A Repeat Win for Morgan Ward and Comissario in $5,000 Hunter Derby at HITS Vermont Manchester Summer Festival

Manchester, VT – July 13, 2023 – Week two of hunter competition returned to the picturesque mountains of Manchester, Vermont, where Comissario returned as the champion in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. With Morgan Ward in the irons, the pair topped the field of competitors with scores of 89 and 92 in the hunt-and-go derby.


Morgan Ward and Comissario. Photo by Jess Windhurst.

The pair have been together for almost a decade, achieving many accolades throughout the years. “Comissario is very consistent. We tried him in a derby, and it all took off from there. He loved it from day one.” Comissario, owned by Ward, also won the same class last week during the first week of the Vermont Summer Festival. “I can just pull him out for only this class every single week, and that's all he does.”

The derby had 35 riders enter the ring and navigate the course created by Brian Post in a hunt-and-go format. The first classic round was completed in Hunter 1, starting off with a long approach to a vertical, followed by another long approach to an oxer. A flowing bending line up the hill was next in the course, which included a high-option oxer going out of the line. The handy round began in Hunter 2 with a trot jump and a tight rollback to a high-option vertical and ended with a rollback to a high-option oxer toward the outgate. 


Morgan Ward and Comissario. Photo by Jess Windhurst.

Ward and Comissario were one of the only pairs to complete all inside turns throughout the course and took all high options, earning a total score of 181. “Being handy is what he’s best at, and he always tries his hardest. He's the sweetest horse in the world – a barn favorite!”


Georgia Schmidt and Lennox RW. Photo by Jess Windhurst.

Securing second place was Georgia Schmidt and Lennox RW, owned by Garland Alban, who had a total score of 175. Third place went to Oakley Clark and Cassiano, owned by Morgan Eisler Bradley, with a two-round score of 173.5.


Oakley Clark and Cassiano. Photo by Jess Windhurst.

Riders looking to make their debut in the derby ring will also have an opportunity later this week with the $750 Tiny Bit O’ Straw Hunter Derby and the $750 Bit O’ Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby. Hunter action will continue for the next four weeks, with the $5,000 National Hunter Derby being held on Thursdays, giving competitors other chances to participate in the hunt-and-go format.