Small Steps To Victory: Pope and Iwasaki Top Traverse City Hunter Derbies

Jacob Pope and San Pedro 15. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

Edited Press Release

Traverse City’s best hunter riders donned their shadbellies Sunday morning as the week concluded with the $5,000 Traverse City Non-ProHunter Derby followed immediately by the $10,000 Traverse City Pro Hunter Derby, presented by Perfect Products. An impressive total of 62 combinations contested each section, with the top-12 scoring pairs in each invited to return for the handy portions.

The $10,000 Traverse City Hunter Derby welcomed top professionals and their superstar mounts, with the cutoff for the second round set at a score of 86.5. Jacob Pope proved his new partnership to be a powerful one as he and San Pedro 15 rode to the top.

Pope and the Don Stewart-owned 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Stakkato x Contendro) immediately shot to the pinnacle position after scoring a 94 in the first round. As the final pair to return for the handy, the duo gave it their all and their all was enough.

Risky inside turns gave them bonus handy points plus three high options for a handy-round score of 92 and a combined total of 186. Samantha Schaefer and Madeline Schaefer’s In The Know were the second best, scoring a total of 184, and Moonwalk with Hillary Johnson for Copper Fox, LLC took third on a 178.75 score.

“My first class with him was actually the [WCHR Central Hunter] Spectacular in the spring which was so beautifully done,” Pope said. “He was awesome. That was my first class with him and this is my second. I think he was doing jumpers this winter and then Don [Stewart] saw him – he has such a good eye for horses. He brought him out of the jumper ring and he’s been a superstar.”

With the win, San Pedro 15 was awarded the Platinum Performance Hunter Horse of the Week title.

Jacob Pope and San Pedro 15. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Finishing three mounts in the top ten, Pope adapted his handy round plan for each one according to the ride each horse needed. “Sam Schaefer did the inside turn to the high option and I was wondering if it was there or not,” he continued. “Of course she did it beautifully so I figured I had to on my horse to try and win. Don gave me a couple exercises in the schooling area and I went ahead and took the risk and it paid off.”

Pope is planting roots in northern Michigan after several successful seasons. “Traverse City is home now,” he said. “I just bought a house here over the winter. I ride for Ivan Rakowsky and Team Rakowsky so home is here and Florida. I can’t say enough nice things about the show. The footing is amazing, the course was beautiful, the horses love it, the weather is great and you can’t beat the town.”

In the $5,000 Traverse City Non-Pro Hunter Derby, Augusta Iwasaki and Small Moments took the early top spot over the first course with a leading score of 91. At the completion of the first phase, Iwasaki maintained her position with Isabelle Ehman and Chambertino as the closest challenging combination on a score of 90.

The shortened handy track gave competitors plenty of chances to show off the best qualities of their mounts. The course included a trot fence, a bending line, and three high options for additional points. As the final round wound down, the original leaderboard saw several shake-ups, but when Iwasaki and Small Moments entered for the final time the pair made sure to leave no room for error. The judges awarded the duo a score of 90 to add to their previous 91 points which left them dominating the field on a total of 181.

“This mare has progressed so much since we got her at the beginning of this year,” stated Iwasaki of the 5-year-old Elizabeth Reilly-owned Hanoverian mare (Cascadello x Handel). “This is her second derby win and she has only competed in three or four derbies ever, so she seems to be very good at this.”

Iwasaki is no stranger to the winners circle and has a string of top hunter horses, but feels the young mare’s willing attitude and presence in the ring makes her an obvious stand-out to the judges.

“She has a very classic look to her and her style is nice to watch,” Iwasaki explained. “She’s never spooked at a jump because it is just not a part of her nature. In the beginning she didn’t really know what was going on, but she trusted me to guide her around the course and she is more than happy to do the job.”

In a winning mood, Iwasaki moved her second mount in the class, Insightful, up to the reserve position after combining her first round score of 88.5 with a handy score of 89 to fall 3.5 points behind her winning mount with a 177.5 overall score. Hayley Hewitt and Chantilly moved up to receive the third place honors with a total of 174.

$10,000 Traverse City Hunter Derby, presented by Perfect Products

1. San Pedro 15 / Jacob Pope / Donald Stewart / 94 + 92 = 186
2. In The Know / Samantha Schaefer / Madeline Schaefer / 91 + 93 = 184
3. Moonwalk / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox LLC / 90 + 88.75 = 178.75
4. Ziggy Stardust / Jacob Pope / Opening Bell Sporthorses LLC / 89.5 + 98 = 178.5
5. Cillighan / Tiffany Morrissey / Claudia Millstone / 92 + 86 = 178
6. Blue Monday / Hillary Johnson / Stephanie Battershall / 88 + 88.5 = 176.5
7. Vayrie Cool / Jef Lauwers / Hannah Coon / 89 + 87.25 = 176.25
8. Philadelphia Story / Samantha Schaefer / The Lignelli Family / 86 + 90 = 176
9. Copernicus K / Tiffany Morrissey / Kathryn Withers / 87 + 86.5 = 173.5
10. G. Eleven / Jacob Pope / Donald Stewart / 85 + 88 = 173
11. Didgereedoo VDL / Kelsey Epperson / Lashier Properties LLC / 90 + 82 = 172.5
12. Constellation / Anna Schierholz / Anna Schierholz / 86.5 + 78 = 164.5

Final Results: $5,000 Traverse City Non-Pro Hunter Derby

1. Small Moments / Augusta Iwasaki / Elizabeth Reilly / 91 + 90 = 181
2. Insightful / Augusta Iwasaki / Sunset View Farm LLC / 88.5 + 89 = 177.5
3. Chantilly / Hayley Hewitt / Aerin Genatt / 86 + 88 = 174
4. Demonia GS Z / Eva Mackenzie / Eva Mackenzie / 88 + 83 = 171
5. Primus Rex / Brian Shook / Oakvale Ventures LLC / 84 + 86 = 170
6. Summer Song / Hampton Baker / Hampton Baker / 83 + 85.5 = 168.5
7. Westeros / Owen Gajoch / Samantha Gajoch / 86 + 82 = 168
8. Chambertino / Isabelle Ehman / Cassandra Orpen / 90 + 70 = 160
9. Gilbert / Briton Sanders / Kenya Sanders / 81 + 78 = 159
10. Renior / Daniela Casline / Alexa Stiegler / 81 + 78 = 159
11. High Society / Abigail Gordon / Libbie Gordon / 85.5 + 67 = 152.5
12. Maximus L / Owen Gajoch / Owen Gajoch / 88 + 48 = 136