Isabella Bertozzi and Cousteau Best $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby at HITS Culpeper

Culpeper, Va. – August 20, 2022 – Perfect weather greeted riders during the Winston National at HITS Culpeper as they gathered at the Main Hunter Ring to contest the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Junior rider Isabella Bertozzi laid down a flawless handy round aboard Cousteau, jumping up from third place after the first round to capture the winning title and lead the lap of honor during Saturday’s highlight event.

“I was very excited – I did not think I was going to win this today,” expressed Bertozzi. “I didn't originally plan on doing it, so I had to go first. I just wanted to put down a nice even round, and it ended nicely. I was super excited with my scores, and amazed and happy with my horse and how we performed this weekend.”

Isabella Bertozzi and Cousteau. Photo by: Alison Hartwell

Richard Luckhardt set a welcoming classic round, which included four high options and an in-and-out before riders galloped toward the gate on a long approach to the final oxer. The top three riders were only a point apart from each other, putting on extra pressure to perform during the handy round, which provided many opportunities for horses to showcase their brilliance. It began with a bending line followed by a tight rollback to the in-and-out. Riders continued to the next high option before galloping to the final high option oxer.

Samantha Wolfram and Pinot Del Sole. Photo by: Alison Hartwell

Samantha Wolfram held the lead with Pinot Del Sole after the first round with a score of 87. Kelsey Sullivan with Diamant's Cupido Z and Bertozzi with Cousteau followed closely with scores of 86 and 85, respectively. With smooth inside turns, a perfect trot jump and a beautiful effort over each fence, Cousteau and Bertozzi were rewarded with another score of 85, bringing their total to 170 to garner the winning prize. Sullivan and Diamant's Cupido Z followed in second with a score of 166, while Wolfram and Pinot Del Sole rounded out the top three with a 161.

Kelsey Sullivan & Diamant's Cupido Z

Bertozzi was thrilled with her 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding’s performance in the handy, which helped them clinch the victory. “He has a very nice jump and a very nice, even rhythm, and I think that helped us stand out and take the win,” she noted. “I went in third, so I didn't have any expectations of winning it. I just wanted to have a nice even round and do the tidier turns. My main goal was just keeping it even and keeping the trot. I wanted to finish out strong and to have another consistent round hopefully.”

Bertozzi rides out of her family’s Cavallo Farm in Leesburg, Virginia. They imported Cousteau two years ago after seeing him in Europe and knowing he would make the ideal hunter. “My dad looked at [Cousteau] and told my sister to just droop the reins and ride him like a hunter,” she explained. “Right off the bat he just loved it – jumped up super nicely and had a nice rhythm. This horse is truly a hunter at heart. He loves to go slowly and loves to lope down to the jumps.”

Isabella Bertozzi and Cousteau. Photo by: Alison Hartwell

HITS Culpeper is a staple for Bertozzi, who has been competing here since she was in leadline. “I'm a big fan of the food around here,” she laughed. “I know Culpeper like the back of my hand, and I feel very comfortable here. I know all the staff, and it's always been a fun experience here!”

One more day of hunter competition remains during the Winston National at HITS Culpeper, but riders will have the opportunity to return next week for the Constitution Classic, featuring another $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Riders will also compete in their respective classics as they try to earn valuable points for the Marshall and Sterling Insurance League Finals, which will be held at HITS-on-the-Hudson September 14 – 18, 2022.