Edited Press Release
The final Hunter Derby Friday of the 2023 Winter Spectacular Show Series at World Equestrian Center – Ocala hosted more than 130 of the best hunters in the nation across three prestigious classes including the $75,000 Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club 3’6”-3’9” Hunter Derby, $75,000 UF Veterinary Hospital 3’ Open Hunter Derby and $75,000 WEC Ocala 3’ Jr/Am Hunter Derby. Tucker Williams (USA) laid the open tracks that encouraged brilliance and saw competitors reach scores in the high 90s.
The $75,000 Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club 3’6’-3’9” Hunter Derby saw an elite field of 33 hunters vie for top honors over Tucker Williams’ first round track. Samantha Schaefer and her longtime partner In The Know (Arkansas x Cavelle) owned by Madeline Schaefer bested the field after the pair navigated two foot-perfect rounds for a pair of scores in the 90s.
Schaefer and the 14-year-old Warmblood gelding received the highest first round score of a 94 to return to the handy sitting on-top. The pair floated around the winding track for another high score of 94 and an overall score of 188 to secure the ultimate victory.
“I always want to do my best by riding smart and doing what I think suits [In the Know],” Schaefer said. “I picked the real direct line to [jump] one. He is very good about sighting in and looking for the jumps with me, which I think is why he is able to do the handy [phases] so well. Everywhere, I tried to be neat, and I waited as long as I could to the trot fence. It was a nice turn back on the hedge wall and count to nine [strides] to the last [jump], trying not to mess up on the easiest line.
“This horse has some weird way of knowing when it’s important. There was no bucking or nonsense. He came out and was focused from the start,” Schaefer added. “His groom of seven years told me this morning, ‘He’s good. He’s in the zone.’”
Schaefer was full of praise for her longtime mount, who has recorded numerous victories at WEC – Ocala and around the country.
“I always say, you have to play into his things and his personality. If you took the fun out of it for him, he wouldn’t be the horse he is for us,” she said. “He’s spoiled rotten. He runs the show, and he has no apologies. Seven years is a long time and I think my team, his farriers, vets and our managers have done an incredible job of keeping him going. I want him to go on forever.”
Schaefer shared her appreciation for World Equestrian Center – Ocala hosting the three significant hunter derbies to conclude its winter season.
“Three $75,000 derbies is incredible. It’s something we all look forward to and it’s something you bring your best horses out for. It’s amazing to be able to compete for this type of money,” she said. “I love this horse show. I don’t know a more beautiful facility that essentially is in my backyard where I get to sleep in my bed and come back to every morning. I show up with a smile on my face every day.”
Tiffany Cambria and Kym K. Smith’s Malibu Ken (Cassall x Viness SH) earned second place with scores of a 92 and 95 for an overall score of 187.Augusta Iwasaki piloted Small Kingdom (Grandino 25 x Novillada Du Tot) to a third-place finish with scores of a 93.5 and 93.25 for a two-round total of 186.75.
Dorothy Douglas and Abigail Davenport’s MTM Exceptional (Casall Ask x Rheinsberg) earned a pair of superior scores to take the win in the $75,000 UF Veterinary Hospital 3’ Open Hunter Derby, which kicked off the day.
Douglas and the seasoned 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding found a seamless track in the first round for a score of 93.5.
“The judges were really rewarding of a nice, flowy gallop,” Douglas reflected. “I think you had a bit of an advantage if you could go a little later in the order. I had three horses in the class, so I was able to learn and get a feel for the course. You could pick up a good canter and keep it. It rode really nicely.”
Douglas and MTM Exceptional returned for the handy sitting in second place. The pair floated around the handy track, finding each fence right out of stride for the class’s highest score of a 95 for a two-round total of 188.5.
“I just relied on the fact that he’s an amazing jumper and knows his job. He’s done about 100 of these classes, so he knows the drill,” Douglas said. “I just focused on being smooth and having a nice round and trusted that the judges would reward it.”
Daniel Geitner and Jennifer Cancellieri’s nine-year-old Brandenburg gelding Aventus (San Florestano x Kasiopeia) secured second place honors with a first round score of 92.75 and a handy score of 94.5 for a two-round total of 187.25. Kate Conover rounded out the top three aboard Chris Iwasaki and Liz Reilly’s eight-year-old Rheinishces Reitpferd mare Small Story (Self Control x Eurogirl). The pair received a first-round score of 92 and a second-round score of 94 for a total of 186.
Fifty-one horse-and-rider combinations put forth their best efforts over Tucker Williams’ first round track in the $75,000 WEC Ocala Jr/Am Hunter Derby. Scores soared into the high 90s, but it was Augusta Iwasaki and Small Moments (Cascadello I x Alcina) that took home the lion’s share of the prize money.
Iwasaki and the six-year-old Hanoverian mare, owned by Chris Iwasaki and Liz Reilly found an effortless first round toward the end of the order for a near-perfect score of 98.
“We have had ‘Clara’ for just about a year. She’s super young, so we just began dabbling in the derbies for about six months,” Iwasaki shared.
Iwasaki piloted all three of her mounts, Small Moments, Small Love and Allure DVE to the handy round. She sat in third and fourth with her two other mounts when she returned last aboard Small Moments.
“If you are able to ride the course multiple times, you’re able to learn from each and know what you’re doing a bit more the next time,” Iwasaki said. “I stuck with one plan for each horse: Gallop forward to the first jump—I think that always looks good and sets the tone for the rest of the track. Then I tried to be really tidy and smooth the rest of the way.”
Iwasaki and Small Moments received a second-round score of 91.5 for an overall winning score of 189.5.
“I didn’t want to put too much pressure on her, so I just tried to deliver another smooth round,” she said.
Isabelle Ehman piloted Donald Stewart’s ten-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding No Secret (RMF Cadeau De Muze x Geneve De Muze) to a first round score of 95 and a handy score of 92.5 for a total of 187.5 to earn second place. Lily Toensing and her own 15-year-old Holsteiner Consanto (Collado x Camillo Queen) found third place with a score of 91.5 and 93 for a two-round total of 184.5.
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