The new year is looking to be a winning one for Wellington’s Jimmy Torano, and Laskano, owned by Isalou, Inc. The pair christened their Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) season by taking the blue in Friday’s $25,000 USHJA 2* International Hunter Derby, presented by MARS Equestrian™, during opening week, after winning the same class in 2023.

In classic derby format, two panels of judges tallied their scores for the first round, determining which twelve riders – of the original eighteen – would return for the handy track. Torano’s combined first round score of 190 sent him to the top of the leaderboard and in perfect standing for the handy phase.

The top-twelve riders returned to conquer the handy, which included a series of high options, a trot fence and ample opportunity to show off tighter turns, a specialty of Torano and Laskano.

“Two years ago, we won every derby we entered together so I know I can really count on him when it comes to these classes,” said Torano of the eleven-year-old gelding by Laskaja.

Torano’s trust in Laskano allowed him to maximize his handy round, saying, “I decided that I was going to take every risk. Even going in on top I knew other riders could easily take over that top score, so I stuck to my plan of taking those risks. I can really count on this horse, I truly believe in him so I took every inside turn and each tougher option to stay in that top spot.”

The pair’s plan prevailed and landed them with a handy score of 194, for a winning total of 384. Fellow Wellington native, John French and Paradigm, owned by Meredith Lipke, scored a combined 180.5 and 183 for a total of 363.5 to take reserve. The podium of Wellington locals was rounded out by Jennifer Bliss and Poker Face, owned by Harris Hill Farm, LLC, with scores of 181 and 179.5 for a total score of 360.5.

While Torano refers to Laskano as a “derby master,” he has plans for the gelding to make a new name for himself in the junior hunters. “I would love for him to do the junior hunters with my son, JJ, and then dip back into these derbies when they come around,” says Torano. “He’s a younger horse, but I would love to give him a lighter year, not jumping the 4’ too much, and really focusing on qualifications for big shows. It would be great for him and JJ to get qualified in the junior hunters for Devon.”

Results here.