HOY - a DeFilippi family success story

A highly respected figure in the equestrian world, Julie DeFilippi is well used to excelling in the show ring – the 2024 Land Rover Horse of the Year show was no exception.

The Canterbury-based DeFilippi came away from the annual showpiece in the Hawke's Bay with a 100 per cent record - two horses entered, two Champions crowned.

Eagles Nest was named Inhand Standardbred of the Year, ahead of You Can Fly Arden (Chanelle Dickie) and Major Ouch (Claire Downey).

Nucleus VC took out the Ridden Standardbred of the Year title class, from Michelangelo (Taylah Dolan) and Major Ouch (Claire Downey). He also won Ridden Standardbred over 158cm, Best Paced and Best Presented.

"It was a good trip," DeFilippi says modestly.

“Held over a week, this prestigious event requires you to be qualified to enter, and to come away with two titles makes all the hard work of schooling, qualifying, maintaining and preparing these horses all year worthwhile. It’s something I am quietly proud of”

Particularly pleasing is the fact that Nucleus VC is ridden by her daughter Mandy Hamilton, while son-in-law Brad leads Eagles Nest on show days. Grand-daughter Tayla also rides and even Colin (a great horse holder) lends a hand on busy days – so the whole family is involved.

In 2020 the two horses were Champion and Reserve Champion in the Inhand section but Nucleus VC hadn't entered the ridden section at HOY before this year.

Julie appreciates all the help she gets from Mandy.

“I was so pleased for her success at HOY, she's been wanting to take Nucleus VC up there in the ridden section for years and with Covid and Cyclone  Gabrielle, HOY had kept being put off ."

"She's did a great job with him and rode him beautifully"

Nucleus VC was broken in by the DeFilippis. The husband and wife combo of Colin and Julie have trained more than 300 winners together, including the 2001 New Zealand Cup winner Kym's Girl. Colin is also the eighth most successful driver in this country, with 2072 wins.

They trained Nucleus VC to one win at Rangiora in 2018 while Eagles Nest had one placing from just three starts for David and Catherine Butt.

When they were retired Julie DeFilippi was quick to spot their showing potential, though the two horses are very different.

Nucleus VC (Washington VC - Smart Atom) is "fine" and Eagles Nest (Christian Cullen - Ascot Cam) is much more heavily-boned.

Nucleus VC is also skilled under saddle, his mate - not so much.

"Apparently he (Eagles Nest) used to trot & canter on jog days and wouldn’t pace much unless he had the hobbles on with the Butt’s. However, when you'd get on his back he paces all the time - it’s a balance thing for him & he stresses a bit" says DeFilippi.

Nucleus VC in contrast is an absolute toff.

"The (Australian) judge at HOY said this horse wouldn't embarrass himself in a Thoroughbred hack ring in Australia-so that was a big compliment."

In the Show Ring DeFilippi has produced many champions, as well as being a RAS (Royal Agriculture Society) judge and an administrator. She is also the New Zealand Standardbred Association Ambassador for Standardbred Showing.

"As a judge, I'm big on conformation and type - a horse has to, as we say ‘fit the box', to be the complete package."

While many believe the Standardbred is well suited to the show ring DeFilippi says it takes "a lot of miles and groundwork" to perfect the transition from cart to saddle.

"It's a skill to get a horse to canter without doing what’s called ‘trantering’ - half pacing half cantering - which a lot of them do. To be able to transition from a trot to a canter and not pace at all is not an easy task & takes time."

"It's an area where a lot of people fall down."

The DeFilippis have five show horses at their Broadfield property near Christchurch as well as their race team of 10.

"The show horses are not schooled in the arena every day, you have to keep it interesting for them, if you do the same old thing, they get bored and go sour."

So what is next for the two HOY winners?

"Maybe do it all again next year," DeFilippi says wryly, "they've had a full-on season and have both been turned out for a spell just now."


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