Hunt Tosh rode in new breeches last year before he and Cannon Creek won the 2021 Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship. So this year, he bought some new ones and wore them. He also carried a collection of “really lucky” sparkly stone rocks that his daughter gave him when she was young. Additionally, his support team always sits in the same spot as previous years.
“I drive myself crazy because I’m so superstitious,” Tosh said with a laugh.
His strategy is paying off so far. He and the Wheeler Family’s Cannon Creek sit in first place after the Classic Hunter Round. Their score is 289. Additionally, John French and Kent Farrington LLC’s Milagro are in second with 287. Hannah Isop and Tracy Freels’ Red Ryder are in third with 283.75. The championships are at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Rolex Arena in Lexington.
Sixty-nine horse-and-rider combinations worked over Alan Lohman’s course. The course included 13 jumping efforts and four high options that earned riders bonus points. The top 41 riders will be invited to compete in tomorrow night’s Handy Hunter Round. The remainder will compete in the Derby Challenge.
Horses had to qualify to compete at the championships by earning a minimum of $500 in USHJA International Hunter Derby classes from June 2, 2021–June 1, 2022.
Cannon Creek: A Repeat Performance
About Cannon Creek’s round today, Tosh said, “He is such a good horse, and I am lucky to have him. … He owes us nothing at this point, but I wanted to go in and have a nice solid trip. Kind of guarantee we’d go in tomorrow night. He went beautifully. I was so happy with him.” Cannon Creek is an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding.
Tosh’s wife, Mandy, and the Wheelers cautioned him about not taking chances that would bump him out of being able to compete in the Handy Hunter Round. “[They] told me not to make a bad mistake and try to jump a high jump and have it down,” Tosh said. “They’re like, ‘Even if it’s going well … I landed from the next-to-last jump and thought about [taking the high option at the last jump]. Then I thought, ‘I’d better be safe.’” So he jumped the lower side of the oxer.
Elaborating more on his superstitions, Tosh said he parked his motorbike in the same spot as he did last year. To which French quipped about his strategy for tomorrow night’s class. “Now I know to move his motorbike.”
A Newcomer: Milagro
French said he prefers sitting in second place going into tomorrow’s round in the USHJA Hunter Derby Championships. Milagro is a 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding who started the year competing in the 3-foot-3 division. After one class at that height, French moved him into the 3-foot-6 division and then 4-foot. “I was really proud of him today to march around like that,” French said. “He’s just a very scopey horse. The bigger the jumps, the better with him.”
Milagro had competed in jumper divisions in Europe before coming to the States. “He’s just that type of horse that doesn’t need to stay in the lower jumps. He can jump the bigger ones, and then you can ride harder at the fences and then he jumps even higher.”
A Veteran: Red Ryder
At the other end of the spectrum, Isop and the 18-year-old Selle Français gelding Red Ryder are derby championship veterans. She thought this is their fourth appearance in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships. “He’s a bit of an older horse, so I wanted to come in and have a good trip.” Of being with Tosh and French in the top three, she added: “It’s a dream come true, sitting here with these two.”
“It was a very competitive class,” Isop added, explaining why she chose to ride the high options. “Everyone was putting in great trips. My plan when I walked was to go to the high option. But he felt great, and he felt like he was jumping better and better as the class went on. And as I said, there’s a lot of good horses and a lot of great riders in here. So I just decided to go all out.”
Tomorrow at the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships
For tomorrow’s Hunter Derby Round, riders are grouped into two tiers based on the amount of derby money won in the last three years. To be classified as Tier I, a rider must have been standing 40th or higher on the International Hunter Derby Three-Year-Rider Money won list as of December 1, 2018. They will compete in Section A. All other riders are classified as Tier II and will compete in Section B. Only Section A riders will be eligible to win the championships.
The scores from today will be added to the scores from the Hunter Derby Round to select the winner. The riders will compete tomorrow in reverse order of placing.