John French and Skyhawk
June 18, 2017 – San Juan Capistrano, CA – After leading both the Classic Round and the Handy Round, John French emerged victorious in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby aboard Laura Wasserman’s Skyhawk. Galloping on the grass at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano, French topped a field of eighteen entries. The legendary “Derby Master” finished with a two-round total of 372, while thirteen-year-old Augusta Iwasaki rode Ashland Farms’ Vanderpump to a second place finish, scoring a total of 344.5 points.
The two judging panels for the class consisted of Sue Ashe of Wellington, FL, and Mark Jungherr of Amesbury, MA as panel one. Michael Page of North Salem, NY, and Scott Fitton of Wellington, FL, comprised the second panel. Jasen Shelley, also of Wellington, FL, designed two beautiful tracks on The Oaks International Grand Prix Field.
Despite some heartbreak rails in the first round, twelve horses advanced to the Handy, where tight inside turns combined with spaces to gallop made for an exciting finish. Shelley set the high option fences up to 4’3″ (1.45m), and French took full advantage of the extra points, taking three high option fences in each round with ease. For his impressive performance in the second round, he received seven and nine handy points from the two judging panels, respectively.
“He’s great at turning and trot fences, so he made it easy to ride,” French said of Skyhawk. “I liked in the second round how the high options were changed around so that they invited the handy turns.”
John French and Skyhawk with Alexandra Rheinheimer, Sheryl Wheaton, and Melissa Brandes
Along with earning the tri-color ribbon, French walked away with a pair of Roeckl Sports gloves. He has now championed the last three derbies he has entered and currently sits second in the rankings for USHJA Rider Lifetime Money Earned.
Special sponsored awards went to riders, owners, trainers and grooms. Laura Wasserman received the Balmoral Winning Owner Award, a trophy, and two USHJA embroidered items – a cooler as well as a bridle bag – for her horse Skyhawk’s victory. It was Archibald Cox III who earned the Blue Ribbon Blankets Winning Trainer Award.
Iwasaki, who rode her mount Vanderpump with aplomb over each of the high options in the Handy Round, took home The Plaid Horse Highest Placing Junior Rider Award. The young talent has claimed this award in every derby in the Blenheim EquiSports season thus far.
Augusta Iwasaki and Vanderpump
French trains Iwasaki, and noted that she keeps him on his toes. “She’s been making me work!” he joked, noting she also came in second to him in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Showpark Ranch & Coast in May.
Lindsay Maxwell and Melissa Brandes
Lindsay Maxwell earned the One K Helmets Highest Placing Amateur Rider Award riding her horse Baranus. The EquiFit Groom’s Award for Best Turned Out Horse went to Omar Nava for his work with Strasburg Morin Inc.’s Boss, who was ridden by junior rider Brooke Morin to an eighth place finish.
Omar Nava with Brooke Morin and Melissa Brandes
$10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
Place – Horse – Rider – Owner – Rd 1 Score/Rd 2 Score/Overall Score
1. Skyhawk – John French – Laura Wasserman – 177/195/372
2. Vanderpump – Augusta Iwasaki – Ashland Farms – 156.5/188/344.5
3. Matador – Jamie Sailor – Taylor Cusumano – 168/170/338
4. Really – Jenny Karazissis – Michelle Cobb – 168/167/335
5. Lautento – Grace Tuton – Nicodemus Farms – 145/163/308
6. L’Con Reyes – Jamie Taylor – Bravado, LLC – 166/141/307
7. Intuition – Kelli Di Gioia-Bautista – Kelli Di Gioia-Bautista – 117/175/292
8. Boss – Brooke Morin – Strasburg Morin, Inc. – 168/114/282
9. Cajeton – Katie Taylor – Noteworthy Horses – 102/170/272
10. Ninja – Nicole Haunert – Paul Haunert – 98/171/269
11. Center Court – John French – Hiller Farms, LLC – 165/94/259
12. Catira – Jamie Taylor – Sue Lightner – 142/0/142