Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 17
Louise Serio and Rock Harbor showed that a strong partnership pays off on Saturday night with a win in the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular.
“My horse was awesome tonight,” Serio said of “Harry,” who she has ridden for owner Jennifer Burger for the past six years. “I thought he jumped really well. I’ve never done him in a night class under the lights so I was thrilled with it.”
The atmosphere for the Spectacular is one the hunters don’t often get—the stands at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center were close to full and the main arena, which usually hosts only FEI jumper classes, was laid out with all kinds of natural obstacles for the class.
“The first round it was really noisy at that end of the ring and he noticed that, but I think he was really on his game,” Serio said. “I was really happy with both of his rounds.”
Scott Stewart has dominated this class for the past two years with Catch Me, but this year Stewart and “Snoopy” had to settle for second when Serio and Harry took over the winner’s circle with the high scores in Round 1 (88, 89 and 91) and maintained their lead in the second round, a handy .
“That always feels good—you never know when you’re going to get back here again so it’s very rewarding,” Serio said. “Jennifer Burger who owns Rock Harbor has been a client for a long time and a big supporter, so to do it on her horse has been really nice.”
Stewart thought he and Snoopy might not even make it back to the second round after a less than ideal first trip that scored two 86’s and a 78.
“I had a little bit of a funny jump in the first round, so I was really pretty happy I made it back at all,” Stewart said. “I had nothing to lose in the handy so I just went for it, and he was awesome. That was probably one of the best rounds he’s ever had, especially for the handy.” Stewart and Snoopy scored an average of 91 in the handy to vault them from 11th after Round 1 into second overall.
The jump Snoopy peeked at in Round 1 was in the handy as well, so Stewart got a shot at redemption.
“The jump that he actually really looked at in the first round I really sliced in the handy and he as perfect about it,” Stewart said. Snoopy pulled scores of 88, 92 and 93 in the second round. “It all just worked out great.”
Tracy Fenney guided MTM Outbid to third place despite two considerable disadvantages—Fenney had never shown in Wellington at all, and just as she was about to enter the ring for her first round on MTM Outbid, two of the eight stadium lights over the main arena went black, leaving the corner of the ring closest to the in-gate considerably darker.
“I had just warmed up so I didn’t really want to wait 15 minutes or whatever they were talking about waiting [for the lights to warm back up,] so I said eh I think it’s nice enough,” Fenney said. Outbid certainly agreed—he scored 82.5, 84.5 and 89.
As for showing in Wellington for the first time, that came with it’s own set of jitters that Fenney had to get over before Saturday night’s class (Fenney did not have to win a championship at the show to qualify for the Spectacular like most other competitors—she was pre-qualified by winning the $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge at the Capital Challenge Horse Show [Maryland] last year).
“I was a little star-struck when I first got here,” Fenney admitted with a laugh. “I don’t know if it’s just the jumps are so wide and the ring is so big, but I kept thinking, ‘Why am I not seeing these distances properly?’
“Then I went in the smaller ring and it was better,” Fenney continued. “And I thought, ‘Come on Tracy, get it together, they’re all just jumps!’ ”
Get it together she did, and finishing up behind two Wellington regulars like Serio and Stewart isn’t a bad way to wrap up the night at all!