Lexington, Ky. – Aug. 1, 2021 – Competition at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show came to a conclusion Sunday evening with the featured hunter class of the week, the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. A total of 41 junior, amateur, and professional athletes took to the derby ring in hopes of claiming World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) points and the largest share of the prize. Topping the rest of the pack with their style and precision were Cassandra Orpen and Impression who joined forces after two years apart to take home the winning title at Kentucky Summer Horse Show.
Course designer Joseph Carnicom laid out a beautiful 10-obstacle course for the first round that utilized the expansive Stonelea ring. With four bonus high-options on course, riders were encouraged to open their horse’s stride and showcase their flowing movement and powerful jump. Topping the leaderboard at the end of round one was Caitlin Venezia aboard True Blue after earning a whopping score of 90.000 from the judges. Orpen and Impression were waiting in the wings on a first-round score of 88.000, while Anna Koenig sat just one point behind in third place heading into the second round with Constantin.
Having seen top scores from the riders in the first round, a cut-off of 81.75 was set for the handy round where the top 12 horses would contest over Carnicorn’s winding 8-effort shortened track. The panel of judges rewarded the competitors and their respective mounts who utilized their adjustability making tight and nimble inside turns, seamless transitions over the trot fence, as well as bold gallops to the final obstacle.
Of the frontrunners, Lily Epstein nabbed an early lead in the class posting a handy round score of 86.000 aboard Forever Equestrian, LLC’s 10-year-old bay gelding, Fiat, bringing her overall score to 168 when coupled with her first-round effort of 82.000. Eager to see their name at the top of the leaderboard, competitors took bolder turns and gutsier gallops in the handy round, making sure to navigate over the four high option fences in order to secure valuable bonus points.
Epstein held onto the lead for a majority of the second round, until the final few when it turned into a battle royale. With only 3 points separating the top three horse-and-rider combos, it was Koenig and Ashland Farms entry Constantin who initially took over the top spot. Though the amateur rider and 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding posted the same second-round score as Epstein, an 86.000, their first-round score of 89.000 aided in their rise to the first-place position.
Cassandra Orpen, who just recently moved to Kentucky, took to the Stonelea ring aboard Legacy Equine LLC’s 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Impression. Resting on a first-round score of 88.000, the duo would have to top their previous efforts in hopes of rising in the ranks. The experienced grand prix rider piloted Impression around the handy with style and grace well beyond the mount’s years, prompting the judges to award them a handy round score of 91.000, which would prove to be the highest score awarded of the day. Having previously owned the gelding when he was a 6-year-old, Orpen is showing him for the week at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. The duo did not appear to miss a beat bringing home one last tricolor ribbon before the impressive mount headed off to his new home.
Last to take to the ring was Caitlin Venezia aboard True Blue. The professional rider and trainer based out of Barnstable County in Massachusetts kept her cool effortlessly navigating the tight and twisting handy round course with Jennifer Combs’ 9-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding. Having posted a first-round score of 90.000, the duo were in contention for a podium position. Her consistent riding paid off as the pair nabbed a handy round score of 88.500. Though their second trip in the ring was not high enough to steal the lead at the last minute, it was good enough to settle into second place behind Orpen.
Competition resumes at the Kentucky Horse Park, Tuesday, August 3, for the Kentucky Summer Classic. Highlights will include the Hagyard Grand Hunter Championships, sponsored by the Hagyard Medical Institute, in the Professional, Amateur-Owner, Junior, Pony, Adult Amateur and Children’s Hunter divisions.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Cassandra Orpen – $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Winner
“He is an 8-year-old gelding. It is a horse that I imported from Europe as a 6-year-old to do in the derbies. I sold him to a friend of mine and she trained him for the last two years and I just got him back this week. I haven’t ridden him in two years, but he is just as lovely if not nicer now than he was then. I got him back to show this week and can hopefully find him a new owner. He is a beautiful, easy, scopey, lovely horse for sale.”
On both courses:
“The first round was lovely – it gave you every option. There were some nice bending lines where you had to show your stride and land both leads. The handy I thought was great because there were a lot of options to take or not take that also made me question where I was going to go. A couple of the riders and I were discussing it and we said, ‘We are either going big or we are going home!’ So we decided to try all of the inside options. He is very handy that way so it turned out well!”
On showing at the Kentucky Horse Park:
“I love it! We just bought a farm down the road and moved here a couple of months ago and we really love it. The horse show does a great job. The facility is wonderful.”
On her future plans:
“We will see. He might have a new home this week, or so we hope! If I do get the pleasure to work with him I would love to qualify for the Pre-Greens. Maybe I will have the opportunity to do it but I feel like we will have some eyes on him today after his win!”
$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score | Total
1. Impression / Cassandra Orpen / Legacy Equine, LLC / 88 / 91 | 179
2. True Blue / Caitlin Venezia / Jennifer Combs / 90 / 88.5 / | 178.5
3. Constantin / Anna Koenig / Ashland Farms / 89 / 86 | 175
4. Totality / Jennifer Speisman / Jennifer Speisman / 87 / 87 | 174
5. Fiat / Lily Epstein / Forever Equestrian, LLC / 82 / 86 | 168
6. Cromwell / Michael Desiderio / Debbie Bianco / 88.5 / 79 | 167.5
7. Theodore / Evie Nichols / Evie Nichols / 81.75 / 84 | 165.75
8. Concent / Matthew Piccolo / Matthew Piccolo / 84.5 / 80 | 164.5
9. Savor / Lara Hendrian / Lara Hendrian / 82.5 / 81 | 163.5
10. The Pirate Bay / Rylee Rosenthal / Fairy Tale Farms LLC / 86 / 72 | 158
11. MTM One Time / Aysa Yadlowsky / Aysa Yadlowsky / 83 / 69 | 152
12. Capital / Joshua Graves / University Of Findlay / 84 / 44 | 128