Nick Haness and Estimated Prophet. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

If you’re feeling a bit of déjà vu from the most recent International Hunter Derby during Desert Circuit V, you’re not alone. On Friday of Desert Circuit VIII, Nick Haness piloted Estimated Prophet, owned by Roaring Fork Farms LLC, to a repeat win in the $50,000 Butet USHJA International Hunter Derby, this time in the Grand Prix Arena.

“My strategy was to be bold and brilliant,” Haness commented on his handy round. “It’s always something I strive for in the handy round so I wanted to go in and show off that horse. He’s a brilliant jumper, he’s very handy. Being that I was in the lead I didn’t let that slow me down; I still pressured him and made all the tighter turns.”

Nick Haness and Estimated Prophet in their winning presentation, pictured with Ludo Carre of Butet, Traci and Carleton Brooks of Balmoral, Djuna Lauder, Viva Hallinan, and Juan Meza. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Haness set the standard early in the first round of Skip Bailey’s track with a score of 191 from the two panels of judges, taking the class lead going into the handy round.

“When you’re on top, sometimes you can just play it safe,” Haness remarked. “Today that wasn’t my philosophy; I really wanted to go in and win. We’re gearing up for [USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships] this summer so I felt I needed to practice being handy and bold. Now is the time to figure him out and see what he can handle.”

Nick Haness and Dalmore. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Haness and Estimated Prophet finished the handy round with a total score of 383 to take the win. He also finished in second place with Dalmore, owned by Kenilworth Sport Horses LLC, with a total score of 378. Dustin Goodwin and Out Of The Blue, owned by Ellen Brown, earned a score of 369 to take third place.

It’s no secret that Estimated Prophet is filled to the brim with talent, and with Haness in the irons they are proving to be an unbeatable pair in hunter derby action.

“Estimated Prophet is such a natural athlete,” Haness said of the 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Cornet Obolensky x Argentinus). “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse to ride. He’s truly in his own league. He just has that natural instinct in him. With a jumper background makes me feel confident going into these classes with bigger jumps. He sights in on the jumps and he’s all game. Riding him is very dreamy.”

Dustin Goodwin and Out Of The Blue. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Despite the gelding’s jumper background and the advantage that experience provides in hunter derbies, Haness believes Estimated Prophet was born to be a hunter.

“Being that he’s so beautiful, I think he was made for the hunters,” he explained. “Especially the hunter derbies where you need that much scope and talent. When he gets his braids in and goes to the ring he’s magnificent. It’s amazing to have a horse so powerful but so gentle.”

For his win, Haness was awarded a brand-new Butet hunter bridle and standing martingale. Skylar Wireman, winner of the U25 division aboard Kate Parker’s West Port, won a brand-new custom Butet saddle. Caroline Ingalls and Concerto were the top-performing amateur pair, while Djuna Lauder took the top junior rider honor with Radio City.

Madison Nadolenco and Totoka Fuji. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Earlier in the day in the Main Hunter ring, the $10,000 Platinum Performance USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby was split into two sections, with Madison Nadolenco taking the first victory aboard Ingenium Farm’s Totoka Fuji. Emily Williams and Beach Boy topped Section B.

Emily Williams and Beach Boy. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Hunters resume Saturday with Junior and Amateur-Owner Hunter action.

Final Results: $50,000 Butet USHJA International Hunter Derby

1. Estimated Prophet / Nick Haness / Roaring Fork Farms LLC / 191+192=383
2. Dalmore / Nick Haness / Kenilworth Sport Horses LLC / 187+191=378
3. Out Of The Blue / Dustin Goodwin / Ellen Brown / 189+180=369
4. L’Con Reyes / Katie Taylor-Davidson / Bravado LLC / 178+182=360
5. Hulla-Balou / Michael Dennehy / Dana Vollbracht / 185+175=360
6. Concerto / Caroline Ingalls / Caroline Ingalls / 183+171=354
7. Gatsby / Alexis Taylor / Aleron LLC / 175.5+166=341.5
8. Vagadam PSH / Chelsea Brittner / Margaux Spitzer / 175+162=337
9. Sinmigo Dos / Marisa Metzger / 174.5+161=335.5
10. Wayfinder / Nicole Bourgeois / Hilary Sosne / 180+105=285
11. Verdict / Alexis Meadows / Alexis Meadows / 170+96=266
12. Coastal / Karli Schroeder / Emily Williams / 181+0=181

Smooth as Silk: Jim Ifko Takes the Win in $38,700 Premier Equine Rehab CSI3* Speed

Jim Ifko (CAN) and Un Diamant Des Forets. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The Canadian flag flew once again over the grass field on Friday, this time for Jim Ifko (CAN) and long-time partner Un Diamant Des Forets, owned by Eventyre Farms Ltd. The pair galloped to the win in the $38,700 Premier Equine Rehab CSI3* Speed, edging out 30 other horse-and-rider combinations.

“We found him as a youngster in France when he was 6 years old,” Ifko recalled of the now 15-year-old Selle Francais stallion, known as “Monty” in the barn. “We’ve been together for nine years and we’ve had a spectacular journey. We know each other quite well. It’s nice because when we go into the ring we know what one another will do and how we will react.”

Cassio Rivetti (BRA) and Nadale Van Dorperheide. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Marina Azevedo’s (BRA) track over the grass allowed for long gallops and sweeping turns, which suited Ifko and his mount.

“The course that Marina set was fabulous,” Iko remarked. “It was a combination of needing to go fast but it was high enough that it was challenging. You had to balance between being careful and it was quite a galloping course. Luckily that suits my horse to a tee. He loves that wide open gallop. He’s in his element.”

