SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. – April 10, 2021 – Twenty-two horse and rider combinations embarked on the Grand Prix Field at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park to contest the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby during Blenheim Spring Classic III. Judges Sue Ashe and Mark Bone, paired as panel one, alongside Brian Lenehan and James Waldman, paired as panel two, watched as riders navigated the course designed by Kerry Kocher (Central Hall, PA). Wowing both panels and earning the blue ribbon with a two-round total score of 393 points was Jenny Karazissis (Calabasas, CA) aboard Big Shot, owned by Dulce Lou Morris.
Judge Sue Ashe gave insight in a pre-show interview as to what she was looking for while judging this prestigious class: “I would say brilliance. We are lucky to have Kerry Kocher as a course designer. He does a beautiful job. He is as much for the horses to show their brilliance as we are to judge them from their brilliance.”
According to Ashe, great hunters should also possess a fantastic jump and good movement plus wear their ears pointing forward to each fence, which is exactly how Big Shot performed under Karazissis on the wide-open grass field. In round one, the duo impressed both panels. With base scores of a 94 and 90 plus the 8 points added for jumping the higher options, their overall score of 192 earned them top billing going into the Handy. After a brilliant second round, which totaled to 201 points, there was no doubt who the eventual overall winner would be.
Said Karazissis, “It was a lot of fun, a lot of galloping which I love. You can really hunt to the next fence and there was really only one related distance, ten strides, it rode very forward and up which was a lot of fun. It matched the course really well.”
Winning is not new to Big Shot, who is fresh off claiming victory in the $100,000 USHJA WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular held at the Desert Horse Park earlier in the season. ‘Dude’, as he is known around the barn, began his career as a Dressage horse before becoming a hunter in 2017. With owner Morris they competed in the Children’s Hunters before moving up to the Junior Hunter division while Karazissis competed him in the bigger divisions and the hunter derbies.
“I can’t even describe how special that horse is and how lucky I feel to ride him,” expressed Karazissis. “He is just so much fun and he has fun. He is very into it, loves his job and you can just see that. His ears are never anywhere but what is next and so alert. He is just such a joy to ride.”
Other accolades in Dude’s career include competing in the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships and the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships under the tutelage of Karazissis.
The second-place honors were awarded to Small Social piloted by Augusta Iwasaki (Calabasas, CA) to a two-round total of 379.5 points. Small Social is an eleven-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Iwasaki & Reiley. Rounding out the top three with a score of 374 points across the two rounds was Shawn Casady (Harriman, TN) and Cassario 8, owned by Ashland Farms.
Between the first and second round, Gail Ellis was presented with the Arthur Hawkins Award of Excellence. Given annually to an individual who has contributed to the industry of Show Hunters in significant ways during prior show years, Gail Ellis is very deserving of this award both in and out the saddle.
Gail has owned countless top hunters throughout the years. Two of her horses have been inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame – Touch the Sun and Isle of Erin. Many of her horses have competed at the National USEF Horse of The Year Championships. As a rider, Gail has earned a plethora of prestigious awards herself. In 2017, she claimed the Grand Amateur Owner Championship at the Menlo Horse Show aboard Saphir.
The final set of awards presented were the high scoring junior and amateurs of the derby. Earning the Plaid Horse High Scoring Amateur Rider Award was Alexis Meadows and Verdict after their great ride in the derby. In addition to her reserve champion honors, Augusta Iwasaki also took home the High Scoring Junior Rider award, presented by Shady Lady Sun Protection.
Competition continues at #ThePlaceToJump all week long. The feature class of Blenheim Spring Classic III, the $75,000 1.50m Grand Prix, sponsored by Interactive Mortgage, will be held Sunday in the Grand Prix Field. This grand prix is the first of three chances to compete in the Interactive Mortgage ‘Ticket to Ride’ High Performance Jumper Series during the 2021 show season. Learn about all the amazing programs by visiting ThePlaceToJump.com.
For full results and scores of the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, visit Showgrounds Live.
All photos by McCool Photography