By Brenda Mueller
THERMAL, Calif. – March 19, 2021 – The Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) hosted the prestigious $100,000 West Coast Hunter Spectacular during World Championship Hunter Rider Week (WCHR), which is the final week of the Desert Circuit, and oh what a spectacular night it was. Course designer Tom Hern (Plymouth, MA) and Hunter Technical Director Patrick Boyle (Hampshire, IL) turned the freshly landscaped grand prix arena into a gorgeous hunter venue with beautiful jumps and gorgeous decorations for the exciting competition. Close to 70 horse and rider combinations jumping heights of 3’6”, 3’9” and 4’, had their moment to shine in the sensational competition.
The impressive event began with round one taking place in the afternoon to narrow down the field to the top 12 for the evening portion. The esteemed judges panel included Don Stewart, Jr.(Ocala, FL) and Sissy Wickes (Unionville, PA) with team two judges Alex Jayne (Elgin, IL) and Bob Crandall (Wellington, FL). Diane Carney provided commentary on the livestream.
Leading the pack after round one was Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot, owned by Dulcie Lou Morris, going later in the order over 3’9” and landing the high score of 90.75. Next in line was Jamie Sailor and Skyhawk, owned by Laura Wasserman, jumping around the 4’ height and receiving a score of 89.75.
Shawn Casady and Ashand Farm’s Cassario 8, finished round one in third place scoring an 89 and Nick Haness scored an 86 on both his rides, HH Elmo, owned by Lindsay Maxwell, and Ecole Lathrop’s Starburst. Rounding out the top six was Karazissis and Cartier Du Rouet, landing an 85.375.
In round two, riders came back laying it all on the line for the win. It was Haness and HH Elmo who earned the highest score of round two with a 92. Karazissis earned a 91.5 from the judges with Big Shot and Haness earned the next highest scores of 89.5 on Starburst, leaving Skyhawk sitting in fourth for round two. One rider after another galloped the long runs to oxers and bending lines to impress the judges, making for a great class to watch.
When the dust settled, it was Karazissis and Big Shot who secured the win and the check for their share of the $100,000 with her combined score of 182.25. The winner also received a $5,000 flight credit from Horseflight and a beautiful gift basket from Burtech Family Vineyard in addition to the generous prize money. Ecole Lathrop from Valencia Saddlery was on hand to present the “Horseplay Encouraged” perpetual trophy. Prizes included embroidered jackets for the rider, owner, trainer and groom; an embroidered cooler; a certificate for a pair of Parlanti tall boots; and a gift certificate from CWD. Karazissis also earned the Leading Lady Rider title, receiving a gorgeous bag from Lauracea.
Haness and HH Elmo moved into second place overall with a score of 180.75, moving up from fourth while Sailor and Skyhawk rounded out the top three with her 177.75.
“It was great to go out there tonight under the lights and gallop around this amazing arena with these jumps that were built to make these horses jump exceptional,” said Haness. “As hunter riders, the WCHR program is very important to us, and of course, this week is a big week, it’s been a whole circuit long of build up for this final week of competition. Having this amazing Spectacular class offered here is a huge benefit for us on the West Coast to have a class so generous and so amazing to showcase what we have on the West Coast. Clearly, I think all of these top three horses are horses that could go to the East Coast as well and represent us and do excellent back there.”
“I absolutely agree,” added Karazissis. “For them to put up this much prize money for the class is outstanding and the competition was very tough and the quality was outrageous. I just so appreciate it.”
The High Score Junior rider was Brook Rose Morin and High Score Amateur rider was Alexis Meadows, both were also acknowledged in the award presentations.
The Shapley’s Best Turned Out Award went to HH Elmo and his groom, Fernando Cruz.
To honor top riders in this World Championship Hunter Rider Week, the WCHR Leading Professional Rider and the Leading Developing Professional Rider, received a gift certificate for a WCHR Jacket. Earning the top honor for Leading Professional was Nick Haness with the Leading Developing Professional going to Kylee Arbuckle. Arbuckle also collected the award for the Highest Scoring Developing Professional in the Spectacular.
The evening festivities included a complimentary exhibitor dinner by way of delicious food trucks courtesy of the DIHP. Sponsor Stella McCartney hosted complimentary Stella Artois and Margaritas before the event while Burtech Family Vineyard displayed their wines with tasting samples just outside the VIP pavilion. Lauracea showed off their amazing bags for shoppers while VIP patrons enjoyed tasty food and snacks.
The USHJA Score 90 fundraiser for the USHJA Foundation was in full swing as the riders anxiously awaited their scores, hoping for that score of 90 or above to help raise funds for a good cause. Viewers of the livestream could text in pledges with final amounts due calculated after the class according to the number of scores that were 90 or above.
Catch the action live at Deserthorsepark.com and click the “Watch Live” tab.