The 71st Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, presented by Irish Day Farm, finished up its two-week series on Sunday, April 3. Foremost hunter rider and trainer for SBS Farms, Jennifer Alfano, continued to dominate the show ring, but it was Miss Lucy, owned by Helen Lenahan, that stole the spotlight, winning the $30,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by Valobra Master Jewelers, during Week II.
Miss Lucy, a long-time favorite of the hunter derby scene, proved her consistency during the second week of the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, and why her name is commonly seen marking the top of the leaderboard. The chestnut mare clinched the top spot during the first round, and returned for the handy with nothing short of brilliance to claim the coveted victory. Alfano also rode Billie Steffee’s Maggie May to fourth overall.
Although many may have thought that Miss Lucy’s derby days were behind her when she had colic surgery in 2013, the chestnut mare refused to relinquish her passion, coming back stronger than imagined. Alfano's handy scores of 87.5 and 89 with bonus points of 4 and 8, with all four high options taken, resulted in the overall triumph with a total of 378.5 points. Their win marks their second consecutive Valobra Master Jewelers Hunter Derby title, and proves that the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood is only getting started for the 2016 season.
“It’s unbelievable. There are really no words,” said rider Jennifer Alfano. “She was just amazing in both rounds. She just jumped higher and higher. She feels as good as ever right now, and better than ever. I’m lucky to have her, and a horse like her is a once-in-a-lifetime. She’s such a special animal.”
“This win means so much,” said Alfano. “After everything that’s happened to her every ribbon she gets is special. Aside from what she does in the ring, she’s the sweetest horse on the planet. I think after all she’s been through health-wise we have a special connection. My world pretty much revolves around her.”
Alfano continued her success as she took home her second victory of the week with The Exchange. During Week One of the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, Alfano and The Exchange finished in second, but during Week Two, they stepped it up, taking the first place honor. The duo led the class from start to finish, earning the highest scores overall with a 94 in Round One and a 95 during Round Two.
“He’s such a good horse. The one thing about him is you can always count on a great jump. I tried to be a little handy everywhere I could be in the second round and let him do his thing, and he was awesome,” she said.
Alfano fell just shy of first place during the opening week of competition in the USHJA National Hunter Derby, and it seemed as though roles reversed for the second week, with competitor Peter Pletcher swapping the one-two finish with Alfano. They each tied for the USHJA National Hunter Derby High-Point Bonus Award, which included a check for $1,500 and a new bridle. It was only one year ago that Alfano purchased The Exchange, and coincidentally enough, the transaction happened at Pin Oak.
The green horses also earned top honors with Alfano in the irons. In the First Year Green Working Hunters, Alfano rode The Exchange to excellent rounds, finishing the class with two blues and the second place over fences. Alfano rode Girl Crush in the High Pre-Greens, nearly sweeping the division with four firsts and a second place, as well as the third place finish in the Texas Pre-Green Super Stake and the USHJA Pre-Green Incentive. In the Low Pre-Green division, Alfano and Savannah earned the second and two thirds.
Alfano rode Candid to an excellent finish in the Regular Conformation Hunters, making her second sweep of a division for the show. The pair won four first place ribbons and the second place during week two of the division, which was good enough to seal the Circuit Championship for the two-week series.
Alicia Heberle had two fantastic rides on Stillwater, riding to the first and third place finishes in the 1.10m Training Jumpers. Kathy Chiaf rode Sweetwater in the Adult Amateur, 50 and Over Hunters, to finish with top pinnings, including the first place in the stake, the third over fences and a fourth in the under saddle. She also took the fifth place finish in the NAL/WIHS Adult Hunter Classic, and then earned the second place in the Ariat National Adult Medal.
Based out of Buffalo, New York, SBS Farms, Inc.'s Susie Schoellkopf and Jennifer Alfano run one of the foremost show hunter training operations in the country, and travel nationwide to compete in the most prestigious horse shows.
SBS Farms, Inc. continues the proud tradition of the Saddle and Bridle Club as one of the top show stables in the Northeast. Schoellkopf is also the executive director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, which houses both the Buffalo Equestrian Center as well as SBS Farms, Inc. Built in 1922, the 160-stall facility is a historical landmark, with its unique English Tudor and Gothic-style architecture.
For more information on the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, please visit www.thebtrc.org.
A special thank you to Phelps Media Group for the press release.