Morgan Ward and Comissario Capture the Blue in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby

Manchester, VT – July 6, 2023 – HITS has returned to Vermont and is prepared for another summer amidst the stunning Green Mountains. On Thursday morning, the first hunter derby of the six-week Vermont Summer Festival series took place. Over 30 pairs competed for first place in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Besting the field was Morgan Ward with her own Comissario, a veteran pair who claimed multiple previous derby wins during the winter circuit in Ocala. 

“He is a long-time partner of mine. He doesn’t show in anything else except the derbies, he is so easy and straightforward. He was great this winter - he won nine national derbies during the circuit in Ocala. He is amazing at his job and is always wanting to try his best.” 

Morgan Ward and Comissario. Photo by Jess Windhurst. 

The format of the derby is set as a Hunt & Go Derby, where all riders start their classic round in Hunter Ring 1 and then immediately cross over to Hunter Ring 2 to continue onto their handy round. In the classic round, riders were presented with two single diagonals and then carried onto an outside bending line, where the first oxer and first height option were presented. The classic round continued with a two-stride combination and concluded with a single oxer with a high option. From there, riders continued into Hunter Ring 2 and began their handy round. The trot jump came out from a corner midway through the course, and many riders opted for a tight rollback to the following oxer. The handy concluded with the fourth high option towards the outgate.

Morgan Ward & Comissario. Photo by: Jess Windhurst.

Morgan Ward and Comissario. Photo by Jess Windhurst. 

Ward and Comissario were the eleventh pair in the order of go, the combination set a high bar for the competitors to follow. In the classic round, Ward maintained a consistent rhythm and took on all high options, to be rewarded with a score of 89. In the handy, executing all possible tight turns and again taking all high options, the pair claimed another score of 89. A total score of 178 was enough to secure another win for Ward, adding to her first-place collection from yesterday’s $5,000 Manchester Designer Outlets Open Welcome. 

“For the handy round, I saw that there were some options, so I decided to do every inside turn that was possible since he is the handy king. I enjoy the hunt-and-go format. I know that if he does a great job in the classic round, he'll definitely win. I can just relax and let him do his thing.”

  Lia Chafee Edmonds & Silent Rule. Photo by: Jess Windhurst.

Lia Chafee Edmonds and Silent Rule. Photo by Jess Windhurst.

Coming in a close second with a combined score of 177 was Lia Chafee Edmonds aboard Silent Rule, owned by Karen Salon. Being the penultimate competitor, she was able to watch previous rounds and secure second place. Third place was Alexa Bayko riding Haldette, owned by Maryanne Haviland, with a final score of 172. 

  Alexa Bayko & Haldette. Photo by: Jess Windhurst.  Alexa Bayko and Haldette. Photo by Jess Windhurst.

The Vermont Summer Festival is set to offer six weeks of hunter and jumper competition, showcasing a diverse range of classes. From the weekly $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby to the 2’ Hunter Derby and Bit o' Straw Classic, there are competition classes for everyone.