Maggie Jayne and The Answer.
Maggie Jayne and The Answer trotted into the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby as the tenth in the order, took over the lead and never relinquished it, riding to the win Thursday afternoon at the Devon Horse Show.
Jayne and the 8-year-old gelding earned scores of 90 and 87 from the two judging panels, which, coupled with four high option points, gave them a first round score of 185. Thirty-two combinations followed Jayne and The Answer in the first round, including last year’s winners, Kelley Farmer and Mindful, and 2013 winners Tori Colvin and Inclusive, but none were able to touch the leading score.
Second in the first round went to Sandy Ferrell and Meralex Farm Inc.’s El Primero with a total from the two judges of 180.5 points, while Jennifer Alfano and Helen Lenahan’s Miss Lucy rounded out the top three with 180 points.
The top 12 combinations returned for the technical handy round, designed by Alan Lohman, which included numerous options for riders to display their horses’ handiness. Liza Boyd perhaps did that nearly as well as anyone. Finishing in the eleventh place position after the first round, Boyd and Sterling were the second to return for the handy round, and Boyd took a risky turn that paid off big time.
“I had nothing to lose,” Boyd said. “I was actually the only one that did the inside turn to the oxer. I made that decision when I walked the course, I just knew. I knew I had to go for it. We all go for it. If you are sitting in 11th and you know you have a horse that can do it, you go for it.”
Boyd and Sterling, owned by Pony Lane Farm, landed from the oxer set as the sixth fence and made an extremely tight turn to the oxer set as fence seven.
Boyd continued, “It seemed nearly impossible, but that horse is amazing. I don’t know how he did it. He made it, and it honestly seemed easy. I don’t think I would have even tried it on Brunello. A couple weeks ago in Tryon he was second in the Derby behind Mindful, and he did all the turns that Mindful did there, so he kind of proved to me that he could do it. I took a shot, and it worked out.”
The move shot Boyd from 11th to the third place position where she would remain through to the end. No one else in the class attempted such a move, instead all elected more conservative displays of handiness, with positions staying much the same from the first round through the second round.
Ferrell and El Primero fell from second to sixth leaving the door open for Alfano who returned with Miss Lucy to deliver scores of 87 and 86 plus four high option points for a second round total of 196 and an overall score of 376. Jayne and The Answer were the last to return, with a combined score of 191 necessary to remain in the lead and take the win.
With a seamless trip delivered and three of the high option fences tackled, Jayne and Pony Lane Farm’s The Answer finished on scores of 86.5 and 85.5 for a second round total of 195 and a grand total of 380, clinching the victory.
“The horse has just been coming along so nicely,” Jayne said of The Answer. “It’s a nice notch on his belt to prove that he can do this. It’s great for his resume because it’s Devon. I got a new stock tie because we are at Devon! My other shadbelly lost a button, so the shipper left yesterday, and it came overnight in the trailer, because it’s Devon. It’s very important, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for the Thatchers and for the horse – it all came together.”
Jayne took over the ride on The Answer from her sister, Haylie Jayne Rolfe, who is expecting her first child in November. The Answer typically competes in the Second Year Green Hunters with Jayne and in the Amateur-Owner Hunters with Kelsey Thatcher.
“I started at the end of Florida, and I’ve done one show since Florida. Then we came here,” Jayne said. “He’s a blast, tries really hard and always tries to jump clean. I am having a lot of fun.”
Jayne continued, “[Haylie] was watching on the computer, and she texted me. She’s hysterical. She’s like ‘it’s the hormones!’ She’s really cute and supportive.”
The Derby on Thursday is one of only a handful that The Answer has done thus far, but competing in the derby at Devon was the perfect fit for him.
“That’s the great part about this derby, you get to show out here during the week,” Jayne said. “The horses get so comfortable. It’s very inviting.”
Finishing in second were derby veterans Jennifer Alfano and Miss Lucy who finished on an overall score of 376. After colic surgery two years ago and surgery on a keratoma in her hind foot last year, Miss Lucy is back in the show ring and in top form.
“She was awesome. It’s so great to have her back in the ring and going again,” Alfano said. “She’s a really special horse to me. Having her back really means a lot. There is not a jump you wouldn’t point her at. You don’t ever have to really give that a second thought with her.”
The $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby marked the conclusion of the professional hunters at the Devon Horse Show, but competition resumes on Friday with the Amateur-Owner Hunters beginning at 8:55 a.m.
Emily Riden for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International