August 18, 2018—The theme for Saturday night under the lights at the Rolex Stadium could have been “twice as nice,” as Tori Colvin won her second USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in a row with a brilliant handy round on owner Brad Wolf’s Private Practice. The win follows on the heels of her derby championship in 2017 aboard John and Stephanie Ingram’s Cuba.
Tori added 327 points to her score with her handy round, including a 96, 95 and 96 from the three judging panels. On Private Practice, an 8-year-old Holsteiner chestnut gelding, she took all four high options on course and secured handy bonus scores of 10, 8 and 10. Added to her 279 score from Friday’s classic round, which had put her in second place going into the handy, she won the class easily with a combined score of 606 points—more than 16 points ahead of her nearest competitor.
“Today he jumped out of his skin, really rose to the occasion,” Tori said. “He was supple and amazing. Everything went as planned, which was fantastic.”
Twice as nice also worked for Liza Boyd, who had the next two horses in the top three placings. With a combined score of 589.50, she took home Reserve Champion on Clemens, an 8-year-old bay Oldenburg gelding owned by her family’s Finally Farm. She also won third place with a score of 584.75 on owner Maggie Hill’s Tradition, an 8-year-old Westphalian bay gelding.
“I was so proud of both my horses. They are both second year, 3-foot-9 horses and they stepped up to the plate,” Boyd said.
Thirty-four rider-and-horse combinations competed Saturday night in the 10 anniversary of the derby championships at the Lexington Horse Park. They tackled a challenging course with four high options and multiple opportunities for handiness, competing for the $289,730 in prize money.
Holly Shepherd, riding Helen Brown’s Tybee, finished in fourth place with a combined score of 584.25. She had been sitting first after Friday’s classic round and said the pressure of holding the top spot had perhaps been a factor in her performance.
“Going back on top is always the most nerve-wracking place to be,” she explained. “My horse could feel a bit of that.”
Alan Lohman returned again this year to design the course, which included a final oxer set on the high option at 4-foot-6. Alan said he tried to design a course that “would be fun to watch. I wanted to give the riders some more handy options.” Included in that plan was an unusual combination at Fences 9 and 10, two split rail fences set on a “V” angle—each with three panels. The riders could choose to ride the bounce panel on the right, the one-stride panel in the middle or the two-stride panel on the far left.
“I wanted something different but not too crazy,” he explained. “But I did not get the idea for that bounce until just this morning.”
The combination certainly received attention during the pre-championship course walk, with plenty of discussion about how best to navigate the two fences. “I had enough things to stress about so I just let Jack [Towell, her father] tell me what to do,” Liza said.
The USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship is the culmination of qualifying events throughout the year; this year 278 horses across the country enrolled in the program. Since its inception in 2008, the program has paid out more than $12.3 million in prize money.
For the 2018 championship, 85 horses competed in the classic round on Friday, with the top 25 horses advancing to the Section A handy round, and an additional 9 horses competing in the Section B handy round. Scores from both rounds, garnered from three judging panels (each with two judges) are counted towards the championship.
Details on the USHJA scoring and tiering system are available at https://www.ushja.org/programs/ihd/finals_default.aspx.