Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot Take Top Honors at Nilforushan Equisport Events’ Memorial Day Celebration for the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby

Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot

Temecula, Calif. – May 31, 2021 – Hunter riders took to the Grand Prix Arena at Galway Downs for the most anticipated Hunter event of the three week series, The Memorial Day $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby sponsored by Interactive Mortgage. Twenty-three of the West Coast’s top horse-and-rider pairs suited up in their shadbellies for one last spectacular derby at Nilforushan Equisport Events’ Temecula Valley National Series, presented by Interactive Mortgage. Eager to claim bragging rights and highly sought after qualifying points for the 2021 International Hunter Derby Championships held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky from August 19-21. Of the 12 handy trips, it was ultimately Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot’s round that stood out from the crowd helping to secure the victory. 

With the help of Nilforushan Equisport Events’ jump crew, course designer, Skip Bailey, pulled out all the stops transforming the Grand Prix Arena into a stunning 11-obstacle course featuring unique natural fences, four high options, and a playpen made out of hay bales serving as the epicenter of the ring. Bailey asked riders to navigate a multifaceted track featuring wide sweeping turns and long approaches, giving competitors ample opportunities to show off their adjustability, scope, and jumping style. While some horse and rider pairs faced individual challenges throughout the first round course, others excelled by selecting the opportunities to earn coveted bonus points for high options that best suited their horse.

Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot

Following a stiff first round of competition 12 riders advanced to the handy round in reverse order to show off their mount’s style, scope, and handiness. All of the four high option fences remained on course, offering riders the opportunity to bolster their score with bonus points. Of the competitors, it was the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, HH Elmo who secured the highest first round score of 185.5 with Nick Haness in the irons earning a score of 90 from judge one and an 87.5 from judge two, adding four bonus points to his score for taking all of the high options. Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot entered the second round within striking distance of the first place position just two points behind Haness with a solid score of 183. Concerto, piloted by Caroline Ingalls, sat in third, just a singular point behind Karazissis with a score of 182. With a concentrated top three, the prize was anyone’s for the taking. 

Nick Haness and HH Elmo
Nick Haness and HH Elmo

Augusta Iwasaki was the first of the top three to execute her plan over the 9-obstacle handy track. She and Ariya Nathu’s 10-year-old-selle Luxembourgeois gelding, Rolo laid down an impressive round taking all four high options hoping to move up from her third place position. The expertly navigated round prompted the judges to reward the young rider with a 86.00, plus 4 points for the high options, and a handy score of 9. The second judge awarded a score of 85.5 also including the high option points and a handy score of 8, bringing her handy round score to 196.5. The pair’s overall score of 373.75 would be good enough to solidify their current standing, and defend the third place podium. 

Augusta Iwasaki and Rolo

After Karazissis’ horse, Big Shot pulled a shoe in the warm-up ring prepping for their handy round, Haness opted to move up in the order to the penultimate spot. Having already racked up a plethora of division championship and reserve championship ribbons at both the Temecula Valley Premier and National series with Lindsay Maxwell’s trusty mount, HH Elmo. Haness was certainly handy finding the perfect striding in the playpen and executing nimble and elegant rollback turns to all four high option fences. The judges were impressed with his round, awarding him a base score of 89 and 7 handy points as well as an 85.250 and 8 handy points to total a second round score of 197.25 and an overall score of 382.75 which would top the leaderboard. 

Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot

Karazissis was the last to take to the track with Big Shot following a shoeing mishap. Having already navigated the handy course once aboard one of her other mounts, Picnic, Karazissis was eager to take to the ring with her “veteran” derby mount. Dulcie Lou Morris’ 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding certainly lived up to his name showcasing his incredible scope, pleasant expression, and flowing gates. The pair’s ride was as close to perfection as one could hope, posting the highest base score of the day with a 95. Having taken all four high options and being awarded a handy score of 9 from judge one and a base score of 87, plus another handy score of 9 from judge two, the duo walked away from round two with a whopping score of 208, bringing their overall score to an incredible 391. The pair shot straight up to the top of the leaderboard from their second place standing following round one. 

Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot

Competition resumes at Nilforushan Equisport Events for one final week of the Temecula Valley National Series, presented by Interactive Mortgage on Wednesday, June 2. Feature classes of the week include the $22,500 Spruce Meadows 1.35m NEEd for Speed Final and Young Rider Trials. 


Jenny Karazissis – $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Winner 

On the competitive derby class:
“Nick [Haness] puts the pressure on always! He was very nice to move up [in the handy order], he could have waited until after I had gone but he was very professional and it really put the pressure on me! It was very exciting and nerve wracking!

“[I pulled the shoe] when I was warming up [for the handy round]. I had just started the warm up and we were practicing with a kind of a bend like the hay bales in there. My husband saw that it had happened, I didn’t feel it happen but he saw that it came off. We had to get a farrier, and the nails he had weren’t going to fit in the holes of my shoe so he had to get nails. Meanwhile, my stomach is churning! Then we went to warm up and he felt fabulous so I felt pretty good about going in there and doing all the inside turns and everything.”

On her strategy:
“The first round I had to go early in the class. He is a derby veteran and I knew the playpen, the log and all that stuff wasn’t going to be an issue for him so I felt pretty confident. The course, I just loved it. It walked great and I just couldn’t wait to do it. They really put a lot of effort into making it nice and it was really lovely. I’m sure the spectators really enjoyed it. It was very helpful that I got to do [the handy] twice on the other horses I rode earlier in the class. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be to get to the bales and line up two strides out going to the right. It was very hard but Nick did a good job of it. I thought I was doing the same line he had done but I trapped myself and kind of got at an angle that I was pointing to the left. On one of my horses I took a three and the judges didn’t penalize me because there is no set number in between those jumps.” 

On Big Shot:
“He’s incredible. This is his fifth [derby] win in a row. I just look forward to riding him, even if it’s at home on the flat. I just love that horse, I adore him.” 

On participating in the Memorial Day Derby:
“I coaxed my husband into staying with me for the derby today, and they did such a nice job. I got to hack in there this morning, and I really enjoyed watching the Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum clinic. I learned so much, and that’s another nice thing they did for the people being able to audit. With the VIP open all day, it was just really nice.”


 $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby sponsored by Interactive Mortgage

Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score | Total
1. Big Shot / Jenny Karazissis / Dulcie Lou Morris / 183 / 208 | 391
2. HH Elmo / Nick Haness / Lindsay Maxwell / 185.5 / 197.25 382.75
3. Rolo / Augusta Iwasaki / Ariya Nathu / 177.25 / 196.5 | 373.75
4. L’con Reyes / Katie Taylor / Bravado LLC / 174 / 198 | 372
5. Small Kingdom / Augusta Iwasaki / Iwasaki & Reilly / 176 / 194 | 370
6. Inkwell / Jenny Karazissis / Tami Cabaniss / 174.5 / 193 | 367.5
7. Sovereign / Nick Haness / Lindsay Maxwell / 174.1 / 193 | 367
8. Caldiano / Nick Haness / Double Down Farm, LLC / 176.1 / 188.5 | 364.5
9. Concerto / Caroline Ingalls / Caroline Ingalls / 182 / 180.5 | 362.5
10. Long Game / Ilana Halpern / Peggy Towers / 177.5 / 176 | 353.5
11. Picnic / Jenny Karazissis / Lisa Hankin / 175.1 / 167 | 342
12. Mr. World Wide / Robert Blanchette / Shannon Stevens / 175 / 0 175