Oct. 4--Upper Marlboro, Md.
Liza Boyd’s had to endure a lot of teasing lately.
It started in Kentucky, after she won the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.  That’s when Peter Pletcher started in on her, telling her it was time to have a second baby.
And after she won the WCHR Profressional Finals today, Oct. 4, other top professionals have joined in, eager to get their top competition out of the show ring.
“I’m thinking maybe I should retire, and Peter says I should have another baby,” said Boyd, and Kelley Farmer chimed in to support that sentiment.
Boyd won her first Pro Final in a new format at Capital Challenge in Upper Marlboro, Md., in which the top six riders in the WCHR Professional standings went head-to-head on borrowed horses, swapped, then did it again. For the last round, the handy, they brought their own mounts. They faced a bounce, trot jump, and to hand gallop fences, and that’s when things got interesting.
With just a few points separating the field, everyone went for broke. Pletcher moved up from sixth to third after a serious ride on adult amateur mare Aura, who filled in when the mount Pletcher wanted to bring came out of his stall a bit off this morning.
Farmer and her derby-winning partner On Q, owned by CH Farm, rode a very brave track, and despite a few inconsistent moments still stepped up from fifth to fourth. John French came in second, but fell to fifth after his handy round on Lily Blavin’s Sander.
Reigning champion Scott Stewart has won this class five times, and held the lead after the first two rounds. He brought his biggest gun in Declaration, who’s finished at the reserve champion at Derby Finals and won a handful of derbies. But that horse had an off day. He slipped badly after the first fence, then looked a bit discombobulated throughout rest of the course.
“He’s usually really good at the handies—until tonight,” said Stewart. “I don’t know what set him off. He’s usually perfect. He’s done really well in a lot of derbies so far. I’ll have to try again."
Pro Finals first timer Amanda Steege described herself as “shockingly, pretty relaxed” before the class. Before the handy she sat in fourth, and she moved up to second after that round.
“He’s totally dependable,” said Steege of Zidane. “I knew he would help me out when I needed it.”
But Liza’s round made the biggest impact. She brought Quatrain to the class, whom she co-owns with Janet Peterson and has been a reliable derby partner for her over the last two seasons. She nailed all the tightest turns out of stride, and kept Quatrain going with plenty of pace to score marks of 95 across the board.
“He goes smooth through the turns and is easy to stay with, like an equitation horse,” said Boyd, Camden, S.C. “But he jumps in beautiful hunter stype. He was definitely the right pick for sure.”
Boyd almost didn’t qualify for this class. She was just out of the running heading into Wednesday’s Pro Challenge and needed a good mark in that class. In the first round she made a mistake and just eked into Round 2, laying 12th. She did some quick math, figured out she needed to be eighth, and rode hard. When Pletcher had a rail, she moved up to eighth to sneak into the Pro Finals.
For an in-depth report from Capital Challenge, check out the Oct. 21 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. 
Full results are at capitalchallenge.org .