February 7, 2015--An underdog rose to the top of the ranks Friday at The Ridge at Wellington's second annual Hunter Derby Days. Mindset is the rising superstar of Rose Hill Farm, bought for Lilli Hymowitz to show in the Small Junior Hunter division, but professional hunter rider Kelley Farmer captured the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby victory with consistent rounds and finesse on the turf derby field. Farmer and Mindset bested a field of top competitors, while David Oliynyk and Generous captured the second place and Brady Mitchell and Answer Me This finished third.
Kenneth Krome and Nick Granat of the United States captured the essence of a traditional hunt field as he transformed the turf Hunter Derby Field at the Ridge at Wellington into a challenging and beautifully set course. He utilized natural objects such as logs, brush and birch to set the scene, while challenging riders with a serpentine of obstacles. Set amidst the surrounding water and an array of palm trees, the top 12 riders had to traverse the technical second round course track while still earning valuable handy and high option points, adding crucial tallies to their already impressive score.
Out of a field of 22 horse and rider combinations, 12 would find their way into the challenging handy course, with Farmer and Mindful leading the way with a base score of 188 points. Returning in reverse order, each round showed handiness and accuracy with riders choosing inside turns, angles and strong hand gallops to impress judges Linda Andrisani, R. Scott Fitton, Mindy Minetto and Dee Thomas. It was Oliynyk who shined with veteran partner Generous, owned by Lori Gaudet. They earned seven points for their handiness through the course, and chose all four high options for a combined handy score of 194 points, jumping from seventh with the high scoring handy round to the second place position.
"It's a wonderful venue. Being able to show out on the grass is so different than being at the show grounds," Oliynyk said. "It is different to come and do and give the horses a different experience. We can to the second hunter derby last year, and we loved it so much we returned for this year. He has always been really good on the grass. He really hasn't shown that much this year, this is his first show back."
Oliynyk continued, "The first round he was a little spirited, but he settled down for the second round. He came back in beautifully and really felt like he was jumping well, it was fun to go out there. I thought the courses were very fair and considering the amount of rain we had yesterday, the turf was great, they maintain it so well."
Although Farmer led the standings coming back for the handy round, a mishap at the birch trot jump ultimately lost her one-two finish she was hoping for with Mindful.
"I am dumbfounded as to what happened at that trot jump," Farmer laughed. "My bravest horse! He has jumped every course in North America. I don't know if it was the birch or the background, but it was a good experience for us. We will practice with more birch logs at home and more distractions in the background. He has given so much though, that he owes nothing."
Taking a more conservative approach to the first round, Farmer chose to only jump the low options, earning the first round score of 86 and 86.5 for a cumulative base score of 172.5 points. They returned for the handy round with a little more gusto, choosing two high options and adding seven handy points to their score for an 85 and an 81.
"I jumped all low in the first round since he is such a good jumper," Farmer said. "I had to think about what he has to do tomorrow, I may have taken a different option, but I didn't want to overdo him. I used my better judgment."
Farmer continued, "He is brave, scopey and athletic. I thought he might do well out here, I thought he had a chance; it is great that he won. This field is tough with the water and how open the field is; the horses sometimes get lost out here. He is a fantastic horse, and I am lucky enough that I still have the opportunity to ride him."
Oliynyk would finish second with a combined score of 349 points, 12 points off of Farmer's winning total. Brady Mitchell and Answer Me This, owned by Phoebe Weseley, took home the third place finish with a final score of 330 points.
It was Mindset who would stand in the limelight Friday for his two consistent rounds in the International Hunter Derby. The young gelding has only been in the United States for a little over two months, but he is already earning a name in the hunter ring, and now in the hunter derby competitions.
"What an amazing animal--they all are!" eventual winner Farmer exclaimed. "We bought him and then we sold him to Rose Hill Farm. Lilli Hymowitz has been showing him in the Younger Small Juniors and it looks like it is going to be a beautiful match. Ideally, he is for her, but since yesterday got scrapped with all of the rain, we thought it would be best to bring him out and show him here where he can have a good experience."
Farmer described the courses saying, "It was enough course for a young horse. This field is great! They take great care of it, and it rides nicely. I thought they built beautifully, it looks nice, and it was hard enough but still allowed riders to have the option."
Chad Keenum and High Five captured the fourth place with a score of 329 points, while Evan Coluccio and Rarity finished fifth, just a point behind. Peter Wylde and Candor rounded out the top six with a cumulative score of 328 points.