Smith, Haness, Wall Earn $5,000 National Hunter Derby Wins at National Sunshine Series I

Christina Smitt and Soon to Be

Edited Press Release

Thermal, Calif. – Nov. 5, 2021 – Hunter derby action took center stage on Friday during the Desert International Horse Park’s National Sunshine Series I. The $5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Platinum Performance, kicked off the day with Christina Smith earning the top score aboard Soon to Be. The $5,000 USHJA Open National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Ritz Carlton, was split into two sections, with Nick Haness winning the Section A riding Reese’s, and Lisa Wall claiming the leading title in Section B with Tangled Up In Blue.

Nancy Wallis set a beautiful and inviting track for the day’s highlight events. The top 12 in each section returned for the handy round where they had four high options, a two-stride and a direct or rollback option to the trot fence. Riders returned in reverse order of standing. 

Tonya Johnston and her own Galactic set the score to beat during the handy round, returning in seventh place after the classic round. The duo’s smooth handy round quickly put them at the top of the leaderboard with a total of 176.5. Ranked third in the classic round, Ella Cate Duke and Kenney Duke’s Galan were the first pair to overtake Johnston, earning a score of 178 to take over the lead after executing a beautiful handy course. 

Smith knew that she would need to have a nearly flawless round with her own Soon To Be to earn the win, having been ranked second after the classic round. They took the inside turns and made a direct approach to the trot fence before hand galloping the final oxer. The judges awarded them a score of 90, for a total score of 179 to lead the lap of honor, while Duke placed second and Johnston rounded out the top three. 

Christina Smith and Soon To Be accept their awards for their win.

Smith has been riding Soon To Be, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding, for four years. The pair normally competes in the Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunter division under the tutelage of trainers Joie Gatlin and Morley Abey. After a successful month on the East Coast competing at the Capital Challenge Horse Show and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, Smith was excited to be back in California for the National Sunshine Series where Soon To Be showcased his beautiful jumping style to win the day’s highlight event. 

Nick Haness and Reese’s were the champions in Section A of the $5,000 Open USHJA National Hunter Derby.

During Section A of the $5,000 USHJA Open National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Ritz Carlton, Haness led the competition from start to finish aboard Reese’s. He and the 8-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by West Coast Partners LLC scored a 92 during the classic round and went on to score a 94 in the handy round for a 186 total score and the winning title. The second place prize went to Chad Maheffey and Curtis Holdings Inc.’s No Reservations with a score 177.25, while third place was presented to Mitch Endicott and Stephanie Ray’s Everything for their score of 176.5. 

The final event of the day was Section B of the $5,000 USHJA Open National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Ritz Carlton. Wall was ranked seventh heading into the handy round, but her flawless round with the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood Tangled Up In Blue, owned by Mia Dimson, would earn a score of 93 for a total score of 180 and the championship title. Jan Humphrey piloted Cindy Balasubramanian’s Gramercy to the second place honors with a score of 179, while Katie Taylor and Molly Brock’s Charismo earned a 178 to round out the top three. 

Lisa Wall and Tangled Up In Blue captured the win in the Section B $5,000 Open USHJA National Hunter Derby


Christina Smith – Winner of the $5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Platinum Performance

On Soon To Be:
“I’ve had him for four years now and I feel like he’s my horse of a lifetime. We just got back from the East Coast and Indoors so we could show here during Sunshine. His name is Frank and I feel like that explains everything. We always say he’s like a Labrador puppy. He’s never going to fully grow up and I love him for it. He’s super fun, he’s always there, he doesn’t get mad and he doesn’t hold a grudge. He’s willing to try just as hard as you are to fix something. He’s really fun in the handy rounds.”

On today’s derby course:
“The course was so fun today. It looked super impressive when we were walking it. The ring is beautiful, there are a lot of plants and flowers, which is why it’s beautiful, but I started spooking a little bit. It rode beautifully though and everything was wonderful.” 

“We wanted to be smooth and take most of the inside turns. Joie and I both thought it was more handy to go directly to the trot jump, so I did the direct. We were able to nicely hand gallop the last fence and it came right up.”

On being back at the Desert International Horse Park:
“I love the desert. I didn’t love it as much as I do now until 2020 when we quarantined here. We locked down with the kids and I feel more in love with the area. Last year, we decided to stay the whole season – Sunshine through March – which was the first time I’ve ever stayed the entire time, and I loved it. We were a little worried it would be hard on the horses being at a show grounds that long, but they were actually more relaxed here. It’s so open and the bridle paths are amazing.”

