Jake Evans and Royal Balou Reign Supreme in $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby Presented by Freejump

Sep 17, 2022 - 6:27 PM

Wellington, FL – Sept. 17, 2022 – Hunter competition took place at Equestrian Village during the ESP September horse show, with the highlight event being the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby presented by Freejump. Sixteen horse-and-rider combinations jumped the course on the grass field in an attempt to earn the top spot on the scorecard, with Jake Evans of McKinney, TX, proving to be the most successful rider of the day with horses finishing in first place and third place. Leading the way was Opening Bell Sporthorses LLC’s Royal Balou, who carried Evans to the lion’s share of the prize money as the best performer. 

Jake Evans and Royal Balou topped the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby, presented by Freejump. ©Anne Gittins Photography
Jake Evans and Royal Balou topped the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby, presented by Freejump. ©Anne Gittins Photography

“Royal Balou is a Long Stirrup horse, believe it or not, but he will do anything from Long Stirrup to International Derbies, and he is a seasoned veteran,” commented Evans. “I love him and he is so reliable and fun. He was my last one to go, and I knew I could take a breather and have some fun and go for it with him. He is not fazed by anything.” 

The class was held in a “Hunt and Go” format, meaning the first portion of the course was judged as the Classic round, while the latter half of the trip was scored as the Handy phase. Evans had multiple horses in the class but saved the best for last in the order-of-go with Royal Balou. The duo was up against a leading score of 174 but managed to best the field with a score of 176 from the judges. The pair’s trip in the Classic portion of the class was given a base score of 86 and two additional points for taking the high-option fences for a score of 88, and the Handy phase score matched to push the partnership to the top of the leaderboard. 

Jake Evans and Royal Balou ©Anne Gittins Photography
Jake Evans and Royal Balou ©Anne Gittins Photography

“I thought it would be a good experience to come down here to show on the grass and bring a few of the younger ones and older ones together,” noted Evans. “I like the Hunt & Go format a lot, especially in Florida to protect the horses a bit from the heat. With the young ones, sometimes it is tough to get them motivated to go back in the ring again, so it worked well for my younger horses that were just dipping their toes in the water of National Derbies to be able to stay in the ring and do longer courses to get some stamina.” 

Second place in the class was awarded to Danielle Menker of West Palm Beach, FL, and Sergent Stables LLC’s Sedrick with a final score of 174, just two points shy of the leaders. The result added to Sedrick’s growing list of accolades as a recent hunter transition after winning the National Derby back-to-back weeks at Equestrian Village during the ESP Summer III and ESP Labor Day shows. Evans bookended the podium with the third-place ribbon aboard Minted Z, owned by Opening Bell Sporthorses LLC, with 171.50 points. 

Click above to watch the Winning Ride Replay, presented by Freejump!

“I’m thankful to have such an amazing team behind me, Opening Bell Sporthorses, and an amazing owner, Valerie [Kalderon]. She has supported me so much and allowed me to bring along some really incredible horses,” reflected Evans. “Our first priority is loving them, so we don’t feel like we have to show our horses too many times per year. They will go home and get a bit of a break before we start ramping up again later in the fall ahead of the winter circuit.” 

For the full results of the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby presented by Freejump, please click HERE

Gillian Galvin and Easy B won the $1,000 2’6″/2’9″ Hunter Derby presented by Score At The Top. ©Anne Gittins Photography

On Saturday in the $1,000 2’6″/2’9″ Hunter Derby presented by Score At The Top, Gillian Galvin of Greenwich, CT, and her own Easy B earned the tricolor honors as the top scorers in the class, which was held on the grass annex of the Derby Field. The pair sat in second with a score of 86 after the first round of riding but managed to jump to the top of the rankings with another score of 86 in the Handy round to claim the win in the class with a total of 172 points. Elle Brady of Grand Rapids, MI, and Sky High Equestrian Center’s entry, Sky High’s Mac Daddy, captured the runner-up spot with a score of 165, followed by Hannah Brown of Long Beach, CA, aboard Costa Calida, owned by Equi-Brokers LLC, just one point behind with a score of 164. 

Gillian Galvin and Easy B ©Anne Gittins Photography

The ESP September horse show will continue throughout the weekend, concluding with the $25,000 Nutrena Grand Prix on Sunday as the highlight event of the competition.   

To view the prize list for the 2022 ESP Summer Series, please click HERE

Photo credit ©Anne Gittins Photography. These photos may only be used once in relation to this press release with proper credit. 

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