Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy Light Up the Night in $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby

Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy. Photos © Sportfot

Wellington, FL – April 2, 2011 – Jennifer Alfano and SBS Farms’ Jersey Boy have led the USHJA International Hunter Derby program since its inception, winning classes all over the country in the last few years and proving their expertise in the handy rounds and finesse over the jumps. Tonight was no different, as the pair jumped their way to victory in the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby during the twelfth and final “Saturday Night Lights” event at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.

Competition for the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby began on Friday afternoon in the E. R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring where sixty of the nation’s most talented horses and riders jumped the first round course. The top twenty five were invited back to compete under the lights in the International Arena this evening, coming back in reverse order from lowest to highest returning scores.

Presented by Dietrich Insurance and Hosted by Tailored Sportsman, the class was held in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The series is also generously supported by Charles Owen & Co., Dover Saddlery, The Clothes Horse, and Essex Classics.

Tonight’s beautiful handy course, reminiscent of a scenic country farm complete with picket fences, fresh water ponds, banks, brush walls, and stone columns, was designed by Bobby Murphy and Skip Bailey.

Judging was done by three panels, with each panel awarding scores out of 100 and additional bonus points for height options and handiness. Tonight’s overall score was combined with scores from yesterday to give each horse and rider their two round total. Panel one was made up of judges Kitty Barker and Danny Robertshaw, Panel two included John Barker and Paddy Downing Nyegard, and Panel three included Jim Clapperton and Scott Fitton.

Prizes were awarded through twelfth place in tonight’s class with the top finisher receiving $15,000 for the winner’s share. After finishing second to Scott Stewart and Empire in round one, Jennifer Alfano of Buffalo, NY, and Jersey Boy moved to the top with their fantastic trip over tonight’s course. The pair scored a 188 in round one with scores of 94 from both judges, including points for high options. A 325 in the handy round pushed them into the lead for a two round total of 513. The pair took all four high options over tonight’s course as well and earned a 9 and two 10s for handiness to add to their scores of 97, 92, and 95 from the three judging panels.

Scott Stewart and Empire

Stewart, of Flemington, NJ, and Empire, owned by Becky Gochman, finished round one with a 189.5 with scores of 94 and 89.5 plus bonus points for three height options. They then finished tonight’s round with a 318 to total 507.5 for second place. The pair took all four high options tonight and scored 95, 91, and 92 from the judges with additional handiness points of eight, ten, and ten.

In an exciting move from ninth to third place overall, Holly Orlando of Wellington, FL, rode Sailor’s Valentine, owned by Westerly Farm, to a two round total of 472.5. The pair had a score of 177 coming into tonight’s competition and finished with a 295.5 over the handy course to jump to the top three in the standings.

Louise Serio and Rock Star, owned by Bright Star 158, LLC, finished in fourth place overall with a score of 466. Kimberly McCormack and Sundance jumped from eighteenth place in round one to third place in the round two standings and placed fifth overall with a total of 465.10. Scott Stewart and Carlos Boy, owned by Alexa Weisman, had an overall score of 452 to place sixth.

A winner of hunter derby classes all over the country, Jersey Boy has been highly praised for his style, handiness, expression, and most of all, his talent. The nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding (by White Star) has become a national sensation for his derby fame. With the guidance of his fantastic rider, Jennifer Alfano, Jersey Boy seems to meet every challenge. He is a specialist in the unique derby setting and becomes a total professional when he sets his mind to the distinctive courses. Alfano thought he handled the course flawlessly tonight and explained that he did well throughout the week.

“In the first High Performance class he was a little naughty, but he was great in the Working Hunters. I thought yesterday in the first round, he was really good. He’s a funny horse; you know when he’s on,” she laughed. “All week here, he definitely felt like he was on. From the first jump, you can usually tell with him, and tonight he felt amazing. Tonight I could feel his energy, and he knew it was big. He knew even right from the beginning in the schooling area. Usually when you walk in the ring and pick up the canter, how he takes you to the first jump can tell you a lot. He was alert and bright, but not starstruck.”

Jersey Boy, known to many as Lewis, has a good luck charm that some may not know about. A special braid with a small jewel is braided into his mane before every derby class for good luck. Alfano jokes that it his “pony bling.” Jersey Boy may not need luck with the amazing talent he brings to the table, but Alfano admits that he can be a challenge sometimes.

“He is so scopey, and everything he has done in life has been so easy for him, which is why he can goof around,” she stated. “He doesn’t have to put forth a lot of effort usually, but the derbies are harder for him. Like tonight, he really had to focus on the task at hand. The derbies have been a great, great thing for him. Just jumping eight jumps gives him a lot of time to think about what he could do wrong. Being able to turn right to the first jump like that and go on with it sort of sets the tone for him; then he’s really thinking. He just needs a challenge.”

Commenting further on the night’s course, Alfano noted, “I liked the course, but I have a very seasoned derby horse; he has done a lot of these. I know he’s always going to rise to the occasion. He’s seen everything, so it worked out great for me and it suited my horse.”

Holly Orlando and Sailor's Valentine

Tonight was very special for third place rider Holly Orlando. This was Orlando’s first time competing in a hunter derby class, and she was very pleased with her finish. Orlando just started riding Sailor’s Valentine at the beginning of the WEF circuit, and although the horse had great experience with Louise Serio last year, he is a new mount that she is still getting to know.

“I thought my horse was great. I’ve never done a derby before and I am glad it went well!” Orlando smiled after the class. “He rose to the challenge and I was thrilled with him; he couldn’t have been better. It was my first derby and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. For my first one, I was relieved that it went well and I thought it looked beautiful and it rode nicely.”

Orlando noted that although Sailor’s Valentine is a new ride, she could see him being a specialty horse like Jersey Boy. “He is very scopey and he is a good jumper,” she stated. “You have to open up his stride a bit to get down the first line and then he wakes up and you have to contain him after that. I think that, like Jersey Boy, if he gets more experience, he could be more of a special derby horse. He’s very brave, but you just have to keep his brain where it should be. He’s so much fun!”

The 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival will host its final day of competition on Sunday featuring the Beval Palm Beach Adult Medal Final at 8 a.m. followed by the finals for the Young Jumper divisions in the International Arena. The schedule will include the $10,000 Adequan Young Jumper 5-Year-Old Final, the $15,000 Adequan Young Jumper 6-Year-Old Final, the $20,000 Adequan Young Jumper 7-Year-Old Final, and the $20,000 Adequan Young Jumper 8-Year-Old Final.

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