Morgan Ward and Comissario Guide the Way in $5,000 SmartPak USHJA National Hunter Derby 

Making their second headline in as many weeks, Morgan Ward and her longtime partner Comissario once again were the trailblazers in Friday’s $5,000 SmartPak USHJA National Hunter Derby. Against a field of 14 top hunter combinations, the 19-year-old Warmblood gelding (Calido) once again proved why he is Ward’s go-to hunter derby mount as he displayed effortless handiness in the second round. The pair found their way to the lead despite some difficult weather conditions and made the win their third of the season. 

“Today’s round was nice and there were a lot of related distances in the first round,” Ward explained. “With the way the weather was, we were riding one jump at a time, but it worked out and I was really happy with it.”

Morgan Ward stands for presentation. Photo by ESI Photography

Once again, the young professional paired up her win with a second place ribbon earned by newer mount, Morlynn Farms’ 13-year-old Warmblood gelding Cashmero.

“It was great finishing top two today and it’s nice having Cashmero in the derbies as well now,” she added. “He is such a great jumper and has such a good expression. I think he is enjoying them as well.” 

The class’s top three was rounded out by David Wilbur and Stone Lane Stables LLC’s 10-year-old Warmblood mare (Colman), Cool Girl.

Saturday saw the second half of hunter derby competition with the running of the junior/amateur edition of the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby as well as the $1,500 Bit O’Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby and the $750 Tiny Bit O 2’0” Hunter Derby.

Zoe Pan and Captivo. Photo by ESI Photography

Zoe Pan bested a field of 22 combinations in the afternoon’s pinnacle hunter event as she and her 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cunningham), Captivo, captivated the judges in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. 

“Today I thought we did a really great job,” she stated. “He was ready from the start and I was just confident in my decisions. It just ended up right for us.” 

Zoe Pan stands for presentation. Photo by ESI Photography

Pan used her experience from the equitation ring to her advantage during her round, and the change in plan seemed to be the right call.

“Yesterday, in the Dover Medal, there was a similar turn and I didn’t like the way we pivoted,” Pan added. “I didn’t want to put him in the same position today, so I thought a nice, round turn to be conservative would be best to set him up.” 

Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center’s 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding Casall), Liberty Road, followed suit into the second place position with Molly Gfroerer in the irons, while Grace Taylor and Back Forty Equine LLC’s Traveler’s Way navigated to third. Then it was onwards into smaller derby competition as Teagan Owens and Molly Johnson’s 12-year-old Warmblood gelding, Nero van de Helle, claimed the lion’s share of the winning’s in the $1,500 Bit O’ Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby. Saturday’s hunter derby competitions drew to a close as Olivia Healy and Katherine Siderewicz’s 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Jack of All Trades, posted one final leading score for the win in the $750 Tiny Bit O’  2’0” Hunter Derby.