Edited Press Release
Wayne, Ill. – May 13, 2022 – The Main Hunter arena at Lamplight Equestrian Center hosted the country’s top horse and rider combinations on Friday afternoon during the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Marking the third day of the Lamplight Spring Classic at HITS Chicago, riders showcased their mounts through two rounds of competition to try and garner the winning honors. MTM Caramba made a dominating debut in the hunter derby arena with rider Ashley March, earning two scores of 92 to claim the first significant victory of his hunter career.
“We just got him – this is only his third horse show in the United States,” expressed March. “He’s never horse showed in the hunters at all, so this was our first chance at it. He just jumped so well! He has a really easy step and he’s quiet, so I can lope around and he just snaps off the ground, but I didn’t know he would jump that well!”
Dean Battaglia designed a smooth and flowing first-round course that featured four high options for the original 22 entries, which were eventually narrowed down to the top 12 pairs to return for the handy round. The final test included two high options, a trot fence, and several rollbacks to take advantage of to gain valuable points.
March and MTM Caramba, an 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Roberta Milas, held the top spot from start to finish. They laid down a flawless first round to score a 92 and earned the top spot heading into the handy round. March put all her confidence in her horse, opting to navigate the handy round delicately as he made his derby debut, but his brilliant jump and easy pace created a picture-perfect round. They earned a second score of 92 for a two-round total of 184 to lead the victory gallop.
“I rode him in Ocala and fell in love with him right away,” added March. “He’s been the easiest horse to get going. We did a week in Wellington and then came here!”
March is a professional at Journey Hill Farm in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, and her win on Friday was very special. “I grew up right here in Bartlett, so I’ve been showing here since I was 4 or 5 years old, and it just feels like home,” she concluded. “I am so happy that [Tom Struzzieri] has kept it up and kept the horse shows going because it’s a beautiful venue, and it’s been awesome!”
Ryan Sassmannshausen and Rosalita moved up the standings during the handy round, adding a score of 89 to their original score of 87 for a two-round total of 176 and the second-place honors. He was followed closely by Tina Judge-Boyle and Afleix Dell A, who earned a total score of 173 to place third.
Earlier in the day, riders also had the opportunity to compete in the new Lamplight 2’6” Hunter Derby. Madeleine Lewis and Quilato earned the winning title by showcasing two smooth and consistent rounds. The day proved to be a family affair as she narrowly bested her identical twin sister Gabrielle Lewis and Chef QB, who took home the second-place prize. Jeff Battershall and Chester also earned good scores for their efforts during the classic round and the handy round for the third-place award.
On Thursday, the Green Conformation Hunter division concluded with Amanda Thomas winning two over fences classes aboard Loon Lake to receive the championship title. Marisa Metzger and Sinmigo Dos won an over-fences class as well as the under saddle to take home the reserve championship title. Metzger and Sinmigo Dos also went on to win the $1,000 USHJA Green Incentive 3’6”/3’9” with a score of 84, and she won the $1000 USHJA 3’/3’3″ Green Hunter Incentive aboard Trending.
Wednesday’s highlight event was the $750 USHJA Green Challenge, where Tina Judge-Boyle and Amy Martin’s 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding Afelix Dell A earned the top prize with a score of 82. Hillary Johnson and Sublime were right behind them with a score of 81 for the second-place award, while Ashley March and MTM Caramba rounded out the top three.