13 Mar Center Court and John French Ace the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
Del Mar, CA – Twenty-five derby horses took to the grand prix field on Friday afternoon for the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Showpark Ranch & Coast Classic. It was John French aboard Center Court who emerged victorious, leading both rounds and finishing with a two-round total of 383. Truly a magical victory, the handsome bay turned eight years old this week and this spectacular win marked his eighth derby victory. Topping the pros, junior rider Augusta Iwasaki and Small Adventure took home the overall red ribbon with an outstanding two-round total of 359.
The judging panels drew from all over the country, with Chris Wynne (VA) and John Roper (TN) comprising one panel joined by Bill Ellis (FL) and Kathryn Griffiths (CA) who made up the second panel. Thomas Hern designed a flowing yet challenging track for the classic round. Riders who returned for the handy round were then tested through both tight turns and options for long gallops.
With a score of 88 + 7 bonus points from Panel One added to 89 + 9 bonus points from Panel Two, and 3 high option points, French and Center Court earned an impressive 199 in the second round, acing the competition.
“In the Handy, you needed to turn pretty tight on the back side of the jumps. I wanted to make sure that [Center Court] was following me and landing on the leads so it would be really smooth,” French described. “He couldn’t have been better in the Handy.”
French noted that Susie Hutchison has been working with the horse since the Blenheim Spring Series and came to help them prepare for the derby. “It meant a lot to me that he won because I know she put a lot of time into him,” he said.
This derby title wrapped up a successful show for French and Center Court, who were Champions in the High Performance Hunter division earlier in the week. Going forward, he has plans for Center Court to make his USHJA Derby Championship debut this August in Lexington, Kentucky.
Along with the tri-colored ribbon, French won the Roeckl Sports Winning Rider Award, taking home a pair of Roeckl Sports gloves, and the Blue Ribbon Blankets Winning Trainer Award. It was Center Court’s owner, Kristen Hiller of Hiller Farms LLC, who won the Balmoral Winning Owner Award. Center Court performed beautifully over the jumps but also looked impeccable, earning his groom Daniel Soto the EquiFit Groom’s Award for Best Turned Out Horse.
As she did in the Spring, Augusta Iwasaki won The Plaid Horse Highest Placing Junior Rider Award.
The action in the grand prix field continues this weekend. Saturday afternoon highlights include young show jumpers competing in the $7,500 Interactive Mortgage Horses 10&U Futurity, followed by a solid group of competitors, including Will Simpson, Rich Fellers, Richard Spooner, Nayel Nassar and more, in the $60,000 Grand Prix of California, presented by EQU Lifestyle Boutique.
$10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
Place – Horse – Rider – Owner – Rd 1 Score/Rd 2 Score/Overall Score
1. Center Court – John French – Hiller Farms, LLC – 184/199/383
2. Small Adventure – Augusta Iwasaki – Iwasaki & Reilly – 171/188/359
3. Ninja – Nicole Haunert – Paul Haunert – 162/190/352
4. Matador – Jamie Sailor – Taylor Cusumano – 166/184/350
5. Ubella du Rouet – John French – Crooks Show Jumping, LLC – 154/184/338
6. Legacy – Jenny Karazissis – Emily Sukert – 171/165/336
7. Cocoluxe – Demi Stiegler – Tate Beteta – 157/177/334
8. Intuition – Kelli Di Gioia-Bautista – Kelli Di Gioia-Bautista – 164.5/163/327.5
9. Notorious – Emily Esau-Williams – Lilly Clarkson – 144/163/324
10. Really – Jenny Karazissis – Michelle Cobb – 143/134/277
11. Cavalier – Augusta Iwasaki – Georgy Maskrey-Segesman – 150.5/113/263.5
12. Salvatore – Natalie Templeton – Natalie Templeton – 152/El.