Sept. 5—Antioch, Ill.
It’s a good day to be Tammy Provost, and she knows it. A smile finds its way into every picture snapped of her, whether she’s galloping, jumping or accepting the top ribbon in the $5,000 USHJA Chicago National Derby aboard the bay gelding Essential.
“He’s a sale horse, but we’re not too excited to sell him now, because he’s just coming into his own,” Provost said (with, you guessed it, a smile).
Provost and Essential, owned by Provost, Wendy Hofmeister and Dean Berger, have been unstoppable all weekend at the Chicago Hunter Derby—they won the $2,500 National Hunter Derby Welcome stake on Friday, and were leading the field after Saturday’s opening classic round.
All that remained was to seal the deal with a knockout handy performance, and the pair did just that. Scores in the 90s meant Provost and “Ollie” captured the tricolor. The ringing of a large bell standing center ring reminded onlookers of the charities associated with the Chicago hunter derby—every time a rider earns a score of 90 or higher, people who have pledged money make an additional donation to various charities.
Provost is grateful the big shiny bell didn’t distract her mount, whose head she can usually count on finding in the clouds (like the ones drifting across the big, blue beautiful sky at the derby—more on how stunning the Annali-Brookwood Farm venue is later).
“He just, he’s a pleaser. He always tries to do the right thing. He does go around distracted but is not scared of anything,” Provost said.
Standing at the in-gate, fellow competitors hanging around to watch Provost’s handy round could be heard commenting on her brilliant pace over the “bridge,” a dirt path in the middle of the grass field bordered with a birch post fence. “Oh, she’s going for it,” someone remarked as Provost thundered on by, seamlessly steadying from a hand gallop to find a good spot out over the next fence.