Hometown Hunter Nick Haness and Reese’s Claim Top Honors in $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby at Temecula Valley National Premier

Temecula, Calif. – April 19, 2019 – The $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby kicked off Friday afternoon in the Aon Grand Hunter Arena at the Temecula Valley National Premier, attracting a field of eager competitors of all ages. Following the two competitive rounds of the derby in the grass field, it was local rider-trainer Nick Hannes that held the lead to take home top honors aboard Reese’s, besting a skilled field to take home the lion’s share of the prize money. Second place was awarded to Jenny Karazissis riding Swagger, with Molly Graham aboard Black Label rounding out the top three.

Nick Haness and Reese's
Nick Haness and Reese’s

Designated as a World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week, the Temecula Valley National Horse Show (TVNHS) added both an international and national derby to this year’s class schedule. The derby classes offered hunter competitors the chance to take center stage during the show’s Premier Week and gain valuable points and experience towards future derby competition. For Haness, Friday afternoon marked his first derby competing aboard Reese’s after importing the 5-year-old gelding from Europe last year.

During the first round of competition, Temecula-native Haness took an early lead with Reese’s, owned by West Coast Equine Partners LLC, after riding all four high option fences to earn a total score of 94. After round one, just four points separated the top two partnerships, with Irene Neuwirth and Twinkle Toes sitting just behind Haness with a score of 90. Closely behind Neuwirth in third place after the first round was Robert Sean Leckie and Easy Street, owned by Double Down Farm, thanks to their initial score of 89.

Jenny Karazissis and Swagger
Jenny Karazissis and Swagger

Karazissis sat in fifth place after the first round of competition aboard Swagger, owned by Grabrielle Zupancic. The pair entered the handy portion of the class game to move up in the ranks with a tight navigation of the track, and they successfully sliced through the fences to put down a solid round, for which they were awarded a total handy score of 90 to propel them to an overall score of 177.5 to take over the lead. Karazissis and Swagger would hold their lead up until the final competitors, Haness and Reese’s, took to the arena.

Nick Haness and Reese’s

As the final horse-and-rider pair to tackle the handy course, Hannes had to match Karazissis’ skilled turns and smooth lines in order to keep his lead. With an initial plan to play it safe, Haness had to re-strategize after Karazissis’ impressive round, deciding to take risks as he swiftly navigated the tight turns and showcased his horse’s hand gallop to the final fence, clinching the win. The pair’s efforts paid off, and Haness and Reese’s rode away with top honors after earning a total handy score of 94 to match the points given in the first round, receiving an overall total score of 188.

Molly Graham and Black Label

Karazissis and Swagger would ultimately receive second place in the class, with Graham riding Black Label, owned by Jacqueline Attwood-Dupont, to a third place finish with their total overall score of 175.5. No stranger to the winner’s circle in Temecula, Haness was the debut derby winner during the inaugural TVNHS in 2018, championing the $10,000 Brookway Stables Hunter Derby aboard Screenplay.

The Temecula Valley National Premier will conclude Saturday, April 20, with hunter competition in the Aon Grand Hunter Arena kicking off at 8:00 a.m.

Nick Haness and Reese's
Nick Haness and Reese’s


Nick Hannes – $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby winner

On Reese’s:
“This is such a great young horse. I imported him in March of 2018 as a 4-year-old. He developed last year through the young horse series and did the 5-Year-Olds and the Pre-Green series. He won the young horse finals at Blenheim at the fall tournament in September, and that was really super exciting for the first major win of his career. We have all known since he was a baby that he would grow up to be famous. Now that he is growing up he has proven to be such a quality animal and true competitor.”

On his future plans for Reese’s:
“Our plan this year is to keep on going with his training and take him to Kentucky for the Pre-Green Incentive Finals and then on to Capital Challenge in the fall. He has a really supportive owner, Gail Ellis of West Coast Equine Partners, and she has been great letting me keep him to develop.”

On his plan for the first round:
“Because he is still technically five-turning-six, this was his first derby and he has only ever shown in the grass once before, so he thought that was really exciting. This class was sort of an experiment. For his age, I thought he showed real maturity and my plan was to go conservatively, although I did take all of the high options with him, knowing that he is brave and capable. He thought that was really fun and it impressed him and gave him the extra drive.”

Ali Nilforushan with Nick Haness and Reese’s

On the plan for the handy round:
“My plan in the handy, after being so far in the lead in the first round, was to take some wider turns and not be quite as handy as I like to be, but my competitors put the pressure on. Part of tonight was a learning experience, and if we won, great, and if we didn’t, I thought it was a good learning experience. I approached it as an opportunity to teach him from a young age that handy time means go time, and I made him do some of the inside turns and slices. I think he was having as much fun as I was out there.”

On WCHR Week at the Temecula Valley National Horse Show:
“This is just so extremely exciting for Temecula, Ali [Nilforushan], and the whole team. I love the progress of the show, the dynamics, the field, and all the rings. The whole vibe here is awesome. Having both a National and International Derby at the same horse show was great because I could take a more experienced horse and a younger horse and have a place for them both to get better mileage. This was a great opportunity for people and horses of all classes to compete and get better.”


$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score | Total
1. Reese’s / Nick Hannes / West Coast Equine Partners LLC / 94 / 94 | 188
2. Swagger / Jenny Karazissis / Gabrielle Zupancic / 87.5 / 90 | 177.5
3. Black Label / Jacqueline Attwood-Dupont / Jacqueline Attwood-Dupont / 88 / 87.5 | 175.5
4. Easy Street / Robert Sean Leckie / Double Down Farm / 89 / 86 | 175
5. Chantilly / Julia Rossow / Malibu Valley Farms / 87 / 83 | 170
6. Twinkle Toes / Irene Neuwirth / Irene Neuwirth / 90 / 79 | 169
7. Venice / Shiloh Roseboom / Enchantment Farm LLC / 85.5 / 83 | 168.5
8. Romeo / Erin Duffy / Volant Stables / 75 / 88 | 163
9. Little Wing / Kylee Arbuckle / Four Sisters Equine LLC / 78 / 81 | 159
10. Collectible / Ilana Halpern / Nanci Dias / 74 / 72 | 146
11. Newton / Jenny Karazissis / Lisa Wu / 84 / 49 | 133
12. Toccata / Isabella Sabino / Isabella Sabino / 7 / 36 | 115

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