ATHERTON, CA – August 12, 2016
One of the highlights of the Menlo Charity Horse Show is the USHJA International Hunter Derby Presented by Dr. Daryl K. Hoffman, this anxiously anticipated class on Thursday afternoon is steeped in tradition never ever disappoints.
“The Menlo Horse Show in general is a very special show, it’s unique event held in the middle of a beautiful residential neighborhood. Menlo is a gorgeous show, with great jumps and the crowd is always involved,” said Nick Haness, the winner of back-to-back Derbies in 2014 and 2015. “There is a certain element of excitement to the show, and it’s always been a fun Derby to participate in and to watch.”
As the excitement builds on the MCHS showgrounds and the VIP tent begins to fill, the Grass Hunter Field is prepared for the late afternoon event.
“When the other classes are over and the volunteers are decorating the jumps for the Derby. It looks like the Rose Parade is coming through the horse show.” laughed Nick. “The volunteers are out on the field; placing flowers, and decorating with all sorts of materials, greenery, flowers and plants. It’s definitely a production. You can see the care that goes into it, another element that makes the Derby extra special and fun to compete in and to watch.”
There are many differences between the MCHS Derby and other events on the circuit, as one of a handful of venues in California that run Derbies on grass, the MCHS in Northern California is pretty special. When 4.30pm arrives all eyes were on the 20 horses competing in the first of the two rounds.
“It’s a really inviting and pretty course, this venue is awesome and as you only show here once a year that makes it much more unique. Often times many other Derbies get put to the end of the day or moved to another ring and people aren’t always able to watch, this event people want to see. There is obviously people here that are not horse people, they are here to watch pretty horses go round, you get a lot of those people oohing and aahing from the sides, that’s always really fun.” said Nick.
Nick was especially looking forward to this year’s class, because for once he actually got to hang up his show clothes, grab a glass of wine and sit and watch, no pressure. Nick not only was able to support his fellow competitors and friends, but he was also able to help his student, Karina Sanchez on Way Out West. Karina is a big part of Nick’s business and her family owns multiple horses in partnership with him. Riding in the class had been a goal and a dream for Karina, and she did an exceptional job, just missing the cut off in the first round, not bad at all for the first time in such a prestigious Derby.
The first round of the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby presented twenty wonderful Hunters. The top scores as they moved into the Handy Round with a cut off score of 150 were as follows:
- Tara Metzner and Cy Young 186
- John French and Center Court 181
- Hugh Mutch and Bunistar 179.5
- John Bragg and Early August 179.5
As the twelve riders prepared to come back for the Handy round a very special event took place, a celebration of Widget and his retirement from competitive life. Widget’s owner Lindsay Maxwell also announced a new trophy in Widget’s honor. The Widget Perpetual Trophy will go to the highest scoring single round in the Junior Hunters or Amateur Owner Hunters.
When Lindsay Maxwell first moved to California, Archie Cox told her, “I know a horse who is a movie star…and you’ll be so grateful for him.” The movie star was Widget. Like many things precious and rare, Widget never truly “belonged” to any one rider. He embodies the spirit of California – ambitious, courageous, and bold. Widget retires from showing healthy, happy, and forever a champion in residence at Brookway Stables.
Through the years, Widget enjoyed great success at the Menlo Charity Horse Show. A winner of countless championships, hunter prixs, hunter classics, and medals, Widget also recently won top ribbons at the Devon Horse Show. In imitable Widget fashion, at his final show in the amateur owner hunter division, Widget won both the championship and classic.
Lindsay graciously provided a champagne toast for all in attendance in honor of Widget.
In preparation for Widget’s retirement Lindsay looked to Archie and her friends at Brookway Stables to suggest a suitable venue.
“I spoke with Archie about where we would do it and Archie said Menlo is such a special show with wonderful tradition and Widget has won here so many times that I felt this would be a really special place to do it.” Lindsay explained.
“True to its reputation, the Show is proving to be a fast favorite of mine. Its history of excellence and charity is second to none – it is such a wonderful asset to the community and I am humbled to share in its tradition.”
The Show also has an additional significance for Lindsay due its support of the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Lindsay has close friends and family members who have been challenged by sight-related issues. Her charitable fund has a programmatic focus on access for special needs and at-risk children, and the Vista Center’s work in the Bay Area is an outstanding model for communities nationwide that provide counseling, support, and life skills for the visually impaired.
Lindsay explained,” The volunteers who donate thousands upon thousands of hours to support the MCHS for the benefit of the Vista Center personify the generous spirit that makes the equestrian community so wonderful. More than being a spectacularly beautiful event, the spirit of the Show is made most manifest in the generosity of its volunteers.”
As Widget left the ring for the last time a beautiful garland around his neck, the final round of the Hunter Derby began.
As the shadows began to fall in the field the 12 leading horses completed the course in reverse order, a beautiful scene with the exceptional fences and a course providing opportunity for all to show the handiness of there horses.
At the end of the competition the same four hunters remained at the top of the field. The overall results:
1st Center Court and John French
2nd Early August and John Bragg
3rd Bunistar and Hugh Mutch
4th Cy Young and Tara Metzner
5th Osilvia and Ashlin Bowen
6th Lulavani and Sami Milo
7th Pacific Heights and John French
8th Lukatoni and John Bragg
9th Boss and Brooke Morin
10th Dinner For Two and Hugh Mutch
11th Frederick and Natalie Dean
12th Sambuca and Kylee Arbuckle
John French who has been attending MCHS for almost 30 years was delighted with Center Court, and praised the work of the volunteers who prepared the fences, many known to John; people he has trained with or used to train with, in his home town.
Talking about Center Court John explained, “I liked the fact that in the first round he was good, he was not quite awake at the beginning of the course, but then all of a sudden of realized, we were jumping bigger jumps. He hasn’t been showing for a while so we have not done much with him. We showed him at HITS Thermal where he was circuit champion in the winter. He has had some time off now, so we were debating wither to bring him here.” I just showed him in one class earlier in the week, he’s not afraid of anything. He seemed like he was fine to me and I wanted to save him for this class today and not tire him out. The more impressive it is the better it is for him that’s why you save him. I like coming in second or third after the Classic round because there isn’t as much pressure on you going into the Handy round when you have to move up. Center Court was super smooth in the Handy I think they rewarded him because he can turn really tight to the jumps and does it effortlessly, he does it easily your not trying to create the jump or legging him to get him over he can do it in his sleep that’s how scopey he is .
It’s so nice to be on the Grass Hunter Field, with a big crowd which great preparation for Derby Finals. We were waiting to see how well he did here today and whether to send him back to Kentucky next week, you never know, we just might go for it.
Center Court’s owner Kristen Hiller was also delighted with her seven-year-old horse in only his second Menlo Derby outing “Last year we just missed by a lead change, but this year he was awesome,” said Kristen “I live two blocks away, so Menlo is the horse show that I grew up going to and was always hoping that I would have a champion like Billy (Billy the Kid aka Center Court) he’s made Menlo very special very quickly.”