Upperville, Va. – June 8, 2019 – The country’s top hunter athletes gathered at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show (UCHS), presented by St. Bride’s Farm, on Saturday evening. Taking over the B&D Builders Jumper Ring 1, they vied for the winning honors during the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by Salamander Resort & Spa. After two rounds of competition, it was Samantha Schaefer’s top score aboard In The Know that would earn the night’s top prize.
Twenty-eight entries showcased their mounts over a beautiful course designed by Skip Bailey that included a technical option allowing athletes to choose between a bounce, a one-stride or a two-stride as well as four high options to earn extra points. When the top 12 returned for the handy round, they also had to hand gallop to the final fence towards the gate. Two panels of judges carefully observed each horse-and-rider combination, and awarded top scores to the horses that jumped beautifully and flowed throughout the course, while also rewarding the handiest pairs with additional points during the final test.
Defending champions Hunt Tosh and Flamingo-K, owned by Ceil and Kenny Wheeler, were ranked fourth heading into the handy round with a score of 179. Tosh showcased his mounts handiness throughout the course and was rewarded with base scores of 87 from both judges as well as an 8 and a 10 for handiness for a combined score of 379 to claim the early lead.
Schaefer was next in the ring with Madeline Schaefer’s In The Know. Originally purchased as an equitation horse, Schaefer knew the 2017 champion would be able to make the difficult left turn after the combination and slice the following vertical. With a very quick hand gallop to the final oxer and perfect exit, the duo left the ring to the resounding applause of the crowd and earned matching scores of 92 with 10 bonus points from the judges for a two-round total of 391, which went straight to the top of the leaderboard.
Sara Taylor is local to the area based out of Marshall, Virginia, and with her hometown behind her she earned the top score of 185 during the first round aboard Sherri Crawford’s Carento. She was part of the horse’s early career before he was successfully campaigned in the junior hunters. Crawford purchased the horse again in 2018 and Taylor was once again back in the saddle with the special mount. She also took the inside turn after Schaefer during the handy round, but with base scores of 88 and 86, as well as handy scores of 4 and 7, the pair’s total score of 382 would pick up second place, while Tosh claimed third and Schaefer took home the winning title.
In 2016, In The Know and Schaefer competed in their first derby together during the UCHS, earning a top three finish and returning in 2017 to take the championship title. In 2018, the duo placed second after the first round behind Tosh, while the handy round was canceled due to weather. This year, Schaefer wanted to win again and knew her veteran mount would excel during the handy round. Her confidence paid off as they galloped around the main ring at the historic competition with their blue ribbon and championship cooler.
The final award of the night was the Russell Frey Style Award, which was presented to sixth place finisher Alex Granato for his performance aboard Rena Lalley’s Day Glow.
Junior hunter champions will be crowned on the final day of the 2019 UCHS on Sunday, while the 166th anniversary of the oldest horse show in America will culminate with the $208,200 Upperville Jumper Classic CSI4*, sponsored by Lugano Diamonds, at 2:30 p.m. in the B&D Builders Jumper Ring I.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Samantha Schaefer – $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by Salamander Resort & Spa, winner
On the handy round:
“I was actually a bit late to the course walk, so I have to thank Hunt and Kate [Conover] for helping me learn the handy quickly. When we learned the handy, I saw [the left turn] right away. My horse is left-leaded and he’s pretty much game for whatever, so I just had that plan and I didn’t really have time to think twice about it. I made my decision out there and that’s what I did and it worked out well. He did it perfectly. I would say the turn I did after the bounce felt like it was nothing because when I landed off of the straw bale to go back into the final line, it seemed like the next vertical came up very fast.”
On In The Know:
“Spyder’s first derby was actually four years ago here and he was second or third, and that was probably a month or two after we bought him. He continued that year after the derby here as an equitation horse — he did the finals. I’m not really sure where the turning point was, it might have been Devon in 2017 — he was just a little big for [my sister] in those classes and she had another horse she was doing well with. I took him here and I did the High Performance and I never gave him back, so I’ve had him almost two full years. We’ve done derby finals and he’s been such a consistent horse that I can count on. I got on him today to flat him and it’s like he’s a totally different horse when he knows it’s important. He always rises to the occasion and it’s something I don’t think you can teach horses, so he’s special to me in that way.”
On turning professional:
“For me, I like to think I’m a hard worker and [Spyder] has my kind of drive. Having a good horse that you can count on, to call your own, to prime for these events and still feel like you can compete is really special. We spend a lot of time teaching the younger kids on the ponies and now they’re moving up through the junior jumpers, so I spend the majority of my year following their schedule. To have a horse that you can always pull out for any big event and count on is really special. That says a lot about him. This winter, I went to work for McLain [Ward]. I took a break and went out on a whim. I did something that was a hard decision for me — to step away from my business — but I had to do it for myself. We thought about having Kate show him, but we just let him have the winter off. He stayed in work, but he didn’t show. This is my third show back with him. He’s a great horse — I can always count on him and it’s nice to have that rock in the barn.”
