Rising Stars and Hunter Derbies: Palm Beach Series Competition Highlights and Polo West Turf Tour Preview

Written by Holly Johnson, Equinium Sports Marketing
Photos by Erin Gilmore Photography

(January 9, 2018) – Last week’s Palm Beach Series C-Rated Level 2 Jumpers were set on a stage as spectacular as the performances of the horses and riders, all competing in pursuit of the circuit’s generous prize money or their own personal goals. Highlighted by the $5,000 Rising Star Classic, $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, and $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, The Ridge Palm Beach Series hosted full hunter and jumper divisions from Wednesday, January 3 through Sunday, January 7 at Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. Combining an idyllic atmosphere and exceptional footing with beautiful venues around Wellington, the Palm Beach Series and Wellington Turf Tour bring an old world flair to the modern horse show and provide a crucial compliment to Florida’s winter season by catering to developing horses and riders.

Friday’s Rising Star Classic and International Hunter Derby both featured impressively built courses which were navigated under the stadium lights of Jim Brandon’s covered and all weather outdoor arenas. For the 1.30M Rising Star Classic, a brilliant sunset set the sky alight in metaphor for the blazing talent displayed by the competitors. With courses designed to present surmountable challenges to ambitious riders and developing horses, the Classic’s atmosphere imitates that of the international Grand Prix while allowing horse and rider combinations to adapt, grow, and thrive. The 1.30M Rising Star Classic will be held weekly through mid-April and at varying venues and times of day to allow for a diverse experience for exhibitors.

Another rising talent, Geoffrey Hesslink, kicked off 2018 in grand style as he and Cadoretto topped the Palm Beach Series’ first International Hunter Derby of the year. The scopey chesnut gelding put in an elegant performance under Hesslink’s guidance in both the first round and the handy, sweeping both to take the champion ribbon. “I’ve had Cadoretto for nearly a year, and he is a gentle giant who tries his hardest for you,” said Hesslink, who rides with Heritage Farm’s Andre Dignelli. “This was his first class of the year and I wanted him to go out and have a great experience, and he was nothing less than amazing.”

Saturday afternoon’s $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby saw Samantha Karp and Zentina B at the top of the class after the first and handy round. Karp and her mare put in scores of 93 and 98 to win their first ever National Derby title.