The 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) hosted the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby on Friday, February 22, during Week 7 of the season. Rings 11 and 12 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center were combined to allow course designer Robert McGregor room for a larger track with more options. The derby was split into two categories—professional and junior/amateur— that each offered $10,000 in prize money and saw over 30 horse-and-rider combinations contest each section.
Jeff Gogul secured the win in the professional section aboard Roaring Brook LLC’s Counselor, while Jackie MacDonald bested the field in the junior/amateur section with Jennifer MacDonald’s Chalk Hill.
Jeff Gogul and Counselor. Photo © ESP/Liza Goodlett
Gogul dominated the professional division as he and the nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding earned scores of 92.00 and 91.00 points for a grand total of 183.00 points. His mount, Counselor, was only purchased in Europe at the end of the previous summer for amateur student Abby Wagner and had never previously competed in the hunters before making his trip to the U.S.
“He’s a great guy because he’s a real straight shooter and extremely brave,” Gogul explained. “You can always count on him to jump the jumps in good style because you can gallop down the line and he will still produce a high, slow jump. He’s very consistent in his jumping form.”
Gogul said the experience of having the class up at what is commonly known as “Pony Island” brought a fresh feel to the competition and allowed for a better warm-up.
Jeff Gogul and Counselor in their winning presentation. Photo © ESP/Liza Goodlett.
“It was a really nice day because you had the huge warm-up area to prepare in and then a nice big ring to show in because they combined the rings,” he commented. “The course was very inviting; I had to help him a bit more in the second round than the first because of the heat, but I think the course suited him well.”
The reserve in the professional section went to Meredith Gallagher and Annette Friend’s Rebel De Vizy with scores of 86.5 points and 93.00 points combining for a total of 179.5 points. Third place went to Havens Schatt with Julia McNerney’s Caemlyn Z with a total of 174.00 points after accumulating 91.00 points and 83.00 points.
MacDonald’s family has owned the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Calato x Liberty I) for several years, but she only took over the ride from her sister earlier last year. The pair held a three-point lead in the junior/amateur section with combined scores of 87.00 points and 84.00 points to produce a total of 171.00 points.
Jackie MacDonald and Chalk Hill. Photo © ESP/Liza Goodlett.
“He has a really great expression overall. He looks happy to be doing his job all of the time, and I just really love that about him,” she said of her mount.
“I’ve mainly been focusing on getting him to come back to me more before the jump so he can produce a better form over the top,” she continued. “I don’t get to train much during the week because I am usually in Massachusetts and he is down here, but I was able to spend the entire week down here this past week. I think that really helped me to be able to establish what I wanted to fix.”
Jackie MacDonald and Chalk Hill in their winning presentation. Photo © ESP/Liza Goodlett.
The junior/amateur section second place was awarded to Kristen Simmons and her own Curb Appeal with scores of 90.00 points and 79.00 points totaling 169.00 points overall. Hannah Loeffelbein and Two Point Equestrian LLC’s Trendsetter landed the third place with scores of 79.00 points and 88.00 points totaling 167.00.