Sara Taylor – Second place
“Sherri has actually had him since I first started with John and Kitty. He was the first horse I got to do derbies on, but then they sold him, so I was heartbroken. She ended up buying him back last fall, so it’s a partnership that had a little break and then kept going. Now he’s my confidence and my guy that I get to go in the ring on. I was heartbroken when we sold him because he was my first horse to do these big classes on. I never stopped thinking about him. When they called Kitty and said they were selling him, Sherri bought him back in 20 minutes. There was no question. I knew Sherri regretted selling him. We’re really proud to have him back and I know we’re not letting him go again.”
On the handy round:
“At first, I saw the right turn, but then I spoke with Val Renihan and she said I should go left. I had that in the back of my head and then I knew [Sam] was going to do it, so I watched and she made it look a lot easier than it was — she made the whole course look so slick and easy. I have to give Skip [Bailey] props for his course — all week he has done such good courses in both rings and it was fun and different.”
“I live right down the road, so it’s really special to have everybody here. It’s nice to have all of my friends here in my hometown and I can tell everyone where to eat or where to go. I’m proud and I love it here. As soon as I moved here, I bought a house and I plan to stay for a long time.”
On winning the first round:
“It felt pretty good to be in your hometown and get a pair of 90s. He jumped great and he felt really smooth. The course felt really smooth and I was on cloud nine.”
Hunt Tosh – Third place
On the course:
“Flamingo-K is very dependable. He was great last week at Devon and he was great here last year. [Sam and Sara] are two phenomenal riders to compete against. Everyone has their own individual plan for their horse and you kind of stick to that. You don’t want to root against your friends, but with [Sam and Sara] going after you, you have to hope they make a mistake. He jumped great and it was a fun class. It’s such a fun class — there’s great horses, it’s great competition and it’s a great venue.”
On the derby:
“The ring here is so beautiful — it’s one of the prettiest rings in the country. The show does such a great job putting on such a great class like this and the crowd was into it. When Sam was halfway around the ring, the crowd stood up and started cheering. You do get into it, even with the hunters, when everyone starts cheering for you so it’s just a spectacular class.”
On the handy round:
“My first thought [when I saw the course] was that there wasn’t a trot jump and, after my issues last week with the trot at Devon, I was really happy. I haven’t done many bounces with my horse and Sam is kind of the bounce queen. She said it was going to be easy and I was actually almost thinking about doing the one-stride [option] early on. When we walked it, it looked a little tighter and harder to get to. I was thinking about going left and Sam said she was — we were kind of going back and forth, so I jumped and turned right. It was a great course. Sam did a great job and made it look easy. Everything came up faster than you thought early on. It rode nicely, but when you turned back to the high side at the last jump at the ingate, you didn’t think it was going to be as complicated as it was, but when you turned around, you were on top of it. It was a lot harder turn than any of us thought. There was the nice hand gallop at the end and it was a fun course. It was nice, but there was some different stuff and it rode a lot different — to throw the options in there like [Skip] did also helped with the crowd. It gives them something to follow and people got excited when Sam turned left so it was a fun class for sure.”
Barbara Roux – Upperville Colt & Horse Show President
On the importance of showcasing the hunters:
“I think it’s very important because the hunters are a uniquely American tradition. At Upperville, we want that tradition to continue. We make a tremendous effort to find great course designers and have interesting courses for both the riders and the spectators. We just enjoy it so much and it’s such a pleasure to watch.”
On the crowd’s energy:
“I think people really appreciate the complexity of this course. I think it was interesting and I think the riders chose a variety of options. It made it really fun for the spectators and the horses were outstanding, so it made it fun for us. It made it fun for people who didn’t really know the hunter sport as well as others but everyone enjoyed this so much. I think Skip did a really nice job asking the questions and challenging you guys and you rose to the occasion so beautifully — it was amazing.”
$25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by Salamander Resort & Spa
Place / Horse / Rider / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total
1. In The Know / Samantha Schaefer / 179 / 212 | 391
2. Carento / Sara Taylor / 185 / 197 | 382
3. Flamingo-K / Hunt Tosh / 179 / 200 | 379
4. Argentus / Jimmy Torano / 173 / 202 | 375
5. Olympic Fire / Jennifer Hannan / 182 / 180 | 362
6. Day Glow / Alex Granato / 169 / 188 | 357
7. Maitre D’ / Amanda Steege / 170.5 / 178 | 348.5
8. St Tropez / Chad Keenum / 156 / 187 | 343
9. Mayfield / Brady Mitchell / 167.5 / 171 | 338.5
10. Visto’s Bespoke / Jacob Harris / 157 / 179 | 336
11. Cupido Z / Kat Fuqua / 168.25 / 147 | 315.25
12. Lafitte de Muze / Amanda Steege / 175 / 104 | 279