John French & Milagro. Photo © Sportfot.
Competition in the International Ring at Wellington International drew to a close Friday afternoon with a total of 47 top hunter combinations taking to the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by Perfect Products. Over a course designed by Andy Christiansen as an efficient hunt-and-go format, the lead changed hands several times throughout the one-round challenge, but ultimately the top honors were awarded to John French and eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding Milagro.
“He stands out in the hunter derbies because he has a lot of scope; he is slow in the air so I can make the tight turns on landing easily; he is very brave, and I never have to worry he’s going to look at anything,” French gushed of the gelding.
As no stranger to the victory gallop, once French got through the first half of the course, which he expressed had a few tests for himself, he knew that Milagro’s exceptional form and athleticism would take care of the rest.