It was a good day to be Irish.

Irishmen topped the podiums of each of the feature classes Friday of Desert Holiday I at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP), and took several of the second- and third-place finishes as well. Taking the top spot in the $72,200 Whittier Trust CSI5* 1.50m was Ireland’s Darragh Kenny with Volnay Du Boisdeville, owned by Teddy Vlock.

Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Volnay Du Boisdeville. Photo by ESI Photography

Kenny was the quickest of 12 jump-off competitors who jumped clear over Michel Vaillancourt’s (CAN) first-round track. With a jump-off time of 35.50 seconds, he outpaced second-place finisher Conor Swail (IRL) and Theo 160, owned by Team Phillippaerts, and Bliss Heers with Antidote De Mars, who took third.

“My horse felt very good in the warm-up,” Kenny said of his jump-off strategy, knowing the pace was quick and the competition behind him was steep. “He was jumping great. Conor was very quick as always and I wanted to try to be as quick as I possibly could without rushing him too much. Conor did one more to the last than me so I thought if I could take one less to the last that would be faster, and it worked out.”

Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Volnay Du Boisdeville in their winning presentation, pictured with Katherine Wiechmann and Devin Wikke from Whittier Trust. Photo by ESI Photography

The partnership between Kenny and Volnay Du Boisdeville has been fairly short, but extremely lucrative since he took the ride only about one year ago. “We actually bought him for Teddy to ride. He had great success with Teddy for three years; he jumped him on the Nations Cup team at [the Palm Beach Masters] and jumped a few five-star grand prixs with him. I took over towards the end of last year and he’s been amazing. He won a four-star Grand Prix in Wellington, second in the five-star Grand Prix in Monaco, and he’s been an incredible horse so I’m very lucky to have him.

“He’s such a cool horse; I enjoy riding him,” Kenny continued of the 13-year-old Selle Francais stallion (Winningmood x Jalisco B). “He’s so fun. When you go in the ring you appreciate the horse. His ability is fantastic and you try to stay out of his way. For a stallion he’s so quiet, easy, and mannerly. He’s just a lovely horse.”

Conor Swail (IRL) and Theo 160. Photo by ESI Photography

Kenny has been to Thermal, but it has been quite a while and the vast improvements made the park nearly unrecognizable to him.

“I came eight years ago to jump a World Cup [Qualifier] and it’s absolutely amazing the job they’ve done on the place,” he commented. “This grass ring is incredible, and the footing is just perfect. They’ve done an incredible job on the whole place. The stabling for FEI is great. It’s really enjoyable to be here. They have two CSI4* events [in the winter] so we were debating trying to do one or both of those.”

Bliss Heers (USA) and Antidote De Mars. Photo by ESI Photography

Kenny wasn’t the only Irishman who took home a CSI5* win, however.

Back in the desert for the first time since his memorable win in the 2021 CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix, Jordan Coyle (IRL) dominated the $9,000 Antares CSI5* 1.45m Speed, taking first and third on Picador and Centriko Volo, respectively. Coyle held an early lead with Celtic Park’s Centriko Volo, just the third pair to jump Vaillancourt’s course. Cassio Rivetti (BRA) and Nadale Van Dorperheide put down a quick trip to overtake the lead with two left to go, only for Coyle to return on Elan Farm’s Picador, finishing with the quickest time of 68.58 seconds.

Jordan Coyle (IRL) and Picador. Photo by ESI Photography

“You’d imagine he’d be slowing down, but he still feels great and he loves his job,” Coyle said of his longtime partner, the 15-year-old Picador. “The more jumping he gets, the better he is.”

Despite being a show jumper through and through, Picador gets to practice his eventing skills back home. “At home we do cross-country actually,” Coyle continued. “He never sees a show jump; we just do cross-country stuff. I really enjoy it and I think he enjoys it also. Some of the jumps are quite big and we go quite fast.”

In National competition, it was Ireland for the win, as well. Birthday boy Daniel Coyle captured the $7,500 Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity with Ariel Grange’s Langley. Coyle won convincingly, three seconds faster than second-place finishers Swail and Ikonic PB, owned by Vanessa Mannix, and five seconds faster than third-place finishers Robert Sean Leckie and BEC Alter Ego, owned by Sarah Freedman.

International show jumping resumes Saturday with the $40,000 La Quinta Resort & Club CSI2* Grand Prix, followed by the $200,000 Hygain MLSJ Team Competition and $74,200 Whittier Trust Individual Competition.

