The picturesque scene during The Derby at the Genesee Country Village and Museum is one reminiscent of years gone by, and on June 6 it was also reminiscent of just last year. For the second year in a row, The Derby kicked off with its $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby on the beautiful grass meadow of the museum, and Jennifer Alfano rode to an impressive victory aboard Me Again.
“He’s obviously got way more miles under his belt this year,” Alfano said of the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Helen Lenahan. “He handled the people better; he handled the hills better. He was great last year, but he just handled everything even so much better this year.”
Alfano and Me Again finished over the first round, Bobby Murphy-designed course with a score of 87, putting them in second just behind Claudia Freeman and Swingtime, who ended the first round on an 88 score. The top 12 came back to compete over the second round Handy course set in front of a full crowd of spectators seated on the hill overlooking the rolling grass derby field.
As the second-to-last combination to return, Alfano and Me Again delivered a well-executed Handy round to earn a score of 78 plus four high-option bonus points for a second round total of 82 and a cumulative total of 169. The final outcome of the class was left up to judges Danny Robertshaw and Geoff Teall, and the performance of the last pair to return: Freeman and Swingtime, owned by Gary Duffy’s Little Brook Farms.
At just 15 years old, Freeman is one of The Derby’s youngest competitors, and she is the only exhibitor competing in all three of The Derby’s events: the National Derby, the Pony Derby and the $35,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. While young, Freeman looked every bit the veteran as she and Showtime finished the Handy round with a score of 76 plus four high-option points for an 80 total. While high, their final score of 168 was just 1 point shy of Alfano’s total, and it would earn Freeman the second place honor and clinch the victory for Alfano.
“I was just really impressed with [Showtime],” Freeman said. “I didn’t know what to expect because I haven’t done much on him. He was right there for me the whole time.”
Similarly to all of the competitors riding at The Derby, both Freeman and Alfano have nothing but good things to say about the second annual event.
“I just love having a change. It’s really fun,” Freeman said. “It’s something different.”
Alfano concluded, “Anytime anyone tries to do a standalone event like this–-these are the classes that we all hope for. It’s special. There’s not another horse show going on so you’re not worried about a million other things. It makes it a really special thing. I think it’s great–-great for our sport and great for where we want this to go.”
Special thanks to Phelps Media Group for the press release.