Seahorse Riding Club. “My second round, I was really calm at first; warming up I was fine, and then when I walked up to the gate, I got really nervous right when I was about to go in.”
Any nerves Diamond may have had did not show, as she and Stoneledge Special Request earned a handy round average score of 82.5 to guarantee them the win with an overall total score of 168.75. In addition to the championship honor, the pair earned the High Score Large award.
“She was great; she’s usually really good,” said Diamond of Stoneledge Special Request, a 15-year-old Welsh Pony Cross mare that she has had for three years. “It’s been such a fun experience getting to learn and grow with her. She has made a huge impact on my riding career; she is definitely not the fanciest pony at the ring, but she has the biggest heart.”
With a second-round score of 83.25 and a 166.75 total score, Padilla and Buzzworthy, owned by Highland Farm, LLC, took the reserve championship honor and the High Score Small award. Iuliano and her own So Dapper rounded out the top three with a handy score of 79 for a total score of 162.5. Fourth place and the High Score Medium award went to Madeline Luddy riding Northwind Just Josh’n.