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April 1, 2012

Dedication Ponies Up In Round 1 Of The $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby

Raw scores of 91 and 92 put the second year horse at the top of the leaderboard.

Wellington, Fla.—March 31

Scott Stewart and Dedication couldn’t have had a much better start to the Wellington edition of the USHJA International Hunter Derby series. Together the pair jumped to the top of the classic round in the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby during Week 12 of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, heading into tomorrow’s handy round with a 4-point buffer over two-time class winners Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy.

Nancy Amling’s Taken and Kelley Farmer sit third just 6 points off the lead, and 2010 winners Castle Rock, owned by Bryan Baldwin, and Louise Serio looked spot on to lay fourth. Farmer also lays fifth aboard Red Sky.

A quick but strong rainstorm interrupted the class just as Stewart was about to warm up.

“I had to get on when it had just finished pouring rain,” he said. “When I jumped my first couple of jumps it was still raining, and he was shaking his head all over the place. Fortunately it stopped before I had to go.”

Watch Dedication’s round below.

(Videos of the top 12 classic rounds follow the story.)

Dedication, owned by Fashion Farm, advanced to Round 2 of this class last year. His fantastic 2011 season included grand hunter titles at the Pennsylvania National and the Alltech National (Ky.), the U.S. Equestrian Federation first year green Horse of the Year award, and the Chronicle of the Horse Hunter Horse of the Year honors. He’s shown lightly through the circuit in anticipation of this class.

“The size of the jumps really doesn’t matter to him,” said Stewart. “He can be a little playful, and when it started to rain, he was out here and being a little wild since he doesn’t like anything touching him.”

That willingness to jump the bigger fences meant that Dedication picked up 4 bonus points, as well as the class high score of 92 from judges Danny Robertshaw and Jim Clapperton, and a mark of 91 from Bob Crandall and Kitty Barker, to top the field of 54.

A Good Looking Track

All week, the ring crew, led by course builder Bobby Murphy, has been re-decorating the Eugene R. Mische Ring. They built a stone wall around much of the perimeter of the ring, adding in a gazebo at one end. Murals depicting horse country covered one wall.

The track included a two-stride in-and-out option and a combination down one side, but otherwise had plenty of single fences, but only two oxers. The track included a plank on flat cups designed to look like a fence line, with a “grass liverpool” underneath. The course was lushly decorated with straw and greenery and included a few sponsor fences as well. Those sponsor fences included the last fence: a green wall set at two heights with an Adequan topiary horse head stretching up to 4’6” on the high side. Despite all the decorations, it seemed a fairly inviting track.

“There was a lot to look at other than the jumps,” said Stewart, Flemington, N.J. “It looks good, and I hope they keep the stone walls because they really look great. Mine jumped everything really well, and the jumps were different enough to give them something to focus on.

“I thought Bobby actually went a little easy on us,” he continued. “In the past it’s been quite a bit harder; even last year and the year before the first round looked a little bit harder. We walked like it was going to be simple but thought it wasn’t going to be.”

A few fences came down occasionally, and Condonas took a tumble coming out of an in-and-out four fences in. He and Lacey Gilbertson walked off the course. But overall the track proved quite inviting.

Tomorrow’s Another Day

In previous years the second round of the derby has been held in the International Ring at night, but this year the top 25 riders will cross the street and head to the field at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium. The giant grass field, which is home to occasional jumper classes, has never hosted a hunter class. There are natural obstacles built in (a grob, double-liverpool, open water, bank and massive hill for starters), but it’s not clear which, if any of these, will be included in tomorrow’s course.

Riders seemed a touch nervous at the change—after all it’s a brand new venue for their mounts, and very few derbies are run on actual derby fields (the Chicago edition being a noteable exception).

But it’s not a surprise for any of the riders. Stewart has been schooling at his farm and practicing banks and other natural obstacles, and other contenders have certainly been following suit.

See for yourself! Check out videos for the balance of the top 12 below. Results are at www.shownet.biz. An order of go for tomorrow follows the videos. There’s no live feed for tomorrow’s handy round, but the Chronicle will post videos following the class.

Watch Jersey Boy’s round below:

Watch Taken’s classic round:

Watch Castle Rock’s classic round:

Watch Red Sky and Kelley Farmer:

Watch Sienna and Patricia Griffith, who sit sixth:

Watch seventh-placed Quatrain and Liza Boyd:

Watch Miss Lucy and Jennifer Alfano, who sit eighth:

Stewart also placed ninth with Declaration:

Maggie Jayne usually has her name at the top of the leaderboard when it comes time for derbies, but this time it’s her sister Haylie who’s higher placed, with Humor Me, in 10th.

Tori Colvin placed 11th on Genuine.

Boyd also has her veteran partner Brunello coming back in 12th.

And last, but not least, just to prove even in Wellington things aren’t always picture perfect, check out Monterrey and Lillie Keenan’s round. Keenan had to go during the downpour, but she still scored an 83.5 and 76.5 before bonus points to finish 17th and earn an invitation to the handy.

Order of go:

  1. Charleston Z/Victoria Press
  2. Cruise Z/Caroline Spogli
  3. Arico/Lillie Keenan
  4. Listen/Tori Colvin
  5. Temptation/Kristy McCormack
  6. Touchdown/Scott Stewart
  7. Rock Star/Louise Serio
  8. Sander/Maggie Jayne
  9. Monterrey/Lillie Keenan
  10. Bases Loaded/Kelley Farmer
  11. Friday Night/Sandy Ferrell
  12. Monte Cristo/Jennifer Darst
  13. Garfield/Scott Stewart
  14. Brunello/Liza Boyd
  15. Genuine/Tori Colvin
  16. Humor Me/Haylie Jayne
  17. Declaration/Scott Stewart
  18. Miss Lucy/Jennifer Alfano
  19. Quatrain/Liza Boyd
  20. Sienna/Patricia Griffith
  21. Red Sky/Kelley Farmer
  22. Castle Rock/Louise Serio
  23. Taken/Kelley Farmer
  24. Jersey Boy/Jennifer Alfano
  25. Dedication/Scott Stewart
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