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Darst Finishes One-Two in USHJA National Hunter Derby at Bluegrass Festival Horse Show

Meredith Darst and Lightning Z. Photo by Emily Riden.

Lexington, KY – August 18, 2013 – A week of the nation’s best hunter derby competition came to a close today at the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show with the final hunter highlight event, the $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby.

Today’s USHJA National Hunter Derby at the Kentucky Horse Park marked the fifth event in the seven-part Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby Series, throughout which Meredith Darst has been extremely successful. She currently stands as the leading junior in the series, and she widened that lead today. Darst finished first in the 42-horse class aboard Lightning Z and second in the class aboard last week’s second place finisher, Capstone. Finishing in third place were Kelli Cruciotti and Premonition, owned by Serenity Farm of Elizabeth, CO.

Following the completion of the first hunter round, Darst sat in the fourth place position aboard Capstone, owned by Norgan, Inc. of Wellington, FL, and in first place aboard Lightning Z, owned by her family’s Lochmoor Stables of Lebanon, OH.

She and Capstone came into the second round with a score of 86 prepared to demonstrate their abilities over the handy course. The course utilized a trot jump, provided a number of opportunities for tight inside turns and set the high option fences in such a way that they were separate from the low options, requiring different tracks.

Again electing to take all four of the high options, Darst and Capstone moved into the lead with a handy round score of 89, for a 175 overall.

Kelli Cruciotti returned for the handy round in third place aboard rookie derby mount Premonition.

“This was his first time ever doing a hunter derby,” Cruciotti said of the 8-year-old gelding. “He’s rather green so I was very, very thrilled with how he jumped and handled all of the brush and the jumps.”

Cruciotti continued: “For the handy I obviously wanted to try to win and step up, but at the same time, I wanted to give my horse a positive ride that will teach him how to do it right. It was more about giving him a positive experience so that I can build a great derby horse.”

Cruciotti proved was able to give Premonition a confidence-building ride while also impressing the judges. The pair earned a score of 86.5, including the four high option points, to put them into position just behind Darst and Capstone in the rankings with an overall score of 174.5.

As the first round winners, Darst and Lightning Z were the last to return, and they pulled out all of the stops.

“Lightning lives with us so I know him really well,” Darst said. “I know I can do all of the turns with him. I was pretty tight to the first jump of the handy, and everywhere else that I could I took the inside turn options.”

Their expert handiness and high fence options resulted in a second round score of 91 and an overall total of 182, earning them the final victory gallop of the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show.

Following the completion of the Hallway Feeds Series, the $15,000 Hallway Feeds Leading Rider Awards will present a $10,000 cash prize to the professional rider accumulating the most points in the seven classes that make up the Series. The amateur rider and junior rider accumulating the most points will each receive a $2,500 cash prize. Riders will receive points only on their highest placed horse in each of the classes. The awards will be presented at the conclusion of the Hallway Feeds class at the Kentucky National Horse Show on September 21, 2013.

Hallway Feeds’ close proximity to the Kentucky Horse Park provides the opportunity to utilize the freshest feed, manufactured with time-honored commitments to high standards of quality and the latest scientific advances. Combining a premium nutrition package with a professional level of dedication in horsemen and women provides equine athletes with the Formula for Success. For more information on Hallway Feeds, please visit www.hallwayfeeds.com.

The Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby Series would not be possible without many generous sponsors including Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, Central Equipment, Alfagreen Supreme, Sweet PDZ Horse Stall Refresher, Caddel Equine Therapy Center, KER Sport Horse Nutrition, The Tack Shop of Lexington, Turf Town Properties, Trouw Nutrition and PNC Bank.

While the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show has come to a close, competition at the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows continues on Wednesday, August 21, with the KHJA Horse Show. For more information on the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows, visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.

Emily Riden for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

Phelps Media Group, Inc.
12012 South Shore Blvd #105
Wellington, FL 33414
561-753-3389 (phone)
561-753-3386 (fax)

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