The professional hunters returned Wednesday to the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park to vie for championship titles at the 2018 National Horse Show. The morning began with the under saddle portion of competition and led into the hunter stake classes for each respective division, where champions were crowned based on combined class points from Tuesday and Wednesday.
Scott Stewart with Lucador, owned by Dr. Bestsee Parker, taking home the Grand Champion Professional Hunter title. Photo by Phelps Media Group
Ultimately, it was Scott Stewart of River’s Edge Farm in Flemington, New Jersey, and Wellington, Florida, who secured the coveted Leading Hunter Rider Award and the Leading Hunter Rider Challenge Trophy for the 12th time in his career. In addition, his mount Lucador, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, earned his fourth career and second consecutive Grand Champion Professional Hunter title as well as the Baroness of Locheil Award, after retiring the “Isgilde” Challenge Trophy in 2017.
Stewart piloted the 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding to the reserve championship in the Wrenwood Farms High Performance Conformation Hunter division, presented by Jenny Sutton, earning wins in Tuesday’s initial over fences round and in Wednesday’s under saddle class in addition to claiming second place in the stake class, third place in the handy round and fourth place in the model. The pair added the Cold Harbor Dr. Betsee Parker Perpetual Cup and the Yvonne Schulthess Memorial Challenge Trophy to their already impressive collection of prizes for their top performances throughout Tuesday and Wednesday.
Scott Stewart and Lucadaor. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Stewart’s other top mount Private Life, also owned by Dr. Parker, secured the tricolor in the Wrenwood Farms High Performance Conformation Hunter division, presented by Jenny Sutton, upon finishing first in the model, handy round and stake class along with the Baroness of Locheil Perpetual Trophy, the “Henry the Hawk” Memorial Trophy and the Ken Berkley Perpetual Cup, respectively.
The first to step onto the red carpet adorned with a champion ribbon was Cheryl Olsten’s Lafitte De Muze, partnered with Amanda Steege. The pair captured the Goshen Hill Green 3’6” Hunter division, presented by Ms. Caroline Moran, after winning the first over fences round on Tuesday and capturing first place in Wednesday’s stake class and second place in the under saddle.
Reserve champion in the Goshen Hill Green 3’6” Hunter division was awarded to Still Water Farm LLC’s Fibonacci with Chris Payne in the irons. However, the pair improved in the next division to claim the tricolor in the Green Conformation Hunter division, presented by Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Garber, as well as the Muriel Klein Lens Challenge Trophy and the “Call You Raise You” Challenge Trophy following their win in the stake class Wednesday. Steege finished as the reserve champion with Frances Moppett’s Zara.
The Oare & Adikes-Hill Green 3’9” Hunter division saw Tracy Fenney and MTM Outbid, owned by MTM Farm, return Wednesday hungry for the championship tricolor. After earning seventh and eighth place in Tuesday’s classes, they came back to win both of Wednesday’s classes to capture the overall title, while Victoria Colvin and Brad Wolf’s Private Practice were reserve champions.
“It’s kind of crazy,” exclaimed Fenney. “I never even dreamed it because yesterday he went well but I got not great ribbons. Mike [McCormick] got up this morning and said to me, ‘We’ve got to go win two classes today.’ Then [MTM Outbid] won the hack and he was like, ‘We’re halfway there!’ It was so crazy because I never dreamed he would be champion.”
Stewart wrapped up the professional hunter championships with Catch Me, owned by Gochman Sport Horse LLC, claiming the Judith Murch High Performance Hunter division, presented by Winners Circle Trailer Sales and the Corrigan family, and the “Ashford Castle” Challenge Trophy. The Holsteiner gelding received the win in the handy round as well as the under saddle class, earning the Edyth B. Lindner Trophy and the “A Million Reasons” Perpetual Bowl. Because, owned by Aizlynn Radwanski, and Kelley Farmer claimed Wednesday’s stake class, and the S. Craig Lindner Family Challenge Trophy, as well as the reserve championship.
“It feels awesome. It was great,” shared Stewart on winning the Leading Hunter Rider award for the 12th time. “It’s nice to have these good horses to show so I appreciate it. All three of those horses (Private Life, Lucador and Catch Me) are so dependable and I know them so well. It’s a really nice way to end the show season with them.”
Becky Gochman and Catch Me won the Amateur-Owner Over 35 Hunter division championship tricolor. Photo by Shawn McMillen.
Catch Me kept in winning fashion for owner Becky Gochman, earning the blue ribbon in Wednesday’s stake class and the William and Margaret Marquard Memorial Trophy in the Suzanne Thoben Marquard Amateur-Owner Over 35 Hunter division to claim the championship tricolor and the “Ruxton and Scot To Do” Challenge Trophy. Katie Robinson and Robinson Ridge, LLC’s Rocklyn finished with the reserve championship.
Claiming the final championship of the day, Kelly Tropin and Chablis, owned by Libertas Farm LLC, rode to the win in the Hunt, Ltd. Amateur-Owner 18–35 Hunter division, presented by Gretchen Hunt, stake class, garnering her the tricolor and “Scot To Do” Challenge Trophy as well as the “In Dutch” Memorial Perpetual Trophy. Laura Sexton and her own Set To Music finished with reserve honors.
All of Wednesday’s champions and reserve champions qualified for the inaugural $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic to be held Friday evening. Horse-and-rider combinations will compete at the respective height of the section from which they qualified. The class, which counts towards Horse of the Year points, will consist of two rounds with the top 12 horses returning for a second round from low to high score within their respective heights. The final average score from round one will be added to the final average score from round two to determine the overall total final score and winner.