John French and Rumba Win Inaugural Hunter Derby Finals

August 24, 2009

After three brilliant performances, John French and Rumba will go down in history as the inaugural winners of the ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals. Before the start of the final day of competition, George Morris addressed the crowd gathered in the Johnson Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park. “The hunter derby courses are bringing us back to tradition, we’re surrounded by lovely horses and no doubt we’ll see a championship performance tonight,” Morris said, wishing the horses and riders the best of luck.

The top 25 horses and riders then returned to compete over a classic hunter course. They were judged by four panels of judges, each of which could award an additional 10 points for brilliance. The top 12 would then move onto the third and final handy round. Patrick Rodes and Bobby Murphy put together two magnificent courses that challenged both horses and riders and allowed the brave and bold to shine. “They’ve really outdone themselves this week for us,” USHJA President Bill Moroney commented about the course designers and show management staff.

Roger Smith’s Castello ridden by Jack Hardin Towell got the evening’s event started with a solid performance. But once again, it was John French and Mountain Home Stables’ Rumba that stole the show with a high score of 400. French’s ride received the full set of 10 points from one panel of judges and 9 points from the other three panels.

Series champion Jersey Boy of SBS Farms and Jennifer Alfano took a commanding lead with only two horses left to go. Alfano guided the chestnut gelding through the challenging course that called for a walk to canter transition and included four option jumps set at 4’. The pair received scores in the 90s from judges with a total of 776, making them the team to beat. Tammy Provost and Peridot followed, but unfortunately didn’t duplicate the same strong performance they put in during the classic round. They had a refusal at fence five, which left it all up to leaders French and Rumba to upset Alfano and Jersey Boy. The pair from California didn’t disappoint, putting in a smooth, clean round and taking the higher fence options. Tension was thick in Johnson Arena as the audience waited for their scores to be announced. The stadium erupted when the grey gelding’s scores came over the loud speakers. With scores in the 90s from all four sets of judges, French and Rumba had a resounding win with 782.

“I couldn’t have been happier with his performance – he was unbelievable tonight,” French said of Rumba.

French’s win was viewed by over 30,000 hunter enthusiast via Equestrian’s free, live streaming coverage.

For a complete list of the ASG Software Solutions/International Hunter Derby Finals placings, visit the USHJA website. Equestrian Life provided free, live streaming of the event, which the public can still view on their website. Information on the 2009/2010 The Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby Series can be found on the USHJA Derby website.

The 2009 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals is supported by the following sponsors: ASG Software Solutions – Title Sponsor; Dietrich Insurance-Presenting Sponsor; Charles Owen & Co.-Major Sponsor; Dover Saddlery-Major Sponsor; Essex Classics-Award Sponsor; The Clothes Horse-Award Sponsor; Grand Prix – Award Sponsor; Personalized Products – Award Sponsor; McGuinn Farms – Award Sponsor.

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