GLADSTONE, N.J. — The feature class of Monmouth at the Team on Aug. 14 at Hamilton Farm was the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Eastern Hay.

Sunny skies turned dark and rain started shortly after the first horse hit the course. After a brief delay due to lightning, the competition returned and so did clearer skies.

Out of a field of 48 horse-and-rider combinations, Morgan Ward and Cypress rose to the top to lead the victory gallop around the storied arena. It was icing on the cake for Ward who was also celebrating her birthday.

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Skip Bailey’s derby course included four high options and possibilities for inside turns and creative navigation. In the handy round, the high-score riders at the end of the group seemed to challenge each other with each trip. Ward was impressive. She took risks and they worked out in her favor. Ward earned a first-round score of 94 and an 87.5 in the handy to seal the top prize with a total of 181.5 points.

Ward and Cypress, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Quidam de Revel and owned by Bruce Green, have been a team since April. In early July the pair won the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby at the Vermont Summer Festival.

 “The horse has one pace,” she said. “He doesn’t change and he’s extremely handy. It doesn’t matter what distance, his knees are always up and he has great expression.”

Ward is a young professional from Milford, N.J. and works out of Willow Brook Farm. She’s impressed with Monmouth at the Team. “Especially for us, it’s local and it’s exciting to show at the USET,” Ward said.

Second-place finisher, Michael Desiderio, a member of the family team at Traquillity Farm, in Chester, N.J., also appreciated Bailey's course.

“It was technical enough but still doable,” said Desiderio who won the second-place prize with Zero Tolerance, a gray Dutch Warmblood owned by Dru Cederberg. “If you had amateurs or juniors in the class it was rideable for them. The professionals got to show what they could do.”

Devon Thomas, 16, of Milburn, N.J., trains with the Desiderios at their Tranquillity Farm. She was inspired by the challenge to go the extra mile in the handy round with her mount of only 60 days, Diabolo, landing her in third place.

 “I was not planning on doing any of the inside turns but after Mike’s (Desiderio) round, I decided to and it really paid off,” she said.

Monmouth at the Team is grateful to Eastern Hay for their continued support of the $5,000 USHJA 

Monmouth at the Team Presents to Equestrian Aid Foundation

In 2017, Tucker Ericson and Michael Dowling started a new tradition for Monmouth at the Team by presenting a donation on behalf of the show to Equestrian Aid Foundation. The nonprofit organization offers financial assistance to horse people facing catastrophic illness or injury.

This year, Ericson and Dowling presented a check to Equestrian Aid Foundation board member Scot Evans. The Centenary University Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association team, represented by coaches Michael Dowling and Heather Clark, also presented a check to Evans on behalf of the team’s fundraising project with Longines Masters New York.

“The events today remind us of the reason why the Equestrian Aid Foundation was created," Evans said. "On these holy grounds at USET, it doesn’t get better. To have students at Centenary and show managers giving back and explaining to exhibitors what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, they’re helping horsemen — that’s what it’s all about.”

Monmouth at the Team runs through Aug. 20 with action starting at 7 a.m.

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