Temecula, Calif. – Apr. 22, 2022 – Hunter derby contenders took to the Grand Hunter Arena Friday morning of Temecula Valley National Premier I, hosted by Nilforushan Equisport Events, for the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by Rusty Brown Jewelry. Thirty-one entries came forth to take on the Meghan Rawlins-designed first round course in order to secure a top 12 score and return for the handy round. At the conclusion of both rounds, it was Chad Mahaffey and Paperboy, owned by Brighton Farms, who topped the impressive field.
Rawlins’ first-round track consisted of 11 obstacles, including high options at fences two, five, eight and eleven. Additional challenges included several long bending lines, a two-stride, and large single fences set on long runs. Athletes piloted their mounts one-by-one around the first-round course in an attempt to open their horses’ flashy strides and present a traditional hunter style over each of the 11 obstacles.
First to test the track in round one was Mahaffey, who piloted the 8-year-old Zangersheide gelding by Diamant De Semilly to a score of 180, proving to be a serious contender early on. His lead held until Gabriela Pattinson and Lost Emerald matched it, then Nick Haness overtook the lead aboard Reddington with a score of 180.5. The only other pair to improve upon that score was Haness with his second mount, Jenkins, on a 183 first-round score.
Returning in reverse order of first-round scores, athletes tested the handy round, which consisted of only nine obstacles with opportunities for tight turns and shortening and lengthening horses’ strides to show off scope. Riders pulled off increasingly tight rollbacks between fences one, two and three before several long runs to the high fences on course. While all the riders were consistently impressing the judges and earning high scores, the lead was held for the longest by Augusta Iwasaki and Attendu De Lannois Z, owned by Ashland Farms, on a total score of 379. The pair rose from eighth place and would ultimately finish third.
With the top two positions in the class after round one, Haness returned earlier in the order with his second place mount, Reddington, but had a green moment at the final fence which dropped him to the lowest handy-round score, leaving the door slightly open for Mahaffey to move up to at least second place. Second to last in the arena, Mahaffey picked up a forward pace from the start and pushed Paperboy, known as “Diddy” in the barn, up to meet each fence with power and scope. He gracefully guided the 8-year-old around the turns and opened him up to gallop home for a spectacular effort over the final oxer. A score of 383.25 edged out Iwasaki and set the bar for Haness to beat. Haness and Jenkins, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, put forth their best effort over the handy course but came up just short by the smallest window possible, scoring a 383, just a quarter of a point off the winning score for a second-place finish.
With this win, Mahaffey and Paperboy earned themselves a ticket to the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in Lexington, KY, this summer. Paperboy has been Mahaffey’s ride for two and a half years after he was imported from Europe, where he was 4- and 5-year-old horse of the year in the 1.20m and 1.30m in Belgium two years in a row. Mahaffey sees the High Performance Hunters and more International Hunter Derbies in the gelding’s future as he continues to grow and learn.
Later in the day in the Grand Hunter Arena, athletes took on a similar course in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby, sponsored by South Coast Winery. Topping the 34 competitors was Stella Wasserman and Skyhawk, owned by Laura Wasserman.
Hunter competition continues at Temecula Valley National Premier I Saturday with Amateur Owner Hunters and Junior Hunters taking to the Grand Hunter Arena for the preliminary day of their respective divisions.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Chad Mahaffey – $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by Rusty Brown Jewelry, winner
“I’m in my third year with him. We’ve done a lot of national derbies and low stuff on him. This is the first year we’ve really moved him up. I did the High Performance in Thermal and again here. This is his second international derby. I’m pretty impressed with him. He’s just a very athletic horse and he has been since he started.It was a lot of fun out there with the trees and in this environment. I feel like it brings out a little life in animals. There’s more of an electricity through them. It makes the ride that much more enjoyable.”
On moving up an 8-year-old into top competition:
“I always felt ‘Diddy’ needed – against everybody’s wishes – time to settle in and decompress as a jumper. He was too stiff with his top line and for a long time he clomped around being beaten by horses who were typier and jumped harder. He got an 85 in the handy yesterday in his second High Performance handy round ever. I chuck the reins and he’s fit enough that he doesn’t touch the rails and jumps so softly. It’s impressive. He’s coming out of his shell in front of us. This week has been more of a shining moment for him.”
On his handy round:
“Handys are a blast for me because you go in based on what you feel. There are so many things about that ring that make you want to be gutsy but I decided to err on the side of caution considering the company I was in. Slipping right in to that first oxer and being able to wrap right around to the second and then to the third, I felt like those were just slick and easy. I tried to stay as tight as I could and angle things so I got the best outcome. I just kept riding and looking for the next turn and looking ahead. Honestly, it was just a blast to gallop toward the end of the course to the last.”
On Nilforushan Equisport Events:
“It’s the second time I’ve been here. I love the vibe and they put such a personal spin on it when it comes to clientele and exhibitors, and, more importantly, the actual workers. [Ali] actually acknowledges everybody. To come here a year later and see the dramatic improvements they’ve made in a short time, I’m quite impressed. There’s a lot more space to work, and the rings are all in great condition. It poured this morning and now we’re all competing safely. This place looks a lot better than it did just a year ago so I’m looking forward to more things to come. I’m having a blast here. I love it.”
$15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by Rusty Brown Jewelry
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R1 Score | Total Score
- Paperboy / Chad Mahaffey / Brighton Farms / 180 / 203.25 / 383.25
- Jenkins / Nick Haness / Brianne Tsakopoulos / 183 / 200 / 383
- Attendu De Lannois Z / Augusta Iwasaki / Ashland Farms / 178 / 201 / 379
- Lost Emerald / Gabriela Pattinson / Kim Hall / 180 / 195 / 375.5
- Big Shot / Jenny Karazissis / Dulcie Lou Morris / 178 / 197 / 375
- Corragio / Emma Lindstrom / June Salin / 178.25 / 188.5 / 366.75
- Inkwell / Nick Haness / Tami Cabaniss / 172 / 192 / 364
- Infallible / Jamie Taylor / Brianne Tsakopoulos / 169 / 191 / 361.5
- Cavito 2 / Marisa Metzger / Marisa Metzger / 173.5 / 18Yea 6 / 359.5
- Calipso / Nina Alario / Middlepath Farm, LLC / 179.5 / 178 / 357.5
- Caprio 33 / Michelle Berry / Professional Maintenance Systems / 171.5 / 178 / 349.5
- Reddington / Nick Haness / West Coast Equine Partners LLC / 180.5 / 99 / 279.9