FF Blade Runner and Jill Gaffney Triumph in $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Kentucky Spring Horse Show

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Jill Gaffney and FF Blade Runner - Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

Edited Press Release

Lexington, KY – May 12, 2024 – World Champion Hunter Rider week at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show came to a close with the biggest event of the week in the Stonelea Ring. Top horses and riders gathered to showcase their skills during the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by All Bizness Insurance, on Sunday morning. Making his International Hunter Derby debut, FF Blade Runner proved that he had all the brilliance to be the best, topping the leaderboard with a score of 355.5. Augusta Iwasaki took home second and third with beautiful rounds aboard Small Kingdom and Magic In The Making, respectively.

“I was doing the grand prixs on him, but he’s kind of a slower, colder horse and he’s always tended to be that way,” explained Gaffney after her win. “We decided that we would try him in the hunters – There was a $20,000 National Derby the last week that we were there at Ocala. He just loved it! There was no pressure to go fast – he could go the way he wanted; he was comfortable. So we did the 3’9” hunters and aimed him for the International Derby this week!”

Jill Gaffney and FF Blade Runner with Shelley Mann for All Bizness Insurance. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

The day began with the classic round, which started over a natural log fence and continued with four high options, including the final oxer near the gate. Riders then returned for the handy round where they could showcase their mounts. Riders cantered directly to the last oxer from the first round to begin the handy course and then continued over the natural obstacles, which included a trot fence and finished with an in-and-out.

After a smooth and flowing classic round, Gaffney was the last to return for the handy round, leading the class with a score of 177. Using FF Blade Runner’s jumper background to her advantage, she was able to take the inside options and make very handy turns. They finished with a score of 178.5, and returned to the ring to accept the winning honors.

“I knew that this is easy for him and he enjoys it,” smiled Gaffney. “The goal was just to keep him relaxed and happy. I was grinning from ear-to-ear just because it was so fun on him. He’s so handy, and I don’t have to try to turn – he’s just right there. This is his thing!”

Gaffney loves competing at the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, and was thrilled to be back with 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion vy Air Jordan Z, owned by Freestyling Farms. “I love the grass fields and being able to ride out there,” she concluded. “It’s so good for the horses to be able to get out of their stalls and either hack out there or walk out there. There’s space to get away from the show atmosphere. This is my favorite place to show.”

Augusta Iwasaki and Small Kingdom – Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

Augusta Iwasaki also had four lovely rounds with her two mounts for the day. Small Kingdom had the high score in the handy round of 180.5, and finished the day with a score of 352.5 for the second place prize. Iwasaki also garnered the third place award after earning a 180 in the handy round for a 349.5 final score.

Augusta Iwasaki and Magic In The Making – Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

Hunter competition will continue during next week’s Kentucky Spring Classic. Highlight events will include the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby and $1,500 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby. For more information on Kentucky Horse Shows LLC and the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.