Final Results: $72,400 Whittier Trust CSI5* 1.50m

1. VOLNAY DU BOISDEVILLE: 2009 SF stallion by Winningmood x Jalisco B
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Teddy Vlock: 0/0/35.50

2. THEO 160: 2012 HOLST gelding by Christian 25 x Calando IV
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Team Philippaerts: 0/0/36.83

3. ANTIDOTE DE MARS: 2010 SF stallion by Diamant De Semilly x Jarnac
BLISS HEERS (USA), Bridgeside Farms LLC: 0/0/36.83

4. ARGAN DE BELIARD: 2010 SF gelding by Mylord Carthago x Ahorn
LILLIE KEENAN (USA), Chansonette Farm LLC: 0/0/40.77

5. QUINTIN: 2010 KWPN gelding by Quaprice Bois Margot x Emilion
DANIEL COYLE (IRL), Ariel Grange: 0/4/33.68

6. FREAKY: 2010 KWPN gelding by Darco x Litho X
JACQUELINE STEFFENS (CAN), Team Eye Candy: 0/4/36.65

7. CHAPILOT: 2007 HANN gelding by Chacco-Blue x Pilot
RODRIGO LAMBRE (BRA), Mario Onate: 3/37.30

8. QUALITY H: 2011 HANN gelding by FRH Quaid x Stakkato
MARK KINSELLA (IRL), Ben Asselin: 4/38.78

9. EUROSTAR 1: 2012 stallion by Diarado x Chacco-Blue
JAMES ARKINS (AUS), James Arkins: 0/4/38.82

10. HAMILTON: 2011 HOLST gelding by Quadros 3 x Acolord
TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), The Hamilton Group: 0/4/40.34

11. CALCIET EB Z: 2013 ZANG mare by Cornet Obolensky x Berlin
ALEXIS SOKOLOV (USA), Hot Horses LLC: 0/4/42.91

12. COPYCAT: 2013 WESTF gelding by Comme Il Faut x Wogenbrecher
LORCAN GALLAGHER (IRL), Lost Lake Farm LLC: 0/11/54.56

Final Results: $9,000 Antares CSI5* 1.45m Speed

1. PICADOR: 2007 AES gelding by Lupicor x Concorde

2. NADALE VAN DORPERHEIDE: 2013 BWP gelding by Zilverstar T x Winningmood
CASSIO RIVETTI (BRA), Ilan Ferder: 0/71.00

3. CENTRIKO VOLO: 2012 OS gelding by Centadel x Chacco-Blue
JORDAN COYLE (IRL), Celtic Park LLC: 0/72.44

4. COCOLINA: 2011 OS mare by Conthargos x Papillon Rouge
NATALIE DEAN (USA), Marigold Sporthorses LLC: 0/75.37

5. COQUELICOT VH HEUVELLAND Z: 2012 ZANG stallion by Catoki x Cassini II
SEAN JOBIN (CAN), Foxridge Farms Stables: 2/77.30

6. NADAL HERO & DB: 2013 BWP stallion by Kannan x Polydor
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Mannon Farm: 6/81.60

7. STARFLY: 2013 AES mare by Starpower x Sioux De Baugy
TANIMARA MACARI (MEX), Jorge Macari: 8/70.35

8. JOEVARO N: 2014 KWPN gelding by H5 Elvaro x Equador
JAMES ARKINS (AUS), James Arkins: 8/72.61

9. VAILLANT DE BELLE VUE: 2009 AA gelding by Calin Du Plessis x Peeping Tom A
TALI DEJONG (USA), Tali Dejong: 8/79.69

10. LEGACY: 2010 ZANG mare by Chippendale Z x Bon Ami
DANIEL COYLE (IRL), Ariel Grange: 10/81.86

11. INTERACTIVE MORTGAGE CAYJANO: 2013 WESTF gelding by Cayetano L x Danenkonig
ANNA DUFF (IRL), DeLong Equestrian Ventures LLC: 10/81.90

12. CHAPEAU PS Z: 2014 ZANG stallion by Comilfo Plus Z x Calato Z
LUIS PEDRO BIRABEN (ARG), Luis Pedro Biraben: 13/84.05

Chelsea Brittner Brings Home Another Hunter Derby Win

Chelsea Brittner has had an incredible season so far at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP), and she added another impressive accolade to her resume Friday of Desert Holiday I, taking the win in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by El Cristiano, aboard Berry De Maillet.

Chelsea Brittner and Berry De Maillet. Photo by ESI Photography

Her first-round score of 175 put her in fourth place coming into the handy round, but the pair’s comfort with one another prevailed in round two, where they earned a sky-high score of 206 to take the win. Jenny Karazissis and Lisa Wu’s Ravenswood took second place, and Jamie Sailor captured third with Kaliman, owned by Morgan Wiebe.

“He’s my heart horse,” Brittner said of Berry De Maillet, owned by Kaylin Faidi. “I have so much love for this horse. He can do no wrong. I took over riding him at Sunshine a year ago and we started in the 3-foot hunters and the national derbies and we’ve been working our way up. He’s the bravest, handiest horse I’ve ever sat on and he gives me so much confidence because I can trust him with anything.”

Jenny Karazissis and Ravenswood. Photo by ESI Photography

With many additions to the schedule for the 2022/2023 season, hunters have already had countless opportunities to shine, including the first of two $100,000 WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectaculars, $65,000 USHJA International Derby Regional Championships, and additional hunter derby events still to come throughout the season. Brittner has taken top honors in national hunter derby action already and has been in the top three ribbons in international derby competition as well.

