Augusta Iwasaki Rides Rolo to Victory in $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Blenheim June Classic II

Augusta Iwasaki aboard Rolo. Photo by McCool Photography

June 20, 2021 – San Juan Capistrano, CA – Augusta Iwasaki and Rolo bested the Blenheim June Classic II $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on Saturday, June 19, marking the 17-year-old rider’s second consecutive international derby win at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano, CA.

A score of 388 secured Iwasaki and Rolo the top spot in Saturday’s class, while Jenny Karazissis and Picnic finished in a close second with an overall score of 387. Third place with a score of 371 also went to Iwasaki, this time aboard Small Social, the mount she rode to victory in the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby held during the Ranch & Coast Classic in May.

“Rolo’s so good at this!” said Iwasaki of the winning 10-year-old bay Luxembourg Warmblood gelding, owned by Ariya Nathu. “I’ve never seen him do a class that he isn’t good at. It’s really crazy. I just have so much fun with him. It’s really special because me and my friend Ariya get to do him together. It’s a really special experience, and obviously he’s amazing.”

Augusta Iwasaki and Rolo, winners of the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Blenheim EquiSports June Classic II.

On her way to this week’s win, Iwasaki rode four of the 17 entries in the class, and the young rider qualified to return for the handy round on all four of her rides.

As Iwasaki and each of the top 12 entries prepared to return for the second round, the inaugural ShowAssist Horse Show Hero Award was presented to Oscar Ahumada.

Throughout the show, grooms, braiders, bodyworkers and other support staff were nominated as horse show heroes – people whose hard work and dedication help make one’s horse show experience a success. From more than 100 of these nominations, Ahumada was randomly selected to receive a $500 cash prize and gifts from ShowAssist, along with a bucket full of goodies from Mary’s Tack Shop.

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DeAnthony Peterson presenting Oscar Ahumada with the ShowAssist Horse Show Hero Award.

Ahumada is a longtime groom for Jenifer Paris Owen of Cheval Farm, and Owen says that, “everyone at the barn sees Oscar as the go-to groom and his nickname is the horse show dad!”

The debut Equ Lifestyle Boutique Best Hunter Style Award was also presented on Saturday afternoon, with Karazissis named the first recipient of the honor. Having been selected for the award by the panel of hunter derby judges, Karazissis was presented with a $500 Blenheim horse show credit gift certificate and gift certificate from Equ Lifestyle Boutique.

Saree Gordon Solanski
Jenny Karazissis wins the Best Hunter Style Award, sponsored by Equ Lifestyle Boutique.

While Karazissis smooth rounds earned her Style Award, Iwasaki narrowly edged her out for the overall derby victory.

With riders coming back to the Olympic Sand Arena for the second round in reverse order of their standings, Iwasaki had the opportunity to contest the handy round course twice before returning aboard Rolo – something she was able to use to her advantage

“Usually, my plan with the handy round really depends on who else is up there and how low I am [in the standings], but since I had four in it today, I kind of tested it out on the first horse because I was a little bit lower,” explained Iwasaki, who first returned aboard Deva, the mount she ultimately rode to the ninth-place spot. “I thought the turns were difficult but not impossible. So, I kept doing them, and I got more practice doing it. It worked out really well!”

The slick inside turns that Iwasaki tried out on each of her horses were exceptionally well maneuvered aboard Rolo, earning the pair handy bonus points from the two judging panels of nine and 10. With all four high option fences taken and base scores of 90 and 89, Iwasaki and Rolo finished the round on a high score of 206, which, when coupled with a first-round score of 182 shot them to the top of the leaderboard with a 388 total.

Saree Gordon Solanski
Reserve Champions Jenny Karazissis and Picnic. 

Karazissis and Picnic, owned by Lisa Hankin, returned next to give Iwasaki a run for her money. The pair earned nearly equal second-round scores, including handy bonus points of nine and 10, base scores of 89 and 89.5 and all four high option bonus points for a 205.5 second-round total. Karazissis had similarly finished the first round just half a point behind Iwasaki and Rolo on a 181.5, which gave Karazissis an overall score of 387.

The final pair to return were Iwasaki and Small Kingdom; they led the first round on a score of 183.5, but an unfortunate rail in the second round would leave them with a 301.5 overall score and would secure the win for Rolo.

Saree Gordon Solanski
All smiles with Augusta Iwasaki leading the victory gallop aboard Rolo. 

Iwasaki credits much of her recent, continued success in USHJA International Hunter Derby competition to the numerous and varied horses she catch-rides, both in the show ring and at home.

“I think that really makes me a much better rider,” said Iwasaki. “Being able to get on different horses and learn to ride them how they should be ridden specifically has really helped me. All of the horses that I rode today I’ve been riding for a little while, so I know how to switch it up for each of them.”

“It was really nice to be able to go around this course a few times,” continued Iwasaki, in speaking of the course designed by Jasen Shelley. “I thought it was a great course; I had a lot of fun.”

For the win, Iwasaki was presented with a USHJA coolerette and halter and a Shady Lady face and neck scarf. Iwasaki was also named the Shady Lady High Score Junior Rider, and, as the winning trainers, Chris Iwasaki and Elizabeth Reilly received an embroidered tack room pillow, presented by Nick Byassee of Equestrian Design Group LLC. As the winning owner, Nathu received a Top Line Design Ribbon Wreaths gift certificate and a Blenheim EquiSports picture frame.

The Plaid Horse High Score Amateur Rider Award, including a Plaid Horse-branded ribbon and saddle pad, went to Jayme Omand who finished in seventh place riding Go.

Saree Gordon Solanski
Jamie Omand claimed the Plaid Horse High Scoring Amateur award aboard Go.

Prior to the start of the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, the Blenheim June Classic II also hosted the $5,000 USHJA Junior Hunter Derby Southwest Regional Final and the $5,000 USHJA Amateur Hunter Derby Southwest Regional Final. Earning the win in the Junior Hunter Derby was Skylar Wireman riding Baldeur, owned by Shayne Wireman, and in the Amateur Hunter Derby, it was Grace McReynolds who took the top call aboard her own Caruso.


$10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Results:
Place – Entry # – Horse – Rider – Rd. 1 Score / Rd. 2 Score = Total
1. 157 – Rolo – Augusta Iwasaki – 182 / 206 = 388
2. 223 – Picnic – Jenny Karazissis – 181.5 / 205.5 = 387
3. 154 – Small Social – Augusta Iwasaki – 172 / 199 = 371
4. 120 – Icon – Jessica Allan – 169 / 192 = 361
5. 963 – Mojito C – Lindsay Stefanko – 152 / 165 = 317
6. 152 – Small Kingdom – Augusta Iwasaki – 183.5 / 118 = 301.5
7. 403 – Go – Jayme Omand – 137 / 155 = 292
8. 1194 – Verdict – Alexis Meadows – 179.5 / 107 = 286.5
9. 206 – Deva – Augusta Iwasaki – 162 / 107 = 269
10. 332 – Positano – Victoria Lacagnina – 178 / 83 = 261
11. 833 – Just Cavalli – Gabrielle Sokolow – 98 / 92 = 190
12. 346 – Catoon – Zoe Wolf – 147 / 0 = 147