Edited Press Release
Manchester, VT – July 20, 2023 – A beautiful day at HITS Vermont began with the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Morgan Ward and Comissario remain unbeaten in the highlight event, adding a third consecutive win to their time in Vermont after besting Thursday’s 40 competitors. Olympian Peter Wylde finished just one point behind them with Graf to place second, while Jennifer Jones and Soundcheck rounded out the top three.
The veteran pair were 16th in the order and ended the hunt-and-go derby format with a total score of 185. In the classic round, Ward navigated the course smoothly, earning a score of 90. Starting with a vertical on the quarter line followed by a flowing corner to a diagonal line, riders presented themselves well. The first high option was a single diagonal oxer, and the round ended with a bending line towards the pathway between rings, with the last jump being an airy, high option vertical.
“I always know what I’m going to get – he’s the same horse every day. A lot of the time, riding him is the highlight of my day,” Ward commented.
The derby round is where the riders were able to set themselves apart. Ward and her own Comissario were the only pair to complete all inside turns. Demonstrating a smooth hand gallop to the first jump of the handy round, a high option oxer, Ward sliced the fence and slipped inside to the following oxer. Next, Ward did a technical and accurate rollback – the only rider to do so – to the next obstacle. The course flowed more following that, and the derby concluded with a bending line with a high option haybale jump to finish. Ward stepped out of the handy with a score of 95 to make a total combined score of 185.
“I watched some of the trips before I got on and noticed everybody was going around where there were tighter turns. I did an inside turn from fence ten to eleven that nobody else did,” explained Ward. “It was pretty tight, but he turns on a dime, and I know he can do it.”
The inside turn paid off in the end as Ward slipped ahead of Peter Wylde and his own Graf, who had a total score of 184, ultimately finishing in a close second place.
Closing out the top three with a total score of 174 was Jennifer Jones and Soundcheck, owned by Brick City Equestrian, LLC. They were the fourth pair to enter the ring and stayed near the top of the ribbons for the rest of the class.
The fun at the Manchester Classic is not over yet. On Saturday, there is the Vermont Team Jumper Relay, where teams of three riders will complete a course as fast as they can. The following week is the Ride and Drive, where a combination of rider and golf cart driver will navigate the field. There is also another chance for riders to participate in the fun during week five where another Vermont Team Jumper Relay will take place.
Original press release by HITS Shows.