Nicky Galligan (IRL) and Javas Miss Jordan. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Ifko set the pace early, going just fifth in the starting order, but no one could catch his quick time of 65.33 seconds. Cassio Rivetti (BRA) and Nadale Van Doperheide, owned by Ilan Ferder, finished in second place with a time of 67.93 seconds and Nicky Galligan (IRL) and Javas Miss Jordan picked up third with a time of 68.37 seconds.

“Where we got ahead of the crowd was just the fact that he picked up a gallop right from fence one and we could just stay on it fence to fence,” Ifko explained. “We managed to meet each fence just the way we wanted. It was smooth as silk. When you can do that it’s certainly an advantage.”

Jim Ifko (CAN) and Un Diamant Des Forets in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Monty isn’t just galloping in the show ring, however. Despite getting a bit older, the stallion is still as energetic as ever and likes to shake things up in his training schedule, including gallops on the track at DIHP.

“It’s really important that each day he can have something stimulating,” Ifko explained. “If he does the same thing every day he’s done with it. We go out and do hill work and then gymnastic work. We’ll go inside and outside. It’s more challenging at a horse show, but at this venue there’s so much space and wide open areas; it’s been great for him. We go down the track and gallop around there. He thought that was fantastic.”

Andrew Lopez Works Towards NAYC Dreams with Epsilon De Brenil

Andrew Lopez and Epsilon De Brenil.Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Andrew Lopez kicked off the day with a win in the Grand Prix Arena in the $10,000 Devoucoux 1.40m NAYC Trial with Epsilon De Brenil, who is becoming a top horse for the 18-year-old. The duo clocked in at 71.011 seconds in the single speed round as one of only two clear rounds over Peter Grant’s (CAN) track.

Lopez, with two top mounts competing in the NAYC Trials during Week VIII of Desert Circuit, has high hopes for both himself in his amateur riding career and Epsilon De Brenil as his more competitive horse. Acquired from Ilan Ferder in 2021, the horse is coming through and proving to be a top competitor as Lopez takes on the higher ranks.

“As soon as I cantered I knew he was the right one for me,” Lopez said of the 9-year-old gelding (Ernest x Lord Z). “He’s incredible because out there he acts like he’s seen everything he needs to see – the walls, the open water – but he’s so young. He doesn’t actually have that experience but he’s so kind to me. He’s very brave.”

Epsilon De Brenil, known as “Ben” in the barn, can be a bit prickly sometimes. “We call him a cactus sometimes because he can be out in the warm-up pinning his ears, angry at all the other horses, but then in the stall he’s the friendliest guy,” Lopez shared. “In the warm-up I’m always wondering what Ben will do next, but as soon as I start jumping I know it won’t matter.”

Lopez now aims both his rides, Epsilon De Brenil and George ZG, at Sunday’s $20,000 Stal Hendrix NAYC Trial, aiming to jump clear on both and use Ben’s speed to secure a top spot, with his eye on the FEI North American Youth Championships in 2023, which would be his first appearance if he is to achieve that goal.

Competition on the grass field during Desert Circuit VIII continues Saturday with the $38,700 Whittier Trust CSI3* 1.45m Classic and the $50,000 Adeptus National Grand Prix. The Grand Prix Arena will welcome young athletes back to test the $7,500 Valencia Saddlery NAJC Trial 1.40m Classic, followed by Saturday evening’s $15,000 Ritz Carlton Speed League Final.

Final Results: $38,700 Premier Equine Rehab CSI3* 1.50m Speed

1. UN DIAMANT DES FORETS: 2008 SF stallion by Diamant de Semilly x Papillon Rouge
JIM IFKO (CAN), Eventyre Farms Ltd.: 0/65.33

2. NADALE VAN DORPERHEIDE: 2013 BWP gelding by Zilverstar T x Winningmood
CASSIO RIVETTI (BRA), Ilan Ferder: 0/67.93

3. JAVAS MISS JORDAN: 2009 ISH mare by Luidam x Obos Quality
NICKY GALLIGAN (IRL), Nicky Galligan: 0/68.37

4. BONITA VH KEIZERSHOF Z: 2011 ZANG mare by Bustique x For Pleasure
ALI RAMSAY (CAN), Ramsay Equestrian Inc.: 0/68.64

5. CADEAU Z: 2013 ZANG gelding by Carmena Z x Quattro B
MANDY PORTER (USA), Risen EQ Holdings LLC: 0/71.54

6. CHIC D EMMA Z: 2013 ZANG stallion by Cigaret JV H Z x Unique Drum Van Het Juxschot
SAMANTHA BUIRS (CAN), Samantha Buirs: 0/76.99

7. A-GIRL: 2010 SWB mare by A-Dur x Careful 28
SOPHIA SIEGEL (USA), Sophia Siegel: 0/79.85

8. CLARITY: 2009 HOLST gelding by Clarimo x Ephebe For Ever
GREGORY WATHELET (BEL), An Breeding: 4/65.83

9. CHARDONNAY: 2011 WESTF mare by Comme Il Faut x Jus De Pomme

10. CHICAGO CM: 2013 HOLST gelding by Cassini x Carpaccio
ERIC KRAWITT (CAN), Eric Krawitt: 4/68.36

11. CHESS: 2011 BWP gelding by Bufero Van Het Panishof x Latano I
NICK DELLO JOIO (USA), Wembley Farms Inc.: 4/68.97

12. NKH MR. DARCY: 2013 HOLST gelding by Darco x Chepetto