Nick Haness – Winner of the $5,000 USHJA Open National Hunter Derby Section A, sponsored by Ritz Carlton

On Reese’s:
“This is one of my favorite horses ever. He’s like my son. He’s won a lot of derbies; it’s sort of his speciality. He really rises to the occasion. We’re really excited about today – out of a big field he was really consistent with big scores in the 90’s.” 

On Reese’s excelling in the Derby:
“He just has the personality of a champion. He knows it’s a special class; he can tell the difference. In the handy rounds he really comes to the challenge and shines. He’s got a beautiful presence, he’s a beautiful horse, a great mover and he’s very rhythmical. I think he really carries the same pace through the course and never changes. You can tell he really wants to be a contender to win.”

On the Desert International Horse Park:
“It’s great to be back in the desert; I’m proud to represent the West Coast. I think Steve and all of the Desert Horse Park team members have done a great job producing a world class facility and it’s really exciting to see what the future holds here.” 

Lisa Wall – Winner of the $5,000 USHJA Open National Hunter Derby Section B, sponsored by Ritz Carlton

On Tangled Up In Blue:
“She’s a once in a lifetime horse. We’ll be doing the 3’6” Green Hunters next year and heading on to the International Derbies. She has a great rhythmic way about her and a beautiful jump. She really gets that belly up and has a beautiful jump to her. She’s a ton of fun to ride.” 

On the Desert International Horse Park:
“The team has done a marvelous job! Everywhere I look there are improvements. It’s cooling the property down. Everywhere you walk because of the greenery, it’s fabulous!” 


$5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner/ Score 

  1. Soon To Be / Christina Smith / Christina Smith / 179
  2. Ella Cate Duke / Galan / Kennedy Duke / 178
  3. Galactic / Tonya Johnston / Tonya Johnston / 176.5
  4. Quirin / Grace Belmont / Grace Belmont / 173
  5. Wayfinder / Hilary Sosne / Hilary Sosne / 172
  6. Samba K / Kassy Perry / Kassy Perry / 171. 5 
  7. Lollypop / Lola Stern / Lola Stern / 171
  8. Summer Romance / Ashley Weiman / Romance Sport Horses / 169.5
  9. Can Do This Va / Shannon Kelly / Hermosa Sport Horses / 168.5 
  10. Erolie / Emma Mann-Meginniss / Louisa Ward / 168.25
  11. Kinship / Avery Winston / Avery Winston/ 155
  12. Noah Nelson / Holy Smokes / Noah Nelson / 84

$5,000 USHJA Open National Hunter Derby Section A
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner/ Score 

  1. Reese’s / Nick Haness / West Coast Equine Partners LLC / 186
  2. No Reservations / Chad Mahaffey / Curtis Holdings Inc / 177.25
  3. Everything / Mitch Endicott / Stephanie Ray / 177.25
  4. Gatsby / Alexis Taylor / Aleron LLC / 175.5 
  5. Colour Diamond / Nicole Bourgeois / Alexandria Baker / 174
  6. Lioness / Paige Dendie / David Bustillos / 173 
  7. Nivelo / Lindsay Ransom / Debra Chambers / 172
  8. Morrison / Nick Haness / West Coast Equine Partners LLC / 171
  9. Picnic / Katrina Karazissis / Lisa Hankin / 168.5
  10. Glow Up / Travis Root / Julia Darling / 165.5 
  11. Vivant / Lindsay Archer / Rhys Farms LLC / 155
  12. Opulance / Kaylee Arbuckle / Kirsten Polsky / 138

$5,000 USHJA Open National Hunter Derby Section B
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner/ Score 

  1. Tangled Up In Blue / Lisa Wall / Mia Dimson / 180
  2. Gramercy / Jan Humphrey / Cindy Balasubramanian /179
  3. Charismo / Katie Taylor / Molly Brock / 178
  4. Highseas / Gretchen Lof / Pam Stewart / 176
  5. Bluejacket / Alysia Lynch-Sherard / Jennifer Burke / 175.5
  6. Givenchy / Nicole Bourgeois / Barbara Lovre / 175
  7. Ravenswood / Kartina Karazissis / Lisa Wu / 174.5 
  8. Cheroshi / Rebecca Bruce Glynn / Christine Phillips / 174
  9. Chaplin / Sara Petersen / Jan O’Brien / 172
  10. Summer Soiree / Chelsea Brittner / Emily Anne Pasha / 171
  11. Rocketman / Halie Robinson / Sorensen Stables / 170
  12. Jenkins / Kelly Van Vleck / Brianne Tsakopoulos / 164