More than a hundred colts and fillies saddled up for the 17th annual running of the MFS SquashBusters Derby, but the winner was a veteran warhorse. At the end of three days of fierce competition and even fiercer camaraderie, it was founder and retiring CEO Greg Zaff who earned all the roses. “I gave everything I have to this program for nearly 30 years. All my past competitive drive from the squash court I channeled into building SquashBusters, basing it all on love and the belief that every kid deserves a chance,” he reflected in a moving speech during Saturday evening’s concluding celebration.
Like the actual Kentucky Derby, for which the annual SquashBusters competition is named, the stars turned out for Zaff’s final Derby as Race Director. Elite Pros who have supported the Derby from the beginning were on hand, like Chris Walker, Martin Heath, Gary Waite and Jonathon Power. Former World No. 1’s David Palmer, John White and Thierry Lincou said yes to the weekend in a heartbeat, while more recent friends Arthur Gaskin, Clinton Leeuw, Kush Kumar, Hameed Ahmed and Justin Singh filled out the impressive pro field. Dan Sharplin came back to Boston from Chattanooga and brought first-timer and former South African star Rodney Durbach with him.
The record-setting weekend raised $1.56m and featured scores of heroes, but Sandy Tierney once again topped the table on the individual front, raising over $100,000 and earning his fifth Secretariat Award. The themes of continuity and transition permeated the weekend, as both Tierney and Scott DeSantis, Captain of 2023 Champions Racqueteers, talked about the passion that is ignited by being together for the Derby weekend and the opportunity for the younger generation of supporters to take the reins.
The 2023 Derby featured eight teams of singles and doubles players, but both Racqueteers and Churchill Downey, captained by Jeff Harper and Sam Kaplan, sprinted out of the gate from the opening bell. Both finalists in 2022, the two teams renewed their rivalry in 2023 and once again wound up head-to-head in the lightening round match to determine the winner. After all 8 singles players had competed the match was still tied. Victory or defeat rested on the shoulders of the pros. At the wire, Arthur Gaskin nosed out North America’s greatest-ever player Power 3-1 to take the race. The victorious Racqueteers team included Gaskin, DeSantis, Connor Stoltz, Mike Semprucci, Yvan Bodart, Dan Latimore, Charlie Humber, Peter Kelly (a sub for injured Jon Hyett), Chandler Willet, Amrit Kanwal, and Martin Heath.
Major corporate support for the 2023 Derby came once again from Title Sponsor MFS Investments, Diamond Sponsors Foxfield, Intercontinental Real Estate , Intex , Westfield Capital Management, Gold Sponsors Archer Venture Capital, Berkshire Partners, Brown Brothers Harriman, Civic Financial, Loomis, Sayles & Co., William O’Neil + Co., and many others. Please visit our Derby Website for a full list.
The afternoon wrapped up with remarks from SQB alum, Vanel Joseph. He spoke about how he was originally attracted to SQB because he wanted to see “where his best friend was going every day after school.” But the program grew into a second home for him and helped him secure a place at Northeastern University where he now is studying health sciences with the goal of becoming an oral surgeon.
The celebration continued at the home of Board Member and Salubrious co-captains Simone and Jack Winston. We are grateful to them for opening their home for a second straight year. SquashBusters senior Tracy Nguyen spoke movingly about how SQB had also become a second home for her, how the program sustained her through COVID and helped her to create life-long friends. The evening concluded with Zaff’s reflections on 27 years leading SQB and acknowledged all the staff who have made this incredible program possible, also tipping his hat to his longtime friend and co-race director John Nimick. The evening’s highlights also included Zaff’s introduction by the three SquashBusters Program Directors, Vicky Flamenco, Mikhail Darlington, and Rodney Galvao, who are all alumni of the program. Each shared a personal anecdote about their days with Greg when they were students and he was their coach, reminding everyone of the complete circle their careers represent, and the power of squash, education, and love to change the world.
And be sure to click below to see more pictures of the weekend’s festivities.
Thursday Doubles – pw: ccfa45
Friday Doubles– pw: ccfa45
Saturday Singles– pw: ccfa45
Junior Stakes, Saturday Singles, Saturday Celebration – no pw required