WELLINGTON, Fla.--John French on Milagro won the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby in a hunt-and-go format over 47 competitors on Feb. 3 at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
The lead changed hands several times throughout the hunt & go format that consolidates two rounds into one with both a classic and a handy element.
There were four high options and a series of rollbacks and inside turns to demonstrate handiness across the second half.
Christopher Payne on Provence took the early lead on Reign with a combined score of 367.50.
Late in the order, Kristy Herrera on Caristo scored a new leading total of 370 combined points.
Having already won three international hunter derby wins since December, French on Kent Farrington, LLC’s Milagro overtook the lead with a score of 371.50.
"HE STANDS OUT in the hunter derbies because he has a lot of scope, he is slow in the air so I can make the tight turns on landing easily, he is very brave, and I never have to worry he’s going to look at anything,” French said.
“I always worry a bit about trot fences, but I went very slow and he did it nicely,” he said. “After that I took a breath because I knew the hard parts for me were over and he would be able to do the final high option, which he cleared with a couple feet to spare.”
Cristobal Collado, Emilie Conter, Zoe Conter and Carlos Hank Guerreiro (Team C4) won the CHF25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix Series Team Event over 16 teams, with the top six teams advancing to the second round..
Moving from fourth to the top, C4’s Cristobal 0f Mexico, Emilie Conter and Zoe Conter of Belgium and Hank of Mexico finished on a combined final score of just a single rail to win.
“I’m glad we could finish it on a good note. I’ve been doing this series for a while now and we’ve always been so close to winning the team event, so we were really motivated to win this year," said Conter, who is in her last year of the Under 25..
“There were some technical parts like to the triple and the last line which was a difficult four strides,” said Conter, who rode Lazy. “Overall, it was a friendly but challenging track.”
“She’s 9 years old, and a really simple ride,” said Collado, 24, of Ditarca OH Z, who had two clean rounds. “I’m used to riding more difficult horses, so it’s been great to have her. The plan was to sell her originally, but I’m really enjoying my time riding her.
“This was definitely my biggest competition of the year,” said Collado. “These guys are pretty professional and do the bigger stuff, so it’s fun to be able to do it with all of them and we got to deliver the win together.”
Emilie Conter, 22, rode Balento C.S. tin her fourth Under 25 Team Event appearance.
“It’s so much fun to do a team event with close friends," she said. "It’s a little more pressure which we really like. We were close last year, so we were happy to win it this year. Next, I’m hoping to be able to step up to the CSI4* and 5* level.”
Anchor rider Hank, 22, had two clear rounds on H5 Nostalgie.
“This ring has a big impact on our riding and on our horses,” said Hank on the indoor stadium feel of the Global International Arena. “Some horses are not use to rings like this, especially ones in America as we don’t have so many indoors here. But my horse has done a few indoors in Europe so I was confident he would perform out there and I was really happy with that.
“We were very focused on this week,” said Hank. “We all worked really hard, Emilie brought her number-one horse and we all tried to choose horses that would perform in this class. We are happy we achieved what we wanted.”
The 2023 Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series winner will be invited to compete at a select show or tour in Europe, with round-trip transportation for one horse provided by the Dutta Corp.
NATALIE DEAN on Dotcom d’Authuit Dazzle won the CHF37.000 CSI4*, 1.45m Speed on the derby field
Dean, 23, finished in at 57.46 seconds to beat Amanda Derbyshireof Great Britain on Wonder If , who finished in 59.51 seconds, while Daniel Coyle of Ireland on Langley was third in 59.70 seconds.
“She’s an amazing horse," said Dean. "She’s been off to a good start this season and she just loves this field,”
Dean had top placings in the Under 25 division on the derby field during WEF 2, including a victory with Dotcom d’Authuit in the WEF 2 welcome and second in the grand prix.
“I went pretty late in the class which was nice, and I knew they were going fast, but I tried to give it my all,” said Dean. “I knew I could do eight strides from two to three where a lot of people were doing nine, and then I used her naturally quick foot speed to make it smooth. It worked out today.”
“I’ve had her for two and a half years," said Dean I" got her as a 7-year-old, now she’s 10, so she’s really reliable and I know I can run and she’ll be careful and fast. She’s a joy to ride.”