“It’s amazing,” Brittner remarked on the abundance of major hunter classes at DIHP. “There are very few facilities in North America that offer us hunter riders a chance to do something different and fun. Between going out in the Grand Prix Arena, on the grass field, and showing in the big money classes, it gives us something to strive for and work towards. It makes it feel competitive and inspires you to do better, be better, and get out there.”

Jamie Sailor and Kaliman. Photo by ESI Photography

For now, Berry De Maillet will take a break from hunter derby fun and focus on the Adult Amateur and Amater-Owner divisions with his owner, Kaylin Faidi, until it’s time to shine on the international hunter derby stage once again during Desert Circuit.

The $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, sponsored by HorseFlight, was won by Nick Haness and Reese’s, owned by West Coast Equine Partners LLC, with scores of 94 and 96 for a two-round total of 190. Alexis Taylor and Manhattan, owned by Bella Equine Imports LLC, claimed second place, while Haness and Bernadette Mulliken’s Mardi Gras took third.

Young hunters took center stage as Friday drew to a close in the Main Hunter ring. Topping an exceptional field of young talent in the $20,000 Ramard Young Hunter Championship was True That with Nick Haness aboard. The pair put in two flawless hunter rounds to take top honors.

Nick Haness and True That. Photo by ESI Photography

“He’s actually a very little horse; he stands at about 15.1-15.2 [hands high] so he’s quite a little guy,” Haness said of True That, a 6-year-old Mecklenburger gelding owned by Rainie Rose. “But he has a big stride and a really big jump. He’s a newer horse for us; we just purchased him from Don Stewart, so we’re just getting to know him. He qualified to do this Young Hunter Championship which is very exciting because we’ve never had a young hunter championship for this much prize money. We were really excited to gear up for this week and bring our best young horses to showcase the future that’s so bright for young horses on the West Coast.”

This new class is an excellent opportunity for young hunters to take to the main stage at DIHP. Haness has already found himself in the winner’s circle countless times since the season got underway in November at DIHP, and with promising young talent he will surely continue his winning ways.

Nick Haness and True That. Photo by ESI Photography

“The desert is a great place for young horses,” Haness, of Temecula, continued. “It’s a great opportunity to bring horses either from Europe or who are just young and still learning. To have a class designated just for them allows them to be on a level playing field which is awesome. The [young horse classes] are fair and let the horses develop, increasing each year in height. A final like this is a great opportunity for horses to continue to grow and it’s the last show of the year for them so this was a really exciting and nice final.”

Hunter action continues Saturday and Sunday with Junior and Amateur-Owner Hunters.

Final Results: $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by El Cristiano

1. Berry De Maillet / Chelsea Brittner / Kaylin Faidi / 175 + 206 = 381
2. Ravenswood / Jenny Karazissis / Lisa Wu / 179 + 199 = 378
3. Kaliman / Jamie Sailor / Morgan Wiebe / 170 + 197 = 367
4. Vex Freedom / Kat Barkema / Vex Sporthorse Ltd. / 171 + 194 = 365
5. McQueen / Nicole Bourgeois / Barbara Lovre / 171 + 193 = 364
6. Paperboy / Chad Mahaffey / Brighton Farms / 173.5 + 187.5 = 361
7. Verdict / Alexis Meadows / Alexis Meadows / 170 + 178 = 348
8. Upside / Halie Robinson / Stable Assets LLC / 170 + 177 = 347
9. No Reservations / Leslie Steele / Curtis Holdings LLC / 173.5 + 166 = 339.5
10. Hollywood / Halie Robinson / Mackenzie Greer / 178.5 + 110 = 288.5
11. Top Story / Shauna Pennell / WJC Farms, LLC / 179.25 + 109 = 288.25
12. Galactic / Tonya Johnston / Tonya Johnston / 168 + 108 = 276

Final Results: $20,000 Ramard Young Hunter Championship

1. True That / Nick Haness / Rainie Rose / 90 + 84.75 = 174.75
2. Quintessa WSS / Gabriella Pattinson / Nicole R Lean / 83 + 87 = 170
3. First Class / Nick Haness / Nick Haness / 84 + 85 = 169
4. Remark RW / Michael Dennehy / Jennifer Singer / 85 + 83 = 168
5. Clase Azul / Jamie Sailor / SWS Training & Sales / 81.5 + 86 = 167.5
6. Vagadam PSH / Nick Haness / Margauz Spitzer / 81 + 85.5 = 166.5
7. Speakeasy / Lisa Wall / 3P Equine Partners, LLC / 80 + 84.5 = 164.5
8. Vatikan / John Zambrano / Karin Binz / 75 + 84 =159
9. Concierge / John Zambrano / Kristi C Siam / 74 + 72 = 146
10. Picnic / Katrina Karazissis / Lisa Hankin / 82 + 50 = 132
11. Kingston / Halie Robinson / Stonefield Sport Horses LLC / 89 + 40 = 129
12. Conmiga / Marisa Metzger / Kathryn Fleck Peisach / 82.5