Winner Scores Repeat Harrisburg Victory

Oct 17, 2014 - 10:03 AM

Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 17  

When Daryl Portela stepped into the ring at the Pennsylvania National she hoped that her trips on Winner could be consistent enough to give her a repeat of last year’s performance—one that earned her the 3’3” amateur-owner hunter, 36 and older, title.

After winning two over fences classes and taking second, third and fourth in the remaining classes, she did just that, edging out Ellen Toon and Mirror Image for the division title and 18-35 champion Stephanie Danhakl on Enough Said for the grand championship.

“He always shines at indoors and at the bigger shows,” Portela said of the 11-year-old warmblood. “He loves the indoor shows—it’s been awesome. I think he rises to the occasion for sure—he knows.”

While the ribbons, trophies and coolers are nice, there’s one thing that made this year’s win even more special. “My oldest daughter flew in and surprised me, so she got to watch me show, so that was really nice,” Portela said.

She purchased the gelding four years ago after finding him in her trainer, Jimmy Torano’s, barn. She’d ridden as a kid but had gotten out of it when her daughters were riding, but wanted to start back again now that her children were older.

“I’ve been taking time for myself and just enjoying it,” Portela said. “I’m just going to the horse shows that I want to; it’s been great.”

She ended last season with a bang, picking up championships at the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International Horse Show (D.C.) and the National Horse Show (Ky.). This season, their tricolor accolades have come from the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) and Devon (Pa.).

From their first ride together, it was clear that Winner was the horse for her and it didn’t hurt that he came with a winning name.

Portela grew up riding and knew Torano for years—their friendship beginning in their junior years. Her daughters rode with him and when she got back in the game, he was an obvious choice. During the winter months surrounding WEF, Jet Show Stables is based in Fort Lauderdale, just a short two-minute drive from her home.

She hacks Winner herself during those months, only taking him over jumps at shows and when he’s living at Torano’s Mohrsville, Pa.-base, and she has another horse she rides to make sure she stays riding fit for when she meets them at horse shows.

While normally Washington would be her next stop, Torano is judging there, so instead, she’ll return home to enjoy the sun and get ready for the upcoming winter season.

Enough Said Takes Center Stage

Stephanie Danhakl doesn’t have much free time in her schedule, so earning the the champion ribbon for the 3’3” amateur-owner, 18-35, hunter division on Enough Said felt especially hard-earned.

“I’m kind of just blown away,” she said. “I don’t really know what to think. Taylor [Willever on Whisper], who ended up reserve champion, really put the pressure on and rode so well all week, so it was very tough competition. I was so proud of my horse; he’s never been here before. He’s a pre-green horse, and he just came in and was perfect, so I’m really happy with him and I’m glad I was able to come in with a win today.”

Danhakl and the aptly-nicknamed “Contest” placed well in the amateur-owner hunters at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) while Stewart competed him in the pre-greens.  

Midway through a two-year art history graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, the 27-year-old student commutes to trainers Scott Stewart and Ken Berkley’s Rivers Edge Farm in Flemington, N.J., every chance she gets. 

“I try to get to the barn early and whenever I have a day off,” said Danhakl. “I’m always riding in the morning and then I’ll be in the library for the rest of the day.”

Her career goal is to become a museum curator after perhaps seeking a doctorate degree post-graduate school. As a junior, she grew up in Pacific Palisades, Calif., training with Archie Cox. She still keeps one mount with him, and her other six at Rivers Edge since starting there two years ago. 

“He’s awesome to ride,” she said. “He’s really kind of gotten in the swing of things, and he never really has any rubs or does anything wrong, he always lands on the lead so it makes it really easy for me. I have great trainers and a great team at Rivers Edge, and a great groom so I am very lucky and that definitely contributes to everything.”

Her groom, Antonio Aguilar, picked up the groom’s award for the division. 

“Antonio arguably loves him as much as I do,” she said with a laugh. “He’s always saying it’s his horse, his baby—not my baby!”

Stewart and Berkley found the horse specifically for Danhakl last fall while horse-hunting in Germany. The 8-year-old Westphalian gelding had dabbled in the jumpers and dressage, but without much show ring experience. 

“When he came to the barn, he was kind of in the jumper mode,” said Danhakl. “He jumped really high and really fast, so we had to work on sort of making him jump a little bit slower. And he really picked up on that very quickly.”

Danhakl will bring Contest and a couple other mounts to the Washington International (D.C.) next week.

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