Lexington, Ky. – Aug. 19, 2022 – Friday morning in the Rolex Arena saw the start of one of the most highly anticipated hunter events in the sport. Round one of the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship not only invited 69 horse-and-rider combinations, but it welcomed the most talented hunter riders from all corners of the United States. The 13-obstacle course designed by Alan Lohman (USA) proved to be inviting for the field of horses. It presented the riders with unique challenges to take risks and show off their horse’s brilliance, or stay conservative to ensure an error-free round. Hunt Tosh and Cannon Creek returned to the stadium in the same brilliant manner as they did last year, taking the win in the fierce first round of competition and securing their leading position going into round two.
The International Hunter Derby Championships is the gold standard for hunter competition. The format of the championships was made to highlight the most stylish and qualified horse and rider combinations, who have been entered in the program throughout the course of the competition year. All qualified and entered horses compete in the first round of competition over a Classic Hunter course featuring International Hunter Derby style fences, including height options. Based on scores in the Classic Hunter round, horse-and-rider combinations advance to one of two possible second rounds: 1) the Handy Hunter Round (split into Sections A and B) or 2) the Derby Challenge that will feature 42 athletes. The top 25 overall horse-and-rider combinations from the Classic Hunter round will be invited to compete in the Handy Hunter Round as part of Section A. The 15 horse-and-rider combinations who ribboned Friday in the Classic Hunter round will compete in Section B/Tier II for the championship title and for a share of the prize money.
Tosh and Cannon Creek were nothing short of breathtaking as they made their way around the famed Rolex Arena. The 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by The Wheeler Family, flaunted his scope and near perfect hunter style to the panel of three judges, earning an average score of 96.3 points to an overall grand score of 289 points. “He is such a great horse and I am so lucky to have him. He owes us nothing at this point but I just wanted to go in and have a nice trip and he really went beautifully. I am so happy with him and he is a blast to ride” comments Tosh. With Tosh in the irons, the gelding has accumulated many blue ribbons around the circuit in the High Performance Hunter division and the USHJA International Hunter Derbies. Recently, the pair found great success at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show [Upperville, VA] scoring in the 90’s in nearly every round, putting them in a positive position heading into the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals.
Neck and neck with Tosh all week in the Green Hunter Incentive classes, John French sits in second place going into round two. French and Milagro, the 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Kent Farrington LLC, demonstrated a quintessential hunter round. “He [Milagro] has never done the finals before. He is just 7 years old and I was really proud of him for marching around like that” comments French. The pair jumped to an overall score of 287 to secure the red ribbon. With the guidance of the seasoned hunter professional and first ever winner of the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals, the young horse found great success and confidence in the stadium, setting the duo up for an optimistic Handy Hunter round.
Securing the third place position with great delight was Hannah Isop and Red Ryder. Returning to the stadium for the fourth year in the attempt to claim top honors, Isop rode the 18-year-old Selle Francais gelding owned by Tracy Freels to a noteworthy round. “This is truly a dream come true sitting here with these two [Hunt Tosh & John French]. It’s really surreal” said Isop. Red Ryder carried Isop to yet another impressive high overall jumping score of 283.75 points. The familiar partnership has found themselves in the winners circle numerous times in the International Derbies, preparing them for their moment in the spotlight in Kentucky.
The final championship round of the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Derby Championship will take place on Saturday afternoon beginning at 3:00 pm in the Rolex Arena with the Derby Challenge. The Handy Hunter sections will begin with the opening ceremonies at 6:00 pm, and the first horse at 6:30 pm.
To learn more about the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Derby Championship, click here.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE:
Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Round One Top Three
On his leading position & strategy:
“After winning last year he is such a great horse and I am so lucky to have him. You want to go in and have a nice trip. He owes us nothing at this point but I wanted to go in and have a nice, solid trip and guarantee that we could go into tomorrow night. He went beautifully and I was so happy with him. The Wheelers [Owners of Cannon Creek] told me not to mistake and not jump the high jump and have it down. I landed and thought about it for a minute but I thought I had better be safe. He is a blast to ride and he went fabulous.”
On his superstitions:
“We try to stick to the normal things. Cannon Creek did one High Performance class last year with a little rub and got an 88. It happened again this year, I went and did one High Performance class this year and had one little rub and got an 88 again.”
On the course
“It was nice. It was inviting. It suited a lot of horses and it didn’t overface anybody and the horses all jumped very well. I think it was a very strong field this year and all of the horses went really well.”
On coming back to Derby Finals:
“This is a great venue and I have such wonderful memories of showing ___ here at the first Derby Finals. He was a little more seasoned than the horse I have now. He [Milagro] has never done the finals before. He is just 7 years old and I was really proud of him for marching around like that.”
On riding a green horse at this level:
“He is just a very scopey horse. The bigger the jumps the better with him. He did some jumpers over in Europe and he is just the type of horse that doesn’t need to stay at the lower jumps. He can jump the bigger ones and you can ride harder at the fences and then he jumps even higher.”
On the course:
“I agree with him [Tosh]. The course really didn’t over face anybody. My horse could go in there without having done this or having been in this ring and he was very confident. It is great to have that kind of round. It was a good way to start out.”
On sitting in the top three:
“This is truly a dream come true sitting here with these two [Hunt Tosh & John French]. It’s really surreal. He is a little bit of an older horse so I wanted to come in and have a good trip today.”
On taking the last high option:
“Well it was a very competitive class and everyone was really putting in great trips. It wasn’t my plan to jump the high option when I walked the course, but he felt great and jumped better and better as the class went on. There are a lot of great horses and a lot of great riders here so I just decided to go all out.”
On the course:
“I thought it rode very well and it was a nice class before tomorrow night.”
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Total Score
1. Cannon Creek / Hunt Tosh / The Wheeler Family / 289.00
2. Milaghro / John French / Kent Farrington LLC / 287.00
3. Red Ryder / Hannah Isop / Tracy Freels / 283.750
4. Meaningful / Kelly Farmer / Emma Vandenhouten / 281.350
5. El Primero / Victoria Colvin / Bryan Baldwin & Meralex Farm / 279.00
6. Laskano / Jimmy Torano / Isalou Inc. / 278.50
7. Front Page / Colin Syquia / Cynthia Sulzberger / 275.85
8. Autograph / Hunt Tosh / Ceil Wheeler / 275.85
9. Chappy / Greg Crolick / Carole Chase / 273.00
10. In The Know / Samantha Schaefer / Madeline Schaefer / 272.65
11. Jenkins / Nick Haness / Brianne Tsakopoulos / 272.50
12. Believe / Hannah Isop / Victoria Hart / 272.25