Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 18
At last year’s $100,000 Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular, Catch Me was an unknown quantity for a class with such atmosphere. The bright lights, the nip in the night air, the sizable crowds—all that was familiar to the reigning champion this year, and rider Scott Stewart used that to his advantage.
Stewart started the course with a brilliant bold pace and didn’t let up until the horse was up and over the last fence—the judges rewarded Catch Me’s huge efforts out of the gallop with scores of 93, 94 and 95 in the first round, followed by and 84.5, 89 and 92.5 in Round 2.
“I think he’s even a better horse than last year,” Stewart said. “He was a blast to ride, and after knowing that last year he was so good, I could relax a little bit more this year, and I could just have fun!”
This year marks Catch Me’s debut in the amateur-owner division with owner Becky Gochman, and Stewart has stepped the horse up to the high performance classes.
“He’s been winning in both divisions,” Stewart said. “He’s really in the groove this year.”
Missing the blue ribbon finish in the Spectacular by just a few points was Stewart’s other ride for the evening, the Betsee Parker-owned entry Private Life, who finished up in second in his first appearance in the class. You want to talk about unknown quantity: Private Life is just turning 6 this year!
“He was awesome, I didn’t know what to expect,” Stewart said. “He’s always brave, and he rides like a made-up horse, but this is his fourth horse show at 3’6″. So I was really thrilled with him. He couldn’t have been any better.”
Liza Boyd took third place in the class with Maraschino, a great finish to an evening that started out a bit rough for the three-time USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals champion.
On her first ride of the night, Cassanto, Boyd was having a brilliant round when the horse landed from a fence and propped at the end of the ring, throwing Boyd squarely in the dirt.
“I left him too fresh, I left too long [to that jump] and he got excited. Totally my fault, and I learned a good lesson,” Boyd said with a laugh. She explained that while her assistant trainer Tamara Berkowitz rode Maraschino in the morning and prepped the horse for the class, Boyd rode Cassanto herself.
“I prepared Cassanto, and I’ll be fired from that job,” Boyd laughed. “I’m like, ‘He’s really good, he’s really sweet, I’ll just treat him like Brunello and do a little light flat!’ He showed me.”
Though to be fair, Maraschino seemed to have fate on her side going into Saturday night’s class.
“Tamara actually said to me this morning when I got here, ‘Well I hope she’s good tonight, because when I was riding early this morning in the dark in the International Ring a bird…” Boyd buckled over in laughter before continuing. “She had bird poop all over the mare and herself. I was like, ‘This mare is going to do great tonight!’”
Boyd galloped into the ring on Maraschino ready to make up for her earlier ride, finding the fences out of a gallop and turning neatly to show of the mare’s abilities.
“She’s a great mare, and she’s definitely not the typical chestnut mare,” Boyd said. “She’s super happy and wonderful to be around. The Langmeiers started her, and McKayla [Langmeier] was [small junior hunter, 15 and under champion at the Pennsylvania National in 2014]. They sort of brought her along as a first year horse.
“Then we bought her for a client named Lily Bennett who was successful in the junior hunters,” Boyd continued. “Now Lily is doing jumpers primarily, so she’s for sale, and I’m fortunate enough to get to ride her. She’s such a trier, I’m really proud of her.”