After Brunello and Camden’s Liza Boyd cleared the final 4-foot-9-inch oxer in front of a sea of spectators at the Kentucky Horse Park last Saturday, there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that history had been made.
Then, when the base scores of 96, 94 and 94 flashed on the scoreboard along with the No. 1, cheers and hugs enveloped Brunello and Boyd. They had claimed their third consecutive $200,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship by the biggest margin thus far.
“This was absolutely amazing and surreal,” said Boyd, who rides out of her family’s Finally Farm in Camden. “The horse is unbelievable. I was so nervous in the schooling area that I almost couldn’t get it together, and I said, ‘I should get off and let him do it himself.’ He probably would have (scored) 100. He’s just amazing. I’m a little bit in shock and so lucky to have him in my life.”
Boyd co-owns the 17-year-old Hanoverian with Janet Peterson and she credited her team at Finally Farm for helping her achieve yet another major milestone in her career and for keeping the aged chestnut in top form.
“He’s a little like his name Brunello, a big red wine from Italy, and he just gets better with age,” she said. “He just jumps higher and higher every single year. Like my dad says, ‘The horse knows when it counts.’ He’s learned over the years to peak at the championships, and he certainly did tonight.”
The 12-obstacle course featured several areas where riders could show off their handiness with tight turns and rollbacks, a log trot fence at five, and for the grand finale.
The judges included Camden’s Danny Robertshaw and Claudia Roland (Panel 1), Linda Andrisani and Mike Rosser (Panel 2), and Steve Wall and Rick Fancher (Panel 3), who were placed in strategic positions around the Sheila C. Johnson Ring at the Rolex Stadium.
Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta, both from Camden, also provided a $1,500 rider bonus award, of which $1,000 was presented to Liza Boyd for the Section A win and $500 to Brady Mitchell for the Section B win.
Start to a great weekend: When Boyd and Brunello claimed victory in the Classic Hunter Round of the $200,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship last Friday evening, their performance said it all.
“I think we can safely say he’s not retired,” said Boyd of Brunello. “That’s a question I’ve gotten a lot this year, and I don’t think he wants to be retired. He felt like he was six years old again. The horse is amazing; I’ll never have a horse like that again. I get a little emotional thinking about him. He tries so hard and loves what he does and makes my life so easy. He’s really, really special, and I can’t thank him enough.”
Their scores of 90.5, 91.5 and 93 for a 287 total just edged Mindful and Kelley Farmer, whose scores of 92, 92 and 90 and a 286 total had led until the very end, when Brunello and Boyd, last in the field of 79 starters, took the course in the Kentucky Horse Park’s Rolex Stadium.
“When I saw that I went last yesterday (in the computer-generated draw), for a moment I was like, ‘Oh no!’ But it’s better than going first, and sometimes that horse and I do better the more pressure we’re under,” she said. “So, going last was good; it pumped me up and pumped him up. It was a really, really good class, and I think going last was to my benefit-luck of the draw.
“It’s just fun, but it does get emotional,” Boyd added. “I almost cried when I came out of the ring; he just keeps feeling better and better every year.”