Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 16
Some horses have venues where they always tend to shine. Lucky for Jeff Gogul, Just Ask is a big fan of the Pennsylvania National.
This week he earned the high performance conformation hunter championship—his second consecutive title here in Harrisburg—over Scott Stewart and Betsee Parker’s Lucador. He also won the debut $25,000 Champion Of Champions Stake.
“He was fabulous here last year, and to have a repeat again this year is super exciting, especially with a horse that we brought up from baby green,” said Gogul. “So it’s thrilling to do it again.”
Owners Roberts Stables LLC have had Just Ask, a 10-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding, for three seasons now.
“He has an unbelievable canter,” said Gogul. “He never touches the bridle. The jump is a beautiful feeling; he has a great lead change—he has all of the parts. It’s fun to ride him. He’s brave but careful at the same time, which is a super, great quality. It’s rare that he ever touches a jump.”
“J.T.” kicked things off by winning the model, then he was first and second yesterday over fences, won the under saddle, and won again this morning.
“I think that there’s something more classically elegant about him,” said Gogul. “His long neck, his eye—he has more of a Thoroughbred presence I feel than a lot of warmbloods. He’s got a lovely shoulder, and I just think he’s the whole package.”
Just Ask wasn’t Gogul’s only champion of the day. He also claimed the 3’ green hunter title on Roberts Stables LLC’s Graciano over Robin Schwartz’s Back In The Game, ridden by Ashley Foster.
Todd Minikus spotted Graciano at Tryon International Equestrian Center (North Carolina) when that horse was showing in a dressage show.
“He jumped his first jump, as far as I know, last summer,” said Gogul. “There was a bit of an adjustment because dressage horses are ridden more collected and compact. It took him a while to figure out how to canter without me holding him together. He has a really easy lead change, and in the beginning we were doing lead changes all over the place if I didn’t keep control of all four corners of the horse. Once he figured it out and got stronger and was able to carry himself it all came together.”
The 6-year-old Westphalian (Franziskus—Silja) also finished second in the new $25,000 3′ and 3’3″ Winner’s Stake behind 3’3″ green hunter reserve champion Business Time, owned by Maya Grove and ridden by Maria Rasmussen.
“He has such a soft canter, and he’s really soft in your hand,” said Gogul. “His canter really just shows you the distance. I’m super lucky. He has a great personality. He’s a total people horse. On the ground he wants you to play with his tongue all the time; when you walk up to him he sticks his tongue right out.”
Brooks Comes Out Of Retirement For A Win
It’s been four or five years since Carleton Brooks has shown at the Pennsylvania National, and he’s not a regular in performance classes during the regular season either. But when his Pritchard Hill’s regular show rider John Bragg couldn’t come to Harrisburg, Brooks came out of retirement to ride him to a big win in Harrisburg, claiming the green conformation hunter championship for Balmoral over Privet Farm LLC’s Park City and Holly Orlando.
Pritchard Hill—Carleton’s wife Traci Brooks named him after the best hill in the Napa Valley to grow wine grapes—has been in the Brooks’ program for about two years, but he hasn’t been in the show ring the whole time.
“It’s taken him a while for him to grow up,” said Carleton, Los Angeles. “His body was slow to mature.”
Yesterday “Quinn,” a 7-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding, won the model and two jumping classes and was fourth in the under saddle. He followed that up with a red ribbon today to take the title.
“The process has been about understanding the horse, letting the horse tell you,” said Carleton. “He’s really intelligent, so you have to let him learn his lessons and leave him alone until he digests it.”
Crowd Pleaser Lives Up To His Name
Nick Haness and Crowd Pleaser couldn’t be having a much better year. They won the Stal Hendrix Green Futurity [New York], and he’s won two USHJA National Hunter Derbies to boot. Now he can add another title to his résumé as the 3’3″ green hunter champion at the Pennsylvania National.
“I found him in Europe this past summer,” said Haness, Temecula, California. “He’s only been in the [United States] as a hunter for the past six months. He’s just a natural at it. I think his whole life he was wanting to be a hunter. He’s showing us this year how well he’s been able to excel and succeed as a top hunter.”
Haness and the 12-year-old Selle Français (Quidam De Revel—Kamtchatka) were first and second over fences yesterday and second under saddle. They clinched the championship with a win in this morning’s over fences class.
“Next year we plan to do international hunter derbies with him,” he said. “We have the derby finals as our goal, and it’s in sight for us as well as probably the 3’6” green, so we’re excited about that.”