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Juniors Rule $15,000 Hunter Derby

Karen Cudmore Finishes First and Third in $60,000 Grand Prix

Parker, Colorado. Rodney Dangerfield used to complain about not getting any respect. Many hunter riders have felt the same way as over the years, the jumper divisions have stolen the spotlight. That all changed during the final week of the Colorado Summer Circuit at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker (July 23-27). Sophie Benjamin received the top score to win the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Riding Sir Neel, the junior rider beat out thirty competitors in a two-day, two-round round class that included a standard hunter round and a handy hunter course.

Judges were looking for a confident ride and they got it with Benjamin’s handy hunter round. The Chris Collman-designed course featured beautiful split rail jumps, solid coops, and plenty of greenery. Riders had plenty of options to choose from, and they delighted the audience with many variations. Riders also were asked to jump out of the arena, open a gate and refresh themselves with a cool drink. Benjamin wowed the judges by jumping many of the optional obstacles and demonstrating a bold hand-gallop to the last fence.

The San Diego junior who rides with Susie Artes, has also served as a working student for John and Beezie Madden, and rode at the 2008 Winter Festival with Frank and Stacia Madden. “We came to Colorado to prepare for Young Riders,” said Benjamin of her barn’s decision to drive about 1,500 miles from California. “We’ve had a great time and this is a really nice place,” she said of the Colorado Horse Park.

“Karen (Healey) has been loaning me horses for the equitation,” explained Benjamin of how she wound up with Sir Neel. “Victoria Hobbs is like a second mom to me and she came out to Karen’s one day to watch me ride and just fell in love with Sir Neel. When I saw the Derby in the prize list I thought it would be a lot of fun to do, and I figured it would be great preparation for medal finals.” Sir Neel proved that the tests and natural jumps of the Derby did not phase the gelding in the least. “Since we are already half-way across the country, the horses will go east until medal finals.” Benjamin will be making her way east as she is attending Princeton in the fall.

Professional Michael Tokaruk rode Polaris to the red ribbon in the Derby while another junior rider, Meehan Shirey of Florida, took Monroe to the third place.

Another show highlight was the $60,000 AGA Grand Prix of Denver. The event, presented by Dillards and Ariat, drew 32 competitors six of whom made it into the jump-off. The Ocelot Fan Club was in attendance, and Karen Cudmore’s stunning bay stallion did not disappoint. Olaf Petersen Jr. designed a challenging course befitting the final grand prix of the Colorado Summer Circuit, and a large and enthusiastic crowd came out to watch. “The audience is especially well educated and enthusiastic in Colorado,” said eventual class winner Cudmore, who qualified two of her horses for the jump off along with six horse and rider pairs.


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