The second phase of the 2018 Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships brought more than 140 exhibitors back to the Walnut Ring on Wednesday, presenting horses and riders one final chance at qualifying for Thursday’s championship round by earning a place in the top 30 contenders. Jumping from sixth position after day one, Tara Metzner and Lion secured their place in the finale with a standout performance to nab the overall lead on the scorecard and the second place ribbon in the day’s over fences class. Only two points behind in the rankings, Tracy Fenney and MTM First Dibs also navigated their way into the third portion of riding with the highest score of the day to secure the tricolors and fourth place overall.
Unlike past years, competitors did not return in reverse order of standings for phase two, but instead the class operated under a somewhat random order of go. The 3’ horses first tackled the Bobby Murphy track, which once again offered a first fence option, followed by the 3’3” entries.
In the end, the top five pairs overall turned out to be horses jumping the higher fences, led by Metzner and Davlyn Farms’ Lion with a two-day total score of 526.50. Following Tuesday’s initial round, Metzner and the Selle Francais gelding were sitting in the sixth slot thanks to their 262.50-point marks, which the pair added to Wednesday with a textbook trip to the tune of 264 points from the judges to jump to the lead overall and for the day slightly more than halfway through the class.
Competing at the 3’3” height, Fenney and MTM Farm’s MTM First Dibs were one of the last pairs to ride for the day, and saved the best performance of the class for nearly last with their standout trip around the expansive Walnut Ring. Earning scores of 86, 88 and 92 from the three panels of judges for an over fences score of 266, Fenney and the chestnut gelding propelled themselves to the top of the leaderboard for the day and jumped into fourth place overall, up from 11th after day one. The 2015 winner of the event aboard MTM Personalized, Texas-based Fenney has only been paired with MTM First Dibs since April, but their short relationship certainly did not hold them back in the showring.
“I was a little bit worried because it is late in the day and a lot of times you don’t know how they are going to respond or act,” reflected Fenney. “I ride mine really early in the morning usually. It’s hot in Texas so we start early and get done by 11 a.m., so I’m not used to riding at 4 or 5 o’clock with him. I was thinking that the wind was picking up, it’s gonna start raining, I didn’t know how he was going to be, but he was great. We had to wait for a couple to go because I started getting nervous and got on early and thought I was going to need to settle him down more, but he was like ‘whatever, what’s your problem?’”
In the overall standing, Metzner and Lion earned a narrow lead with their cumulative score of 526.50, only 1.5 points ahead of both Scott Stewart aboard Rivers Edge’s Everwonder and Haylie Rolfe with the reins on Pony Lane Farm’s Queen Celeste, each with 525 points. Fenney and MTM First Dibs sit in fourth, followed by Sara Taylor and Noah, owned by Ingrid Avera, in fifth place.
Competitors will return Thursday with a blank slate in terms of scoring, but a handful of riders will have a statistically better chance of sweeping the top honors with multiple mounts still in the game. Leading the pack with four mounts qualified for the final test is three-time champion Stewart, followed by Christopher Payne and Courtney Lenkart with two apiece. The rest of the pack will rely on only one horse to hopefully carry them to the championship title.
The 2018 Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships will continue through Thursday, when the top 30 competitors at the 3’ and 3’3” height will return to the ring for the third and final phase of competition with a blank slate to determine the 2018 Champion. New this year, the competition is offering a championship to 3’6” and 3’9” entries, and both of their rounds will take place Thursday, as well. Hunter action will continue at the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show throughout the week, with the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships taking place Friday and Saturday, concluding Sunday with the USHJA National Hunter Derby.
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Score
Green Hunter Incentive – Combined Rounds I and II
1. Lion / Tara Metzner / Davlyn Farms / 526.50
2. Everwonder / Scott Stewart / Rivers Edge / 525.00
3. Queen Celeste / Haylie Rolfe / Pony Lane Farm / 525.00
4. MTM First Dibs / Tracy Fenney / MTM Farm / 524.50
5. Noah / Sara Taylor / Ingrid Avera / 521.00
6. Moore Park / Christopher Payne / Still Water Farm LLC / 520.50
7. Sandstone / Scott Stewart / Dr Betsee Parker / 520.00
8. Sher Khan / Courtney Lenkart / Singha Farm, LLC / 519.50
9. Alisto / Courtney Lenkart / Lori Mathews / 519.50
10. Trademark / Samantha Schaefer / Take 3 LLC / 518.50