Edited Press Release
Competition in the International Ring at Wellington International drew to a close on Friday afternoon during WEF 4 with a total of 50 top hunter combinations taking to the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by BluCreeq Spirits. Over an efficient hunt-and-go format course designed by Andy Christiansen, the lead was firmly in the hands of Jennifer Hannan of Wakefield, RI, and 20-year-old Mindful early in the one-round challenge.
The hunt & go format consolidates two rounds into one with both a classic and a handy element. Two judging panels were responsible for producing each pair’s combined score after a course that consisted of four possible high options and utilized both the expanse of the ring to allow riders to open their horses stride and incorporated a series of rollbacks and inside turns to demonstrate handiness across the second half.
Hannan guided Mindful to impressive scores of 92 and 94 to land a win for owner Selma Garber’s Kensel LLC. Wellington’s own Jimmy Torano finished second on a 93 and 92.5 riding Laskano, a 12-year-old Westphalian gelding by Los Angeles, for owner Isalou, Inc. Rounding out the top-three placings was Nick Haness of Temecula, CA, on scores of 93 and 92 riding Queen Celeste, a 13-year-old Holsteiner mare by Cassini I, for owner Glade Run Farm.
“To have a horse like Mindful, who’s 20-years in age, for eight years is just a privilege,” said Hannan of the Hanoverian gelding that started his career as a jumper in Canada. “Every round and class I get to do on him is a gift. He was a little playful after the third jump and it just made me so delighted.”
Of the hunt-and-go course, Hannan said, “I thought the course had a nice flow to it. The first line definitely had some questions; it was a bit of a forward five and for whatever reason that end of the ring was a bit spooky today. The high options were interesting and had good substance to them. It’s great that they’re using this ring to put the horses on an even playing field with the jumpers and this ring shows itself so well.”
When asked about the quality of hunters she’s seeing in Wellington this year, Hannan noted, “Overall quality is really high right now. I think everyone has very nice horses and the hunter sport in general has a buzz to it right now. There’s a lot to look forward to in this sport.”
After presenting Hannan, Garber and Mindful’s team with winner’s awards, Cynthia Payne, Founder and Managing CEO of BluCreeq Spirits, noted, “This is a full-circle moment for me because I used to compete in Wellington. It’s home for me, so to now be able to sponsor and support WEF is really special. I think it’s a superb elevation of the hunter sport to be in the International Arena at WEF, and hunters are the foundation of equestrian sport in America so it’s well deserved to see them here. I’m excited and proud for the sport.”
Founded and run by equestrians, BluCreeq Spirits is the official gin of Wellington International and gives a portion of its sales back to equestrian charities.