Devon Pa.—June 3
Some horses have favorite venues where they always seem to shine, places where something about the atmosphere, schedule or facility suit them perfectly. Lucky for Jennifer Alfano, Devon Horse Show always seems to be at the top of Jersey Boy’s list.
That chestnut gelding, owned by Susie Schoellkopf of SBS Farm, topped the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter derby for the third year in a row today. He edged out Red Sky and Taken, both Kelley Farmer rides, for the blue. Peter Pletcher’s partner, NLF Shakespeare’s Rhythm, jumped to fourth.
J.P. Godard, who has been building the hunter tracks all week, laid the track for the 24 competitors.
The last fence was set as an option of oxers, and the tougher choice proved the bogey obstacle. The bigger fence, headed toward the corner near the in-gate, came down several times in Round 1. Victims of that fence included both of Liza Boyd’s mounts—last year’s runner-up Brunello and her up-and-coming star Quatrain. Alfano’s other derby star, Miss Lucy, who earned the reserve title in the high performance division earlier in the week, had that fence down as well. By mid-class, most horses were electing the easier choice there.
“I’m not sure why that jump kept coming down,” said Alfano, Buffalo, N.Y. “It was so close to the end of the ring, and maybe they were shifting a little right and having it down behind—it was big and wide. Also, I think when it keeps happening to people, you worry about it.”
The winner of the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby in Wellington, Taken, earned the top call in Round 1. The little Dutch Warmblood owned by Nancy Amling jumped beautifully around the track on the way to raw marks of 92 and 88 and full credit for all the high options. Fresh off derby wins at Keswick (Va.) and Memphis In May (Tenn.), Red Sky came closest to his barnmate to lay second after the classic round.
Round 2 incorporated in a trot fence, options for inside turns and a hand gallop to the last jump, giving Alfano plenty of places to show off to help move up from third place.
“I knew I had some ground to make up in the handy,” said Alfano. “He’s so awesome in the handies; I know I can count on him. I usually try to make up some points.”
Alfano did that by keeping it smooth while finding the tightest inside turns possible. She encouraged Jersey Boy to pick up the pace to the last fence, earning marks of 94 and 92 and matching handy points of 9.
“Once I got through the other stuff, I like the whole hand gallop part of things,” she said. “I was worried about the turn to the vertical that was so tight. After he jumped that so great, I was confident, and it was smooth sailing to the last one.”
Schoellkopf, who also trains Jersey Boy, missed last year’s derby after a family emergency. This year she returned to Buffalo on Wednesday, and she considered sitting out the derby again.
“We have had such an amazing week, I almost didn’t come back,” she joked. During senior week Alfano piloted Rapunzel to the grand hunter and green conformation titles, and Alfano earned Leading Lady Rider honors.
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