By Sydney Lowe
THERMAL, Calif. – March 12, 2021 – Hunter competition continued at the Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) Friday morning beginning with the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by Butet. Hosted in the newly renovated Hunter 1 arena, forty-one horse and rider combinations demonstrated precision and handiness in an effort to claim the title and take home a generous prize money check. Leading the victory gallop was Jenny Karazissis aboard Big Shot, owned by Dulcie Lou Morris, who earned a total combined score of 371 to emerge victorious.
Course designer Kerry Kocher of Centre Hall, PA, utilized the arena’s vast size to create a big, beautiful International Derby track for the large group of competitors to show off their skills. Technical Director for Hunters Patrick Boyle, assisted in the build to be sure everything was picture perfect for the full day of derby competition.
Karazissis currently sits eighth on the list of Lifetime Hunter Money Won, having earned just over $300,000 according to the USHJA records. She is no stranger to the hunter derby world with numerous victories under her belt in addition to today’s win. Karazissis took the lead in round one with scores of 92 and 89. Big Shot was the only horse to break a score above a 90 in the first round. The duo returned for the handy and wowed the judges earning a 97 and 93 to secure the win.
“The handy, I had the advantage of going last on Big Shot and I opted not to do the, it was really tricky getting to the high option vertical before the roll-back turn to the double. I would say that is was the most difficulty that I had and also the inside turn after the forward six, it really tested your handiness big time.”
Spending the whole circuit competing, Karazissis has been able to enjoy all the new improvements around the facility. “Hunter 1 looks as good as any hunter ring anywhere. It really is beautiful, every angle, you can’t get a bad picture,” narrated Karazissis. “The jumps are pretty, the footing has been great, they really have tried hard to listen to people and try and make everyone happy; I know it’s a hard thing to do.”
Finishing just behind Big Shot was Tic Tac Toe and Kendall Bourgeois of Wilsonville, OR. Bourgeois landed first round scores of 85 and 86, then put her jumper skills to work in the handy landing a 92.5 and an 87.5 to move her into second place. Tic Tac Toe is 14-year-old gelding owned by Amy Bean. Bourgeois usually is a competitor in the jumper ring while sister, Nicole, is usually the hunter rider, despite that, she landed the ride on Tic Tac Toe this week for the derby. The sisters run Imagination Lane, which came together for them in 2012 and now has a great program and good horses to show, including several grand prix horses.
“The derbies are the one hunter class that I really do enjoy. You get to bring a little of the jumper ring into it and it’s not the same boring course. I’m hoping to get to the Hunter Spectacular next week for the $100,000 but I think my sister might take over the reins on Tic Tac again,” laughed Bourgeois. “I’ll have to see which one she lets me ride!”
Bourgeois loves coming to the DIHP for the second half of the circuit to enjoy the nice weather and appreciates the improvements that are happening with the horse show.
“I love the improvements,” added Bourgeois. “It’s a very positive atmosphere here, everyone is very excited to be here, they’re excited for the new changes, the new management and the new owners are very proud of what they’ve done and it really carries over. I feel it is way more exhibitor friendly; it’s a big job they’re doing. The staff is friendly and helpful from the office to the gate people, so it’s really nice.
Rounding out the top three placings was Jamie Sailor aboard Skyhawk. Owned by Laura Wasserman, Skyhawk has an impressive resume to date. Winning multiple international derbies and the USHJA International Derby Finals in 2017 under the guidance of John French. In Friday’s derby, Sailor and Skyhawk earned a score of 172.5 points in round one. The handy round allowed Sailor to show off Skyhawk’s impressive skill set and earned a 176 total score to secure their placing.
Karazissis, Bourgeois, and Sailor are all gearing up to compete in next week’s World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week. Horses and riders will be earning valuable points towards end of the year awards and the chance to head to Capital Challenge to compete in the 2021 national finals. All three have plans to compete in the prestigious $100,000 WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular held on Friday night under the lights in the Grand Prix Stadium.
RESULTS: $50,000 USHJA INTERNATIONAL HUNTER DERBY
Horse / Rider / Owner / Round 1 Score / Round 2 Score
- Big Shot / Jenny Karazissis / Dulcie Lou Morris / 181 / 190
- Tic Tac Toe / Kendall Bourgeois / Amy Bean / 171 / 180
- Skyhawk / Jamie Sailor / Laura Wasserman / 172.5 / 176
- Lulavani / Sami Milo / Cavallo Stables, LLC. / 161 / 185
- Picnic / Jenny Karazissis / Lisa Hankin / 164.25 / 181
- Caville / Marisa Metzger / Ashley Rheingold / 164.5 / 175.5
- Coraggio / Emma Lindstrom / June Salin / 164.5 / 174
- Duck Duck Goose / Nicole Bourgeois / Amy Bean / 162.5 / 175
- Starburst / Nick Haness / Ecole Lathrop / 171 / 166
- Cartier Du Rouet / Jenny Karazissis / Hedi Kane / 166 / 170
- Silent Majority / Shawn Casady / Meadow Farm / 157 / 175
- Get Rowdy / Jamie Sailor / Tenton Farms LLC. / 162 / 131