John French and Soldier Victorious in the $30,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby - Waldenbrook Farm - John French
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John French and Soldier Victorious in the $30,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby

The 8th Annual Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby, the only stand-alone event of its kind west of the Mississippi, once again left riders and spectators wanting more. The atmosphere in the spectacular VIP Pavilion, framed by the snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountains, the gorgeous grass Hunter Derby field dotted with impressive custom designed and built elements provided a challenging test of some of the top horses and riders in the country.

John French, the current World Champion Hunter Rider and USHJA Hunter Derby Rider of the Year for the West Coast continued his winning ways on Meadow Farm LLC’s Soldier, with a combined score of 401.5. French also claimed the 4th spot on Center Court owned by Hiller Farms LLC.

“I was super happy with Soldier’s first round, everything came up forward and in that big field you can really show off that gallop. He has not done a great deal of International Derbies lately, so he really stepped up today.” French explained, “Jenny is an amazing rider, and having gone before me in the handy round, I knew she was sitting 1st and 2nd as I entered the ring. Halfway around the course we had the trot jump and Soldier can be a little bit difficult; I had turned so tight and he trotted it so great today, I was like…oh my God! I have a chance… we just galloped to the last jump. It was a phenomenal, I couldn’t have asked for a better day.” John shared his thoughts on Center Court’s 4th place finish “The one rub cost him, but he was really on it today, who knows what could have happened. They both love the Derby field, it feels really good when they go the way you expect and want them to go, I am thrilled.”

John French and Soldier ©Alden Corrigan Media

Another hard earned award went to Luis Soto, as Best Groom he was presented with a $200 check from the MacLean Financial Group.

Finishing in second Jenny Karazissis and Nonchalant owned by Briana Sukert earned an overall score of 397 and an impressive 210 to win the handy round. Karazissis also took home 3rd place on Undeniable, owned by Hope Town Farms, a past four-time winner of the class and 6th place with Legacy owned by Emily Sukert.

“It was a whirlwind for me having three in the class and trying to remain focused. The competition was very tough and I was so happy with my horses, especially in the second round. They really came to the party. The handy is so fun and I really enjoy riding in it.” Karazissis said, “I am sorry it is all over, I just enjoy being here so much and I look forward to coming back again next year.”

Judges Shane George of Magnolia, TX and Troy Hendricks of Phoenixville, PA talked about the day’s competition.

“I loved coming to judge this event, it’s like none other that you can go to anywhere else in the country. Great management, great facility, beautiful setting, on grass to die for, so spongy and soft and the horses go great on it. The class itself was really competitive and in the second round it really got down to the wire. It’s always enjoyable when everything is that close.” said George.

“This was my first time at Franktown Meadows, and when I go back East I am going to tell all my friends how great this event is. The management put on an excellent, top-notch competition, the volunteers were phenomenal, the field was beautiful and the tent for spectators was wonderful. Everything was just over the top.” Hendricks continued. “The jumps were beautiful, the backdrop could not be any better and it’s in a gorgeous location, with a very nice group of competitors and horses which made our job easy and fun, but hard at the same time. At the end of the day the best horse won, it was a great competition to judge. If they ask me back, I will be here in a heartbeat.”

Prior to the Derby, John French, Hope Glynn and Jenny Karazissis joined announcer Hawley MacLean to pitch their teams to the crowd, encouraging and raising bids for the Calcutta Auction. The auction raised $5,500 in support of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada and JDRF.

Following the Calcutta in keeping with tradition, the Calling of the Hounds provided insight into the world of the Red Rock Hounds, who registered with the Masters of Foxhounds Association in 1980. The Master and Whipper-In’s led the hounds around the Derby field to the delight of the audience.

The pre-event ceremonies began with the entrance of the Washoe County Mounted Unit. Camron Burr then joined them on the Derby field to sing a beautiful rendition of the national anthem. The half time entertainment, provided by Silver State Vaulters, demonstrated an equestrian sport that combines dance and gymnastics in harmony with a walking, trotting or cantering horse on a lunge line.

Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby extended thanks to all who supported and sponsored this year’s event. “I would like to say thank you to all of our riders, to all of our owners, to the trainers, the officials and everyone who has been part of this team. It has been an accumulation of a full year of hard work. We are not a polished horse show team and we produce this Derby, so everyone comes together with heart and soul and makes it happen, We are all here because we want to be here.” Aimee LaFayette explained, “I wish to say a special thanks to our sponsors, an event like ours would not be possible without their support.

PR originally published by Franktown Meadows.