Augusta Iwasaki and Small Social shot straight to the top of the leaderboard in the first round of the Ranch & Coast Classic’s $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, and they stayed there through to the end to earn the win on Friday, May 14, at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano, CA.
The pair finished with a two-round total score of 386, while Nick Haness and Eclair, owned by Ecole Lathrop, claimed a close second on a score of 382. With Iwasaki competing four entries in the class, she also finished in third with a score of 371 aboard Small Kingdom, owned by Iwasaki & Reilly, and fourth with a score of 366 on Attendu de Lannois Z, owned by Ashland Farms.
“It’s so amazing to win today,” said Iwasaki, 17, who earned her first USHJA International Derby victory in the same class at the 2019 Ranch & Coast Classic riding Small Kingdom. “I’ve been showing at Ranch & Coast since I was doing the short stirrup, so it’s really fun to be able to continue to show here and move up the ladder a little bit.”
Iwasaki and Small Social were one of 17 entries that took on the first-round course, set for the first time in the spacious Olympic Sand Ring and designed by Scott Starnes.
“I really like the ring!” said Iwasaki, joining numerous other riders in offering rave reviews of the new home for featured hunter competition throughout the Ranch & Coast Classic. “It’s big and really nice to ride in. I thought the courses were really fun.”
Second-place finisher Haness added, “Blenheim has revived and restored that special horse show feeling. The ambiance in the new Olympic hunter ring is grand.”
Haness, who also won Thursday’s USHJA National Hunter Derby riding Morrison, continued, “The horses jumped beautifully with all of the extra space, and the ringside exhibitor lounges attracted people to want to watch and support the highlighted events for the week. It felt special again, and it felt fun to win in such a great place.” For Starnes, the large ring provided the chance to set an inviting and flowing course for the classic round.
“It’s a nice, very big ring, and it rode pretty much how I was expecting,” said Starnes, whose first-round course made good use of naturally colored obstacles, substantial brush and foliage and fences reminiscent of the hunt field, including a log jump. “The horses seemed to be able to get a nice flow.”
Following the conclusion of the classic round, the top 12 riders returned to the Olympic Sand Ring for the second, handy round.
With a trot fence and multiple opportunities to execute inside turns, the second round allowed riders to really showcase their horses’ handiness – something the two judging panels agreed that both Iwasaki and Haness did exceptionally well.
Haness and Eclair’s slick inside turns helped them earn 10 handy bonus points from the two judging panels, made up of Jim Dahlquist and Sandy Aston and Harriet Bunker and Gary Young. When coupled with four high option bonus points and scores of 89 and 88, Haness and Eclair earned a second-round score of 205, enough to ultimately move them up the leaderboard from third to second.
To clinch the win as the final rider to return, Iwasaki needed a handy-round score higher than 201, and Small Social delivered. With all four high options taken, handy bonus points of six and nine and scores of 93 and 89, the duo matched Haness and Eclair’s second-round score of 205 and guaranteed their victory.
“He was so fun, and you can just feel how athletic and capable he is,” said Iwasaki of Small Social, an 11-year-old Oldenburg owned by Iwasaki & Reilly.
The chestnut gelding had been competing in the jumpers with Will Simpson before Kate Conover found him in 2020 and transitioned the horse to the hunter ring.
“I started showing him in December, and he’s been awesome ever since then,” said Iwasaki.
In addition to the winning honors, Iwasaki received the Shady Lady High Score Junior Rider Award as the top-finishing young rider.
The Plaid Horse High Score Amateur Rider Award went to Charlotte Murray who finished in sixth place aboard Incandescent, owned by Gabrielle Sokolow.
$15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Results:
Place – Entry # – Horse – Rider – Rd. 1 Score / Rd. 2 Score = Total
1. 505 – Small Social – Augusta Iwasaki – 181 / 205 = 386
2. 183 – Eclair – Nick Haness – 177 / 205 = 382
3. 503 – Small Kingdom – Augusta Iwasaki – 175 / 196 = 371
4. 504 – Attendu de Lannois Z – Augusta Iwasaki – 171 / 195 = 366
5. 282 – Coraggio – Emma Lindstrom – 170 / 194 = 364
6. 515 – Incandescent – Charlotte Murray – 169.5 / 178 = 347.5
7. 294 – Verdict – Alexis Meadows – 157 / 164 = 321
8. 119 – Positano – Victoria Lacagnina – 165 / 152 = 317
9. 424 – Diar Noir – Robert Leckie – 167 / 136 = 303
10. 510 – Rolo – Augusta Iwasaki – 178 / 108 = 286
11. 227 – Prince of Peace – Katrina Pattinson – 147 / 111 = 258
12. 408 – Compliment – Peter Lombardo – 150 / 100 = 25
All Photos: McCool Photography