Taylor Brooks of Ashton, ON, piloted Spectre to victory in the $25,000 Knightwood Hunter Derby on Tuesday evening, November 7, during the Royal Horse Show, held as part of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, ON.

As the winners of the $15,000 Braeburn Hunter Derby on Sunday, November 5, and Tuesday’s $25,000 Knightwood Hunter Derby, Brooks and Spectre were presented with the Lorna Jean Guthrie Challenge Trophy as the overall 2023 Canadian Hunter Derby Champion.

“Under the bright lights, I think Spectre stepped right into the ring and knew he was under the spotlight and he wanted to show off his best abilities,” said Brooks of the 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding. “I couldn’t have asked for any more from him. It could have been anybody’s night. We’ve all worked hard to be here. There’s an amazing group of professionals, amateurs, and juniors in this class with great horses. I’m pretty speechless.”

Brooks and Spectre were the last combination out of the starting field of 19 entries to tackle the course designed by Ken Krome of the United States. The pair took advantage of the inside turn options and showed off Spectre’s beautiful jump to earn an impressive base score of 89 with 10 high option points and 10 handy points added for an overall score of 109.

“I think the course designer really wanted to see us showcase our horses’ brilliance,” explained Brooks, 32. “When I watched the whole class and saw those big scores coming in, I knew I had to do something a little bit different. My horse, thankfully, is a smaller package. He’s easy to turn, so I knew the inside turn from fence one to two could set me apart from the rest of the group. Spectre is incredibly brave, and he follows me every step of the way. I look and he’s there. I don’t have to do too much work to get him to turn with me.”

The pair’s partnership began when Spectre was imported as a four-year-old from Europe, and Brooks has had the ride for owner Taylor Bond ever since. Over the past six years, the duo has solidified themselves as top contenders in the hunter ring.

“He had had about 30 days under saddle under his belt when he was imported,” reflected Brooks. “I’ve been his rider from the Baby Green Hunter division right through. We competed here last year in the derbies and the 3’6” Green Hunter division. It’s just been an honour to get to develop him from start to finish. It was always our dream to get here one day.”

Kristjan Good of Campbellville, ON, rode Carano, owned by Alexandra Maletta, to second place in the $25,000 Knightwood Hunter Derby with a total score of 108. Kelly Robinson of Russell, ON, and Buckingham, owned by Cawthra Burns, claimed third place with a score of 107.

The overall 2023 Canadian Hunter Derby Reserve Champion was awarded to Isabelle Lapierre of Levis, QC, and Carerra S, owned by Johannie Légaré. The pair finished third in the $15,000 Braeburn Farms Hunter Derby and fifth in the $25,000 Knightwood Hunter Derby.

The Eastern and Western Canadian Hunter Derby Series champions were also recognized on Tuesday evening, with the Prince of Thieves Trophy, presented by Equestrian Canada, awarded to Lapierre and Carerra S as the Eastern Canadian Champions. The Eastern Canadian Reserve Champions were Jeff Brandmaier of Guelph, ON, and Nitecap, owned by Knightwood Stables. The $25,000 Represent the West Championship, presented by Equestrian Canada, was awarded to Ashley Arnoldt of Langley, BC, and Light My Fire, owned by Jennifer Arnoldt, as the Western Canadian Champions. The Western Canadian Reserve Champions were Sloane Betker of Kelowna, BC, and her own Crack.


A dressage rider performing.

Three-time Pan American Games medalist Tina Irwin of Stouffville, ON, wowed the crowd with her dressage freestyle aboard Fancy That. (Ben Radvanyi Photography)


Following the beautiful display of hunter competition, Tuesday’s evening performance also featured the harmony and precision of the Olympic sport of dressage. The Royal Dressage Showcase included several special features, including a Pas de Deux at the Young Rider level performed by Zachary Marshall and Anna Swackhammer, both Canadian team veterans of this year’s North American Youth Championships. Lynsey Rowan and two-time Canadian Olympian Belinda Trussell also performed a Pas de Deux, executing highly technical movements set to 80s-themed music, and seemingly danced with their horses across the floor of the Coca-Cola Coliseum.

Tina Irwin of Stouffville, ON, showed the crowd why she is a three-time Pan American Games medalist with a Madonna-inspired freestyle performance that had the audience cheering, while Esther Mortimer also demonstrated great technical ability in her emotional freestyle, all set to the music of her choice which included Canada’s own Blue Rodeo.

Finally, Florian Bacher, a 19-year veteran member of the Spanish Riding School, conducted a masterclass in dressage which included an intricate look at training the Grand Prix movement of piaffe. The Tokyo Olympian, who also represented his native Austria at the last World Championships and past three European Championships, enthralled the crowd while imparting his expertise.

$25,000 Knightwood Hunter Derby Results
Tuesday, November 7
Rider / Hometown / Horse / Score

1. Taylor Brooks / Ashton, ON / Spectre / 109
2. Kristjan Good / Campbellville, ON / Carano / 108
3. Kelley Robinson / Russell, ON / Buckingham / 107
4. Emily Wulff / Claremont, ON / I’m Very Special Z / 103
5. Isabelle Lapierre / Levis, QC / Carrera S / 102
6. Olivia Groenewegen / Elginburg, ON / Chatsworth / 96
7. Kennedy Ballard / St Lazare, QC / Jazz Air / 94.5
8. Emma Edwardson / Calgary, AB / Diarado Dream / 93
9. William Dow / Caledon, ON / Troubador / 92
10. Sloane Betker / Kelowna, BC / Crack / 91
11. Kristjan Good / Campbellville, ON / Nitecap / 90.25
12. Denis Sweeney / Peterborough, ON / Belmont / 90