Temecula, Ca. – April 23, 2021 – After an exciting week of hunter competition at the Temecula Valley National Premier I presented by Interactive Mortgage, riders traded in their show coats for shadbellies and debuted their immaculately turned out mounts for Friday’s highlight class of the week, the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by Desert International Horse Park. A total of 27 horse-and-rider combos took center stage in the Grand Prix Arena in hopes of earning the gold and glory. After two rounds of handy horsemanship, it was ultimately Katie Taylor and L’Con Reyes who topped the field of talented riders with their style and brilliance.
Peter Grant’s (CAN) 11-obstacle course asked riders to navigate a multifaceted track featuring wide sweeping turns, long approaches, and multiple high options, giving competitors ample opportunities to show off their adjustability and jumping style. While some horse and rider pairs faced individual challenges throughout the first round course, others excelled by selecting the opportunities to earn coveted bonus points for high options that best suited their horse.
Of those pairs who issued successful first rounds were Taylor and the twelve-year-old Oldenburg gelding, L’Con Reyes, owned by Bravado LLC. The pair laid down a solid initial trip, opting to follow a safe approach to the course showcasing her style and tidiness and proving they were the ones to beat as they made their way into the handy with a score of 177. Sitting closely behind were Augusta Iwasaki and one of her four entries in the class, Small Social, who garnered an initial score of 174. The young rider impressed the judges with not only one, but three of her four total trips in the first round, securing a call back for the handy aboard Small Kingdom and Attendu de Lannois Z. Rounding out the top three heading into the second round was Marisa Metzger and Cavido 2, who sat just one point behind Iwasaki and Small Social following round one.
The top 12 competitors were invited back in reverse order to compete over the 9-effort handy round. All of the four high option fences remained on course, offering riders the opportunity to beef up their score by showcasing their horses’ scope throughout the track, in addition to showcasing their handiness through skillfully executed rounds.
Nick Haness made a splash in his second round showcasing Caldiano’s nimbleness on course. He and the Double Down Farm, LLC owned 11-year-old Warmblood gelding were awarded 19 additional points from the judges for their handiness, bringing the duo’s overall second-round score to 199 and securing a solid lead with an overall score of 367. Following Haness’s impressive trip was Iwasaki aboard Small Kingdom. Though some fumbles in her first-round score took her out of contention for a spot on the podium, she was awarded twenty total handy points from the judges, taking a small win as the handiest rider on course for the day.
With just two riders remaining, Taylor returned for her second trip aboard L’Con Reyes. With Hannes having scored eight points higher in the first round, Taylor needed a 176 or better to snag the lead. Confident that she could secure the scores necessary to claim victory, Taylor customized her plan for the handy round around L’Con Reyes’ strengths. With two of four high options taken, her strategy paid off as the pair moved into first with a second-round score of 192 and an overall score of 369.
Iwasaki entered the arena as the final contender aboard Iwasaki & Reilly’s 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Small Social. Though she only placed three points behind Taylor in the first round, the standing leader’s score in the second round proved to be unbeatable. Iwasaki highlighted her efficiency and took all four high option fences in hopes that the bonus points would boost her score just enough to eclipse Taylor’s efforts. She closed out the class on a handy score of 187, settling into third place on an overall score of 361.
Hunter competition returns to the Grand Hunter Arena on Saturday, April 24, with the Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions beginning at 7:30 AM.
$15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by Desert International
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score | Total
1. L’Con Reyes / Katie Taylor / Bravado LLC / 177.00 / 192.00 | 369.00
2. Caldiano / Nick Haness / Double Down Farm LLC / 168.00 / 199.00 | 367.00
3. Small Social / Augusta Iwasaki / Iwasaki & Reilly / 174.00 / 187.00 | 361.00
4. Small Kingdom / Augusta Iwasaki / Iwasaki & Reilly / 162.50 / 198 | 360.50
5. Cavito 2 / Marisa Metzger / Marisa Metzger / 173.00 / 184.50 | 357.50
6. Attendu De Lannois Z / Augusta Iwasaki / Ashland Farms / 159.00 / 196.00 | 355.00
7. Heavenly / Marisa Metzger / Laurie Jueneman / 151.00 / 186.00 | 337.00
8. Valedictorian / Violet Tatum / Violet Tatum / 79 / 147.00 / 176.00 | 323.00
9. Cavaljo / Clea Caddell / Spyglass Hill / 165.00 / 117.00 | 282.00
10. Nostalgic / Savannah Jenkins / Madison Sanders / 167.00 / 112.50 | 279.50
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
On L’Con Reyes:
“His barn name is Theo. I have been riding him for about four years now and this is his third International Derby win. He is just a complete teammate for me. He is my rock and I have a blast when I get to ride him. He is a little sassy, for sure. He makes me work for it a bit, but when he knows it is time, he gives me his all.”
On her plan going into the handy round:
“We watched a bunch of different tracks and I know some did some inside turns in certain places and others went around certain places, and we just decided to do the turns that we thought would benefit him the best. And it worked!”
On plans for L’Con Reyes in 2021:
“I would love to do Derby Finals on him. We wanted to do it last year, but with everything that happened last year because of COVID we didn’t end up doing it. So that is the hope that we get to do that this year!”