Comissario Conquers with Morgan Ward in $5,000 SmartPak USHJA National Hunter Derby

Amongst 18 horse-and-rider combinations, Morgan Ward threw down the gauntlet to earn the highest honors in Friday’s $5,000 SmartPak USHJA National Hunter Derby. Ward and her longtime partner, the 19-year-old Warmblood gelding (Calido), Comissario, had been knocking on the door of a win since the start of the season and on Friday the pair were determined to make it happen. 

The class’s hunt-and-go format provided an efficient and precise way for riders to show off both their horse’s best typical hunter attributes and their handiest moves over a single course. 

“I do typically prefer the two-round format but I thought today’s class was a very nice hunt-and-go,” Ward stated. “I don’t hesitate at all once we get to the handy portion; it’s all about the inside turns for me.”

For Ward, the strategy paid off as she managed to succeed through a particularly difficult option that cost some other pairs points. 

“I planned my turns out thoroughly because I wasn’t sure how many high options I would do,” she explained. “Not many people went inside to one particular fence so I  took the chance. It was a risky inside turn where a few had the rail down, but luckily we did not.”

Timothy Maddrix and Candy Man. Photo by ESI Photography.

Shachine Belle and Rock Light Inc.’s 10-year-old KWPN mare, Imogen, rode to the red ribbon honors, and rounding out the top three was Timothy Maddrix with Mark Dorfman’s seven-year-old Warmblood gelding, Candy Man. 

 For the first time of the season, the highlight of hunter competition also featured a $5,000 Junior/Amateur USHJA National Hunter Derby strictly for athletes operating under the junior or amateur status. Madison Ramsay enchanted the judges with MTM Farm’s eight-year-old Warmblood mare, MTM Enchanted, and donned the blue ribbon for the effort. 

Madison Ramsay and MTM Enchanted. Photo by ESI Photography

“She was incredible and the course rode great,” Ramsay described. “It was a really nice course for both me and my horse; it was really smooth and I didnt have to worry about numbers too much so it was a great build for us.”

Madison Ramsay stands for presentation. Photo by ESI Photography

The partnership is new for Ramsay and one she couldn’t be more excited to continue to develop. 

“This is only my second week of showing her, but I’m always confident going in on this horse because she’s just a winner,” she gushed. “She’s got a great expression and jumps incredible, so my job is really just to stay out of her way.

Hayley Waters Wear and Chuck Waters’ nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Diarado) ,Genuine, sat in the middle of the MTM-horse sandwich as they received second place, followed by Lucy Massucci and her own 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Hello Pierville) ,MTM Cocktail, in third. Hunter derby competition resumed on Saturday with Elizabeth Wiley and Ivy League taking top call in the $750 Bit O’Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby. Meredith Caggiano and Jacky Chan delivered the winning performance in the $500 Tiny Bit O’ 2’0” Hunter Derby, presented by Mrs. Pastures Horse Cookies, out of 12 combinations. Pony riders got to strut their stuff in the afternoon’s $1,000 Alorian Pony Hunter Classic where young Colin Shippam and Farewell took the win. 

Competition at the 2024 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit will resume Sunday, February 4, 2024 as week three comes to a close. For a full list of results, please visit

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