Jenny Karazissis knew she was sitting on something special when a sales horse named Big Shot landed on her show roster a year and a half ago.

At just five years of age, the bay gelding was already a winner.

“We did low hunters and he was champion. It was just three foot and he was jumping the fences like it was 3’6”. He just cared so much, but [was] so soft and he’s got this big stride and he’s incredibly balanced, changes leads automatically. He’s just got everything you want in a horse,” said Karazissis.

“After that first show I was scrambling to find someone to buy the horse so that I could continue to ride him.”

The Morris family stepped up and purchased the green horse as an eventual mount for their daughter, Dulcie Lou.

“They allowed me to spend a whole year on him,” continued the national hunter champion. “This year Dulcie Lou has been showing him in the Children’s and, the other week, she did the Low Juniors on him for the first time and did very well. I’m just delighted it’s paying off for them.”

The handsome gelding is paying off for Karazissis, too.

This past weekend, the Calabasas, California-based rider made the eight-hour drive to Carson City, Nevada with Big Shot to contest the Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby, a course widely regarded as one of the most spectacular and challenging on the West Coast. They went home with the lion’s share of the prize money.

On Saturday, Karazissis and Big Shot narrowly missed victory in the $10,000 3’ Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby. The impressive pair were in the lead after the first round, but a missed inside turn in the handy round, relegating them the second, half a point behind class winners, Kylee Arbuckle and Earl Grey.

“I was all night long thinking about that,” confessed Karazissis.

“I was very disappointed in myself. We walked the Handy in the morning really early. We were thinking about the Welcome Stake and the First Round, so when it came time for the Handy just from a distance I was looking at the track I would take. I’m a little bit upset with myself for not having paid a little more attention in the morning about the inside track I could have taken there.”

On Sunday, Karazissis and the stately bay returned with a vengeance in the $30,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.

©Alden Corrigan

Seizing the early lead with a first round score of 170, they had an eight point lead over Arbuckle and Earl Grey heading into the handy round.

“My strategy with Big Shot was to see how the people who were close to me in score did on their rounds. That would tell me if I needed to jump more high options or not,” explained Karazissis.

“My husband, ground man, said before I went in, ‘You don’t need to do any high options, but don’t be careful.’ Because I have been in that position before where I went in with a big lead and I was super careful and I caused a rail down, so I lost it.”

This time, she didn’t miss the inside turns.

“I really just kept galloping to the jumps and did all the inside turns. He trotted the fence so nicely for me. I did do one high option, only because I did inside turn and it was much tougher to get to the low option than it was to get to the large one. I saw it and just went for it,” she continued. “Then I was just beaming when I got to the last jump. I was just thrilled.”

©Alden Corrigan

Karazissis and the gelding will now take aim at the Green Incentive in Kentucky. If all goes well, they’ll take a (big) shot at Derby Finals this year, as well.