Last year, Anastazia had to play the runner-up in the best young horse judging at the Devon Horse Show in Devon, Pa., taking second as a yearling to Cismont Manor Farm's Celebration, a 3-year-old. But this year she stood at the top of the line at the end of June 3 and took the best young horse title.
"She's a beautiful-looking horse, and a beautiful mover. And she's very correct; she's got great legs. She's also got very pretty withers, and that's hard to find," said Kenny Wheeler, who held the pretty bay filly for his 32nd consecutive best young horse win. She also earned the best Pennsylvania-bred title and grabbed the blue in the 2-year-old, other than Thoroughbred, class on the way to the championship.
Ray Francis bred, foaled and raised Anastazia (Zarr--Karacter Kount), but Wheeler noticed her striking good looks in 2003. "This spring, I got thinking about how nice she was, and thought that if she'd developed well, she'd be hard to beat," said Wheeler. He sent his son, Douglas, and Mike Wilson to look at Anastazia. They approved her, and Wheeler bought her in April.
Francis kept the filly on his farm and prepared her for Devon, where Wheeler took over the reins. "He did a great job. He really got her looking great. I had to give him a check, of course, but I just showed up and led her into the ring," said Wheeler.
Anastazia's victory was bittersweet for Francis. "All my life I've wanted to be best young horse at Devon, and I feel that part of this is mine. I felt very proud," he said. "I'm very sorry to have to have sold her, but I'm in the business. That's why I raise them." The hardest part for Francis came during the judging for best young horse. "I was standing in front with a yearling, and she was third in the line, and she never took her eyes off me the whole time. I birthed her, and I've had her her whole life," he said.
Anastazia's victory was just the biggest of many for Zarr's offspring at Devon. Four of his get earned blue ribbons. Zarr, a 9-year-old Trakehner, stands at Warioto Farm in Franklin, Tenn. "He's a beautiful mover and a beautiful horse. He seems to have a great disposition. And everything I've seen of his has been beautiful. I haven't seen an ugly one yet," said Francis. He has a 2-month-old full sister to Anastazia.
Jill and Sam Manno, of Douglasville, Pa., have been bringing horses to show on the line at Devon for 12 years. But this year brought them their greatest success so far. Sam handled Susan Crotty's Follow The Moon to win the 3-year-old mares, other than Thoroughbred, class; they bred and raised Imperial Crown, who was second in the best yearling judging; and they own Hats Off, who won the Thoroughbred yearling colts/geldings class. Sam also tied with Oliver Brown for leading handler honors.
"It's every hour of every day, but doing well like that makes it worth it. And it makes you realize that you've been doing the right thing, picking the right horses and breeding the right mare to the right stallion," said Jill. And she agreed with Francis' assessment of Zarr. "We've believed in him from the beginning. Zarr is everything you'd look for in a stallion. He's gorgeous--he's just real eye-candy--and very correct. He's got a lot of chrome, and he's probably one of the best movers I've ever seen," she said.
Crotty bred, foaled and raised Follow The Moon (Zarr--Skim The Moon), and the Mannos have handled her in the show ring since she started showing as a yearling. "She's just been a model of consistency," Jill said. Crotty chose the mare, an off-the-track Thoroughbred, for her bloodlines, with a lot of Bold Ruler and Turn-To in them. Winning at Devon was just reward.
"Susan's the hardest-working person I know," said Jill. "She does everything herself on a big 20-acre farm, she's a nurse, and she survived Hodgkin's disease. If there's ever anybody who deserves to have a nice horse like that, it's her." The Mannos bred and raised Imperial Crown (Zarr--Cheval D'Or), the reserve best yearling. Jill thinks that he's got a big future.
"We knew he was special the day he was born," she said. "He came out with this huge, kind eye that I love from Zarr, and he was correct from the first day. He's out of a four-foot working hunter, and he moves to die for. He's the only one I've ever not castrated. We've thought special things of him from the very beginning." And while she's known Imperial Crown from day 1, she bought Hats Off, the Thoroughbred yearling, colts/geldings, winner, this spring from a Thoroughbred auction. "He just had a great look to him. You can't see them jog there, but he had a great walk," she said.