Hunters Shine in Derby Classes at HITS CHICAGO Showplace Spectacular III

Tuesday, June 20, 2017, marked the first International Hunter Derby Day ever held at Balmoral Park. To usher in the inaugural event, the Grand Prix Stadium traded its timers and colorful triple combinations for a new spectrum of natural obstacles, birch rails, weathered gates, and old-style coops dotted with flowers in full bloom and framed in lush greenery. 

With its new dressings, the Grand Prix Stadium hosted the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by Bull Run Farm, and the $10,000 National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Galway Farm.  

The Main Hunter Ring was reserved for Pony, Children, and Adult Riders competing in the $2,500 USHJA Pony Derby, sponsored by the Markman Family, and the $2,500 Balmoral Child/Adult Hunter Derby.

For the Derby’s two round format, course designer Rian Beals created a first-round track reminiscent of an open hunt field upon which the horse is judged and scored on his or her style, pace, manners, and overall way of going. In the second round, Beals incorporated options to test handiness through a series of tight turns and changes of gait.

Riders traded their traditional Hunt Coats for a more formal double-buttoned Shadbelly coats, worn over canary colored vests. Clad in tails and wide smiles, the enthusiasm rose as horses jogged into the Stadium for pre-class soundness checks. The distinct format of the classes provided spectators with an opportunity to see first-hand the nuances unique to navigating a Hunter Derby.

Midday, Exhibitors and Spectators had a chance to mingle over hors d'oeuvres and cocktails in the storied Balmoral Park Clubhouse before sitting for a VIP Luncheon catered by sponsors Gene & Georgetti’s and Michelle Durpetti Events. The elements of style dressed the grounds in elegance. And the prize money at stake delivered a brilliant day of competition for seasoned professionals like Maggie Jayne, and newcomers like Olivia Markman who finally at age 12 garnered her first Derby Win.

When Markman trotted into to the ring as the final entry in the First Round of the $2,500 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby, she felt some added pressure as a member of the sponsoring family. Markman noted, “Two years ago, I did it on my small pony, and last year I did it on KP, and we also sponsored the class which I did not do well in at all.”

KP is Markman’s nickname for her beloved large pony GLYNHAFAN RED KESTRAL, on whom she competed this year. Considering Markman has only been riding for about four years, she carried poise and polish over the course that far exceed her age of twelve. “In the first round, I liked the options in the bending lines, you could put a curve to the path or make it more direct,” explained Markman. “In the second round, we had to roll back from the first jump to the out jump of the bending line, and I really liked being handy. It makes things fun!” 

Markman’s first round performance was soft and fluid. She exited the course patting KP’s neck and the judge’s awarded her the high score of 84, nine points ahead of Britta Stoeckel who rode JESSANDI FAMOUS AMOS to a score of 75 into place second. Both Markman and Stoeckel train with Joanne Kurinsky and Kory Kunk at Littlewood Farm with in Libertyville, Illinois.

Markman, as the leader in round one returned last in the order-of-go for round two. For the ‘Handy’ portion of the Derby, riders were asked to enter the course at a canter and proceed straight to the first jump. Markman clocked into the ring with a commanding presence. She delivered a spectacular performance and a score of 85 to win her first Pony Hunter Derby.    

Markman carried the confidence of her newest accolade right into her rounds in the $2,500 Balmoral Child/Adult Hunter Derby. Atop TUIDAM, the lovely chestnut she catch rode -- it was déjà vu. As the twosome exited round one they had taken over the lead.  “I’m not used to riding a horse. That was only my second time showing him and probably only my 5th or 6th time riding him,” she said.

Markman’s second round wasn’t quite as handy as she had hoped for. Her score of 81 was third best. But the pair carried enough points from round one to clench the win. “Well that was kind of unexpected,” she said. “When I came out of the ring, they said that I won the classic. I didn’t know that they meant the whole thing, I thought they were talking about the score for the second round.”

Markman celebrated the Derby double-win by treating TUIDIAM and KP to a basket of Carrots and Snaks 5th Avenchew.

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In the Grand Prix Stadium, a field of 25 seasoned riders and professionals faced-off in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.  After two tightly matched rounds encountered a brief wild wind and rainstorm, Maggie Jayne emerged as the winner on the elite stallion STANDING OVATION, and had secured the second place aboard his stablemate LIKE I SAID.

Three times is a charm for Maggie, who had three rides in the second round and took notes from ride one to help guide her on rides two and three. She said, “I showed FROSTED BLUE first and chose not to do a turn which I then did with my other two rides, after I realized that it was a viable option.” Maggie then added, “As a rider, each time I went, it kind of got smoother. As most of us know, the more you do, the better you become, so having three tries was definitely an advantage for me!”

In the Handy Hunter Round, STANDING OVATION, aka STAN, received the high-score of the Derby, a 208. This coupled with his Classic Hunter Round score of 181.5 gave him a total score of 389.5. Jayne described the Handy Round as the tidiest she has ever had on STAN. Maggie commented, “Normally, with the Handy Rounds I try not to make it too neat as that can make him a little ‘jumpery’.” STAN has only been doing the Hunters since November. Jayne was quite pleased that she was able to shave some turns on the inside track, while keeping him relaxed. In May, Jayne and STANDING OVATION won the International Hunter Derby at the Devon Horse Show.

LIKE I SAID, earned a score of 181.5 in the First-Round, and her Handy Round received a mark of 196, for a total of 377.5. Jayne felt her round on STAN was just a little smoother, and thus the difference between first and second. “On LIKE I SAID, it was a mix. Some of her jumps were a little explosive and some of them were excellent,” she noted. “Whereas with STAN I felt like my round was one seamless, consistent and smooth. He is more scopey than she, not that LIKE I SAID isn’t scopey, but STANDING OVATION is exceptionally scopey, smooth, relaxed, not spooky. I really can’t say enough good things about him.”

Both horses who are owned by Pony Lane Farm, and Jayne has them geared up for the Derby Finals.

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The $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby hosted a field of 26 and had CHEEKY, ridden Meagan Murray-Tentua, outperformed seasoned competitors, which included Doug Boyd on CALIDO'S SON who placed second.

CHEEKY is a six-year-old, Westphalian Stallion sired by Carrico. His Holsteiner lineage is well-known for producing exceptionally gifted progeny. Murray-Tentua said that CHEEKY, despite his youth, will just walk into a big ring, lope around, and stay really relaxed. “Today, I just held the reins and his rhythm never changed. He jumped every jump exactly the same,” explained Murray-Tentua.

In the Handy, Murray-Tentua thought that the turn back to the horseshoe jump was really tricky, and she saw it get a few people into trouble. But CHEEKY, she said is a short, compact horse, so he handled it really well.

CHEEKY earned the high score of 91 in the Classic Round, and an 89 in the Handy Round, for a total score of 180, just one-point ahead of Boyd on Calisto’s Son. Last week, CHEEKY placed second in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby at Showplace Spring Spectacular II.

On course, Murray-Tentua said she had a great hand gallop to the last jump. Outside the ring, she says CHEEKY is like a gentle puppy dog. “He has the best personality, nothing ever stirs him, and he loves to be challenged. I really think that’s why these Derby classes are going to be his, to shine in.” 

CHEEKY is owned by Becky Price. He is stabled at Buena Vista Farm in Zion, IL where he is ridden and trained by Meagan Murray-Tentua.

# # # # Written by Susan Kayne for HITS Horse Shows # # # #

The USHJA Hunter Derby Program was initiated to enhance horsemanship in the hunter disciplines by offering the Pony Derby, National Derby, and International Derby.