Geoffrey Hesslink and Luminosity Lead the Way in $1K USHJA National Hunter Derby at ESP Holiday Series

The $1,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Gold Coast Feed, took place Friday, December 4 at PBIEC. Operating under a Hunt and Go format, the class featured one round of riding. Rather than the top pairs being called back following their classic rounds, riders simply continued into the handy portion of their course immediately without pausing or leaving the arena. His second derby win in two weeks after topping the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby during the ESP Holiday & Horses CSI4*, Geoffrey Hesslink of Shelbourne, VT, won Friday’s derby aboard Luminosity.

Geoffrey Hesslink on Luminosity in their presentation ceremony. Photo by Anne Gittins Photography.

“He’s a horse that came to me from the Hellman family a little over a year ago. He’s just lovely; he’s been with me through a serious injury that I had, and he was the first horse I showed back from that,” Hesslink revealed. “He means a lot to me, and I feel like I have a really special connection with him. His owner, Eleanor Hellman, showed him for the first time this week, so this was a warm-up for that, and he seemed more than ready, so I’m excited!”

Set by course designer Robert McGregor, the track featured a total of 11 fences, with the first seven fences counting as the traditional classic round and the remaining four as the handy phase. Four high-option fences were offered for those willing to take on an added challenge, and each high-option earned one additional point. Hesslink and Luminosity rode to the top of the scorecard with 170 points, earned from base scores of 80 and 86 plus four bonus points for taking the high options. The pair just edged out second-place finisher Christopher Payne of Cincinnati, OH, on Samantha Takacs’ Cooper, who concluded the competition with a total of 169 points. Remin Ozbay of Boca Raton, FL, rode Sophia Masnikoff’s Heartdancer H to third place with 165 points.

“I love it here. This is kind of home for us, and I think all of our horses thrive here in this environment,” commented Hesslink on his return back to Wellington for the season. “Luminosity will continue to do the international and national derbies, probably some High Performance or 3’6” Performance with me, and then this week is his debut week with his owner, so he’ll probably pick up doing some Adults or Amateur-Owner Hunters with her as well,” he concluded.

The Performance Hunter 3’3” division, sponsored by Gold Coast Feed, saw Scott Stewart of Wellington, FL, and Catch Phrase, owned by Gochman Ventures, claim top honors after winning four out of the five classes in the division. Jennifer Bauersachs of Frenchtown, NY, stayed consistent with LCIM LLC’S Alistaire and secured top-three placings in all five of the division’s classes to claim the reserve ribbon.

Alexandra Sharp of Barrington, RI, and her own Golden claimed the lead spot in the combined Junior/Amateur-Owner Hunters 3’3”/3’6”, sponsored by Vita Flex, after winning all three of the division’s over fences classes and earning a third-place finish in the under saddle. Reserve honors were awarded to Rachel Hall of Daleville, SC, after she earned two second-place finishes and two third-place finishes with her own entry, Papa’s Protege.

Thanks to her series of consistent performances on VDL Hamilia in the Performance 3’6” Hunters, Katherine Newman of Wellington, FL, was selected by Noltrex®Vet as the award winner of a leather lead rope. Newman and VDL Hamilia earned two blue ribbons over fences to rise to the top of the overall scorecard and lead the division.