Lexington, KY - July 27, 2014 - As EL Raymond finished his first round course in today's $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show, Leslie Campbell could be spotted ringside doing a happy dance and cheering enthusiastically. With Molly Sewell in the irons, her horse had just turned in a beautiful round that would shoot him to the top of the leader board, where he would remain untouched through both rounds of the derby.
EL Raymond's first round score of 92 was closely contended by another mount ridden by Sewell, Joe Cool, owned by Emery Hanson. Sewell and Joe Cool earned a first round score of 91, putting Sewell in both the first and second place position to return for the handy round.
Following Sewell's coming back for the handy round on two consecutively ranked horses was Steve Heinecke. He returned in the third place spot aboard Jane Olsen Fisher's Swag and in the fourth place position aboard Fisher's So Lucky. Rounding out the top five returners were Christopher Payne and previous Hallway Feeds Derby winner, Harlan, owned by Susan Moriconi.
With Payne returning multiple mounts, Heinecke and So Lucky stepped up in the order as the first of the top five ranking riders to come back to compete over the Joseph Carnicom designed handy course. Their trip quickly bumped them to the lead with a score from the judges of 86 plus four high option bonus points for a second round total of 90 and a grand total of 179.
That score would end up holding up for the second place position, only being overtaken by Payne and Harlan and Sewell and EL Raymond. Payne and Harlan turned in the best performance of the second round with a judges' score of 88.50, coupled with four high option bonus points for a 92.50 total. Combined with their first round score of 87 they would finish on 179.50, just edging out Heinecke for the second place honor.
Sewell and EL Raymond were the last to return to clinch the victory.
"He's pretty much perfect. I will tell you what though - he knows when it means something," Sewell said of 'Raymond.' "He really rises to the occasion. I've done him in a couple derbies, and he loves the handy rounds. It gets his attention, and he tries five times harder than he normally does, which is already giving 100 percent."
The 17-year-old Warmblood, who's name, EL Raymond, actually stands 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' has lived up to that name ten-fold throughout his longstanding career.
"He's just kind of a go-to-guy. You always can count on him, and it's a pleasure to ride him," Sewell said. "I ride a lot of young horses, and they aren't always consistent. It's kind of a joke in the barn, I always ask Leslie every time that she comes back from riding him how he was. She's always like, 'really, you have to ask me? He was perfect.' He always is perfect. Everybody loves Raymond. I think that he has the biggest fan club at every horse show."
A large part of that fan club base can be attributed to the fact that Raymond was leased out to a number of riders before finding his forever home with Leslie Campbell and Over The Hill Farm three years ago.
"He's been in a lot of different barns. He was a lease horse for a long time," Sewell said. "Any time we go to a horse show, people come up to him and hug him and kiss him and say 'we love this horse!"
In addition to loving Raymond, Campbell and Sewell also love being in Kentucky at competing at the Kentucky Horse Park. Following his success today, EL Raymond will most likely return for more of the Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby Series. The seven-part series, presented by Hallway Feeds, offers series end cash prizes totaling $15,000 to the leading riders throughout the year.