It was a thrilling conclusion to the third and final week of the Lamplight Spring Spectacular Series at HITS Chicago in Wayne, Illinois, as Meagan Murray-Tenuta rode Top of the Hill to victory in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Featuring in the Douglas Elliman Stadium on Sunday morning, June 23, the class marked the final of four hunter derbies for the week, showcasing the exceptional talent throughout the series.

The first-round course, designed by United States course designer Dean Battaglia, began with a tall vertical across the diagonal toward the in-gate. This was followed by a bending line from fence two to fence three, which was a high option. Three additional high options, an in-and-out, and a rollback with a long approach to the final oxer completed the track. Murray-Tenuta’s smooth and flowing classic round earned scores of 83 and 84, positioning her in third place moving into the handy round.

In the handy round, riders jumped the first fence in the opposite direction, away from the in-gate, and then navigated the same four high option fences. This was followed by three rollbacks, two bending lines, and a trot jump at fence six, giving riders the opportunity to demonstrate their mount’s handiness. Murray-Tenuta’s consistency through tight turns and brilliant jumps earned the top scores of 83.5 and 84, securing her victory.

“My plan was just to put in a really smooth round with no major errors, because I knew a clean round would earn a good ribbon,” explained Murray-Tenuta of her plan for the handy course. “It was a great course—technical with bending lines and big jumps. It was very nice.”

Meagan Murray-Tenuta and Top of the Hill. Photo by Alison Hartwell Photography

Murray-Tenuta has been partnered with the Top of the Hill, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding by Corpeggio owned by Elizabeth Hayward, for about two years.

“He’s very tall, which is why we call him Top of the Hill,” shared Murray-Tenuta of her mount known as “Tucker” in the barn. “He’s a really good, consistent horse. Every time you go into the ring, you know he’s not going to balk at a job. He’s very trustworthy.

“Tucker is such a good guy,” she continued. “He’s a bit of a goofball—always trying to eat everything, including his bridle and ribbons. But overall, he’s just a really good boy with no real quirks.”

Lauren McGuire and Jabulani 18. Photo by Alison Hartwell Photography

Sunday’s victory is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Murray-Tenuta and her team, and the moment was not lost on Murray-Tenuta.

“It’s been a great weekend,” said Murray-Tenuta, who has been showing at Lamplight Equestrian Center since she was a little girl. “I live an hour away, so it’s very close. It’s always beautifully landscaped, and for me, it’s just super convenient and a lovely place to show.”

Tina Judge-Boyle and Giviera. Photo by Alison Hartwell Photography

Second place was secured by Lauren McGuire aboard Jabulani 18, a 15-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion by Balou Du Rouet owned by Rachel Kane. Rounding out the top three was Tina Judge-Boyle, who recently won Friday’s $5,000 USHJA National Derby. This time around, she claimed third place on Judy Power’s 13-year-old KWPN mare by Carlous, Giviera.

HITS Chicago continues to be a premier destination for equestrian competition, and the Lamplight Spring Spectacular Series once again delivered memorable moments and top-notch performances. The action will continue on Wednesday, July 3, 2024, marking the start of Lamplight’s three-week-long Summer Classic Series.

Tina Judge-Boyle Triumphs in $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby at HITS Chicago

Derby action during the final week of the Lamplight Spring Spectacular Series at HITS Chicago commenced on Friday, June 21, 2024, with the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. A competitive field of 26 horse-and-rider combinations tackled the classic-round course, striving to advance to the handy phase. After two exciting rounds of competition, it was ultimately, Tina Judge-Boyle of Yorkville, Illinois, who emerged victorious with Afelix Dell’a.

Dean Battaglia designed a smooth and flowing first-round course featuring four bending lines and four high options, providing riders with various tracks to best suit their mounts. Pairs then returned for the handy round, which included a trot jump and several opportunities for inside turns to earn handy points before galloping towards the final option fence near the gate.

“This horse is incredibly handy, and I can execute tight turns with ease,” noted Judge-Boyle. “He has no spookiness at all and will jump anything you point him at. This makes him particularly excellent for the handy rounds, as he navigates tight gaps effortlessly.”

Judge-Boyle’s partnership with Afelix Dell’a has flourished over several years since she first encountered the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Diarado. With owner Amy Martin now successfully competing him in the Green Hunter 3’6” division, the team decided it was time for Judge-Boyle to take on the hunter derby challenge as well.

“I’m very thankful to Amy Martin for the opportunity to ride Afelix Dell’a and bring him along,” remarked Judge-Boyle. “He’s a different horse at shows. While he can be a bit quirky at home, he truly shines in the ring. This marks his second hunter derby win.”

The pair delivered two stunning rounds that impressed the judges, earning an impressive two-round total score of 177 and securing the blue ribbon. Close behind in second place was Lisa Goldman-Smolen of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, aboard her own seven-year-old Hungarian Sport Horse gelding by Zsákai Pinocchio, Zsákai Pascal, with a two-round total of 176.5. Rounding off the top three was Kathleen Caya of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, riding Colleen Nagy White’s 13-year-old Zangersheide mare by Untouchable, Credible De Bornival Z, who received a two-round total of 175.

The hunter derby excitement continued into Saturday, with junior and amateur competitors vying for top honors in the $750 Bit O’Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby and the $750 Tiny Bit O’ 2’ Hunter Derby. Molly Fedkenheuer of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, earned first place in the $500 Bit O’Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby with a standout performance aboard Felix Jaramillo’s five-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Gilded Wings, Gaellant Rue. The week’s derby events concluded with Avery Roper of Hobart, Indiana, winning the $750 Tiny Bit O’ 2’ Hunter Derby on Samantha Roper’s 11-year-old Welsh Pony Cross gelding by Empire’s Power, Willpower.

For a full list of results, please visit