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Triple Lutz is a Derby Superstar!

Burbank, CA: Triple Lutz caught the eyes of the judges in the first round of the inaugural $15,000 USHJA Hunter Derby at the Memorial Day Classic, with junior rider Samantha Harrison (Karen Healey, trainer) in the irons. After a stellar first performance over Chris Collman’s old-fashioned hunt style course consisting of natural split rails jumps, stout brush box oxers, and other like jumps, Harrison then returned for the handy round and executed quick, handy turns, bold gallops, and all the hard options to retain the lead. “I wanted to jump all the big jumps, go fast, and be smooth.” Harrison’s face was beaming when asked about the format of the class and her victory, “It was so exciting!” Normally Harrison rides Triple Lutz in equitation and medals, but she thou ght the Derby sounded like fun.

An original concept of legendary horseman, Georges Morris, the Derby format was further developed by the High Performance Committee of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA), and its Chairman, Ron Danta. The purpose of the class, explained on-site USHJA representative, Whitney Allen is to, “promote a change for Hunters. The driving reason USHJA developed the class is to showcase the horsemanship, handiness and showmanship of the hunter. We want to draw crowds, attract corporate sponsorship and bring excitement back to hunters.” On board this first season are sponsors Charles Owen & Co, Dover Saddlery, ASG, Dietrich Insurance, and Walsh Saddlery.

The competition is comprised of two rounds each judged by two teams of judges. Fences were set at 3’6” with four option fences set at 4’0”. Chris Collman pulled out all the stops for the handy phase. A trot jump out of the arena was followed be a couple of jumps outside the arena, and then horses jumped back into the arena over a natural vertical, much to the delight of the spectators, who had packed both the table seating on the berm and the bleacher seating flanking the Los Angeles Equestrian Center’s Large Oval Arena.

After the first round, only the top 12 were invited back for the handy round, which allowed the judges to award bonus points in addition to the regular scores. Laura Wasserman was first to go, managing a steady round aboard her Jimmy Choo. Both Tammy Chipco and Elsa Horrigan, second and third, respectively, had refusals in the outer portion of the course, reminding riders and spectators of the challenging nature of the course. Michael Leone was next riding Temptress Farms’ Dalarna. The trip garnered scores in the low eighties, but bold riding and tight turns earned Leone 15 bonus points from the judges, applause from the crowd, and an eventual fourth place finish. Nick Haness and Whitney Downs’ Coffeetalk got the crowd cheering as they earned 88 and 87 base scores with a 10 and an 8 in added bonus points. John Bragg (Cunningham-9th), Melissa Doddridge (Best Man-10th), and Teddy Jo Mellancamp (Sports Talk-5th), and Leone on his second mount (Harriet Posner’s Holy Cow-6th) couldn’t get close to Haness’ 352 points.

Then the real excitement began when Natalie Rae Medlock returned on Hap Hansen’s Y2K. “Handy” could be considered an understatement when describing the bold options and tight turns chosen by Medlock in a round she called “just a kick”, and the judges called with scores of 87 and 83 with bonus points of 10 and 7, moving her into the lead with a 354 total.

Last to go was Harrison and Triple Lutz, and they pulled ahead of Medlock and Y2K by just one point. Harrison described her horse’s performance as outstanding, which clearly describes the entire class and the USHJA Hunter Derby program.


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