Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 14, 2023—The country's top Hunters descend on the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, this week, August 15-19, for the annual Platinum Performance/USHJA Hunter Championship Week featuring the Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships and Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.
Kicking things off on Tuesday are the Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships. This year's championships will see Green Hunters competing at 3'0", 3'3", 3'6" and 3'9" vie for titles and more than $100,000 in prize money. With expanded qualifying opening the championships to all enrolled horses, over 147 3’0"/3’3" and 65 3’6"/3’9" horses will take to the Walnut Ring over courses designed by Kevin Holowack and under the watchful eye of judges Mike Rosser, Holly Orlando, Jeanne Marie Dunford-Miller, Jennifer Bauersachs, Troy Hendricks and Jessie Lang.
A new format for the 3'0"/3'3" Championship will debut with a ‘bye’ system. Horses that place in the top 10 in Tuesday's First Round will be awarded a ‘bye’ to the Final Round. Those exhibitors may elect to compete or not in the Second Round at their own discretion. The horses that place in the top 10 in the Second Round on Wednesday, based solely on that round's scores and excluding those that were in the First Round top 10, will be awarded a ‘bye’ to the Final Round. Finally, the top 10 horses with the highest combined scores from both rounds, excluding those in the top 10 in the First or Second Rounds, will move on to the Final Round. Scores from the First and Second Rounds will not carry over and all 30 horses competing in Thursday's Final Round will start with a clean slate.
Thursday will also feature the 3'6"/3'9" Championship's two rounds of competition, with the top 30 horses with the highest scores after the First Round advancing to the Final Round.
Both Championships will also include additional prize money for horse-and-rider combinations piloted by Tier II Riders—those 31st or below on the Green Hunter Incentive Program rider money won three-year earnings list. New this year, an additional 10 Tier II riders not already competing in the Final Rounds will compete over the same course for the Overall 3’0"/3’3” Tier II awards and the Overall 3’6”/3’9” Tier II awards.
The week's competition will culminate with the prestigious Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship with more than $221,950 in prize money on the line. Friday morning will see 89 horses competing in the Alan Lohman-designed Classic Hunter Round over a course featuring traditional International Hunter Derby-style fences. The top competitors will be called back for the Handy Hunter Round on Saturday evening under the lights of the Rolex Stadium. Those not qualified for the Handy Hunter Round will have the opportunity to compete in the $10,000 Derby Challenge on Saturday afternoon.
In the Handy Hunter Round, riders will be grouped into Section A and Section B based on their Tier, which is determined by the amount of money earned over the last three years in International Hunter Derbies. Tier I riders are those ranked 1-40, while Tier II riders are those ranked below 40th. The top 20 horse-and-rider combinations in the Classic Hunter Round round, regardless of tier, will be eligible for 80 percent of the prize money and compete in Section A of the Handy Round. The top 20 Tier II horse-and-rider combinations, including those qualified for Section A, will be eligible for 20 percent of the prize money. Those riders not in Section A will compete in Section B of the Handy Round.
Saturday will also see the return of Barn Night. Those new to the sport and longtime horse lovers are invited to the Kentucky Horse Park from 5-8 p.m. ET to watch the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship Handy Hunter Round. Attendance is free, and each barn that pre-registers will receive a special gift from USHJA. Before the class gets underway, guests can enjoy the chance to win exciting prizes, food trucks, Sweet Tooth Fairy ice cream, and Blue Stallion Brewing's Beer Garden.
For those not able to watch the competition in person, wall-to-wall live streaming coverage presented by Windsor Stables will be available at no additional cost to members at watchushja.org and ClipMyHorse.TV. Coverage begins on Tuesday, August 15, at 8:40 a.m. ET with the Opening Ceremonies of the Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships, followed by the first horse on course at approximately 8:45 a.m. ET.
The USHJA thanks the sponsors who helped to make these championships possible including Title Sponsor Platinum Performance and Official Sponsors CWD, Nutrena and Parlanti International. Thanks also go to Official Broadcast Provider ClipMyHorse.TV and Livestream Sponsor Windsor Stables; Championship Official Sponsors Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and Pharmacy and the Clothes Horse; Supporting Sponsors RingSide Pro, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and Human Touch; Award Sponsors Essex Classics, and Boy O Boy Bridleworks; and Bonus Award Donors Oakwell Farms, DS Holdings, LLC, Colleen McQuay and Patrick Rodes.
For more information about the live stream or to view the complete schedule, orders of go and online results for the 2023 Platinum Performance/USHJA Hunter Championship Week, visit ushja.org/competition/hunter-week-championships.
Photos: Terisé Cole/USHJA, Shawn McMillen Photography