HITS Ocala Hosts Variety of Hunter Derbies During WCHR Week

During the first World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) week of the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, HITS Post Time Farm hosted a wide variety of hunter derby events for all levels of hunter athletes. Derby competition got underway on Friday afternoon as professionals and junior/amateur riders took to Hunter One for the $5,000 SmartPak USHJA National Hunter Derby and the $5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby, respectively. 

A large field of 31 entries made up the open derby which featured a fast-moving hunt-and-go course. As one of the final few to tackle the track, Redfield Farm’s Karianna Knezevich masterfully piloted Fheldspar to a combined total score of 180.00 points for the win. She and the Redfield Farm’s seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Fursten-Look) were the only combination to break into the 180’s as they paired a classic round score of 89.00 with an impressive handy round earning of 91.00. 

Karianna Knezevich and Fheldspar. Photo by ESI Photography

“We’ve been knocking on the door for a win for a few weeks now and I’m really proud of how he performed today,” Knezevich gushed. “As a young professional, I’m a little bit new to the WCHR program, but I made sure to enroll myself earlier this year when I got the ride on this horse. I think it’s a really cool opportunity to provide professionals with something to chase after the way amateurs do.”  

Knezevich’s barnmate, Lauren Patterson, procured the red ribbon with a total score of 174.00 points on her own nine-year-old Warmblood gelding (Cornet Obolensky), Cellestino. Isaac Leffkowitz, a previous hunter derby winner at HITS, rounded out the top three on his 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Carzeno), Casimir Ice, after earning an overall score of 172.25 from the judge. 

Carrying onwards, 20 pairings of the junior/amateur variety sized up the first round of the evening’s $5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby. As the final class of the day, the derby featured the two-round format and the top 12 highest-ranking duos were invited to return for the handy track. Consistency was key in the second round and Emma Woodworth’s consistent scoring across both rounds of 89.00 each earned her the top placing with a total of 178.00 points. Woodworth piloted her 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cascadello II), Just Dessert.

“The derbies here at HITS are exceptional and I’m so happy I was finally able to do one, much less win my very first one,” Woodworth exclaimed. “Having a WCHR week is definitely something I look forward to as a hunter rider because the classes are a little bit bigger and the competition is incredible. 

“I’ve had him for a little over a year now and he is the best horse I could ask for,” she continued of her winning partner. “He allows me to accomplish all of these goals I have. He’s super forgiving and talented, and he’s always game for whatever question I ask of him in the ring.”

Just several points off from the leading score, Casey Zuraitis and Intrepid laid down a brilliant handy round that earned them a 90.00 to combine with their classic round score of 85.00 for a 175.00 point finish. Jaime Auletto once again found her way into the ribbons with Suzanne Auletto’s seven-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Blue Avenue, with a score of 174.00 which earned them third place.

Three more hunter derbies took place throughout Saturday including the $1,500 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby, the $1,500 Bit O’ Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby, and the $750 Tiny Bit O’ Hunter Derby, sponsored by Mrs. Pasture’s Cookies. It was a win for Helena Timpany and Elan Farm’s 10-year-old Pony gelding (Blue Who), Unbelievablue, out of the twelve entries in the ponies. Bridget Harris and Wolver Hollow’s 15-year-old Dutch Pony (Charivari), Brighton, closed in for the second place honors, while Reilly Robertson rounded out the top three with the Robertson Family LLC’s eight-year-old Welsh Pony Cross (Clovercrofts Hero of the Heart), Clovermeade Heartthrob.  

“After the first round was done I knew he was calm and liked the ring,” Timpany explained. “Then I knew the handy would be no problem. He’s very good at handy turns and very flexible; I could jump a jump and we can be turning the next step.”

Timpany also received a prize from Quail Hollow Tack for the victory. 

Lee Cesary took the penultimate hunter derby win of the day after piloting Lee Cesery’s 16-year-old Warmblood gelding, Comanche, into the lead of the $1,500 Bit O’Straw Hunter Derby which left only the $750 Tiny Bit O’ Hunter Derby to close out derby competition during WCHR week. Marita Zuraitis earned another top finish aboard her 16-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, Inferno, to wrap up a full feature of hunter derbies. 

For a full list of the week’s results, please visit www.showmanagementsystem.com