John French and Paradigm Prove Unbeatable in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Saratoga Classic I
John French continued his successful week with a victory aboard Paradigm in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on Saturday, June 17, 2023, during World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition at the Saratoga Classic I, held during the 25th anniversary of Saratoga Horse Shows, at White Hollow Farm in Stillwater, NY.
A competitive field of horse-and-rider combinations contested the first-round track set in the Bainbridge Hunter Ring. French of Wellington, FL, and Paradigm, owned by Meredith Lipke, produced a smooth round to earn scores of 86 and 89 with four high-option bonus points added to each score for an overall total of 183. Following the conclusion of the first round, French and his mount sat in second place. The pair then executed an impressive handy round, handling the tight turns and high options with ease, and were rewarded by the judges with base scores of 92 and 93. With the addition of four high-option bonus points to each score, French and Paradigm finished with a second-round total of 193 to put them at the top of the class.
“I knew going into the handy I had to make it count,” explained French. “Amanda [Steege] and Lafitte de Muze were four points ahead of me. There was quite a tight turn from fence one to two, and the second jump was a high option. I kind of debated it, and then I saw my student Ariana Marnell do it very well. I thought if she can do it, I better try to do it. Paradigm did it really well. From his jumper experience, he turns easily, and it was a course with a lot of tight inside turn options. He then galloped up to the last jump. I couldn’t be happier with his round.”
The duo has been developing their partnership in the derby ring throughout the year, but are no strangers to the winner’s circle having won an international derby during the 2023 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.
“He was purchased at the end of the winter last year from Mike McCormack and Tracy Fenney,” said French of the 11-year-old Warmblood gelding. “I really just show him in the derbies and occasionally do the High Performance Hunter division. He has jumper experience, so we didn’t do the First Year Green divisions. We went straight to the fun classes. Right now, we are gearing him up for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in Kentucky.”
In addition to being a competitive partner in the show ring, Paradigm is a reliable mount for French in many ways.
“I broke my leg last year, and when I came back from the injury they told me I could ride one horse a day,” shared French. “I chose Paradigm. I trust him. He’s the most comfortable, and he is not spooky. He’s the horse that got me back in the saddle and in shape.”
First-round leaders Amanda Steege of Califon, NJ, and Lafitte de Muze, owned by Cheryl Olsten, received second-place honors. The pair earned a total score of 187 in the first round and a score of 188 in the handy round. Caroline Signorino of Basking Ridge, NJ, and Geradus, owned by Meridian Farm LLC, finished in third place with a first-round score of 173 and a second-round score of 184.