Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

Pletcher Edges All Challengers In WCHR Professional Finals

A new format rewards a veteran winner.

After the tightest race in the 13-year history of the Stillwell-Hansen WCHR Professional Finals, Peter Pletcher rose to the top of a talented field during the Capital Challenge Horse Show, Sept. 29-Oct. 7.

By virtue of his solid handy hunter round, Pletcher, Magnolia, Texas, edged John French and Scott Stewart by 1.67 points for the victory with a four-round total of 360.99 points.


A new format rewards a veteran winner.

After the tightest race in the 13-year history of the Stillwell-Hansen WCHR Professional Finals, Peter Pletcher rose to the top of a talented field during the Capital Challenge Horse Show, Sept. 29-Oct. 7.

By virtue of his solid handy hunter round, Pletcher, Magnolia, Texas, edged John French and Scott Stewart by 1.67 points for the victory with a four-round total of 360.99 points.

“The first time you win you’re freaked out,” said Pletcher laughing. “The second time it’s still unbelievable. The third time I can’t believe how exciting it still is to win this class. It never gets dull. You’re just as nervous every time.”

The competition was so close that Stewart, Wellington, Fla., and French, Redwood City, Calif., tied for second place (after receiving 12 scores from six judges) with 359.32 points. The judges sitting in position No. 1 broke the tie, so French was awarded the reserve championship by virtue of his 89 to Stewart’s 88.

Liza Towell Boyd finished fourth (266.32), John Bragg was fifth (263.99) and Kirsten Coe rounded out the field in sixth (261.49).

This year’s class at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., featured a new and different format. In order to allow more riders to participate, Ameri-can Hunter Jumper Foun-dation officials increased the invitations from the top four to the top six riders on the WCHR National Professional rankings.

Farrington Adds Yet Another Victory To His Name

Kent Farrington continued his reign as the World Cup East Coast league points leader after he and Nerina won the $50,000 Ariat Congressional Cup CSI-W Grand Prix at the Capital Challenge, taking the blue for the second consecutive year in Upper Marlboro, Md.

After a field of 24 competitors was pared down in the first round, eight riders returned to tackle the jump-off. The course included a bending line with an option of a forward five or steady six strides, followed by tight rollbacks and a long gallop to a single oxer.

Farrington said Anthony D’Ambrosio’s course was “a little soft.”
Nevertheless, the outcome turned out to his liking. “I was expecting around six clear, but I think the course worked out the way he [D’Ambrosio] wanted,” Farrington said.
Leslie Howard delighted the crowd as she raced around the jump-off course and set the pace with a clean round in 37.81 seconds, but she ultimately followed behind in the victory gallop.

Farrington took to the course after Howard, opting for the galloping five strides in the beginning bending line.

Nerina’s naturally large stride allowed him to make tight turns with ease, and it wasn’t until he approached the last fence thate he really pushed the gas.

“Leslie is a very fast rider and a tremendous competitor, but my horse has a naturally huge stride,” he said. “I think she [Leslie] lost time at the in-and-out; her horse is green and tends to get hung up in the air.”

Walking into the ring for the jump-off, Farrington allowed Nerina to look at the rollback to the liverpool, a turn that put him ahead of the class.

“She’s brave and fast; coming from Europe, she’s probably had a lot of indoor experience, and that helped me out tonight,” he noted.

Farrington and Nerina jumped clear in 34.10 seconds to take over the lead.

Schuyler Riley and Lapacco threatened to beat Farrington’s time, but Riley couldn’t shave the turns fast enough. Her gallop to the final oxer posed a threat, but she settled for second with a time of 35.27 seconds.

“Nerina has really stepped up and jumped in the bigger classes for me. She’s good because I can give Up Chiqui a break every now and then,” said Farrington of his veteran mount who has now won 13 grand prix classes this year.

He began riding the 12-year-old mare, owned by Javier Salvador, this summer. Together they’ve posted two wins—the $50,000 Cleveland Grand Prix (Ohio) in July and the Ariat Congressional Cup, which was their first indoor show together.

Farrington will alternate using Nerina and Up Chiqui during the remaining fall indoor circuit.

“I don’t want to say the World Cup [Finals] is set in stone, but I would like to keep building for Sweden,” he said. “If we can go and give it a shot, we’ll go.”   
Beth Johnson

And instead of riding unfamiliar horses, each rider was required to bring a horse for the class. Then, instead of each rider competing each horse, this year the riders drew four horses. After the six riders completed three rounds, the top three riders went on to compete in the final handy hunter round to determine the Monarch International Professional World Championship Hunter Rider title.


The format changes created ample discussion even before the class, and afterward there were mixed reactions. Some people loved having fresh faces in the class, while others believed the format change didn’t allow for the riders to be fairly compared because they didn’t compete the same horses.

In general, the riders approved of the changes. “I think it worked out; I was skeptical of the change,” said Pletcher afterward.

“I liked having our own horses,” he added. “Even though they may not have been our best horses, we went into the first round on horses we knew. And I think that breaks the ice.”

After the first two rounds, Boyd, Camden, S.C., in her first Profes-sional Finals appearance, had established a commanding 5-point lead aboard her own Sienna (92.66) and Bragg’s Cun-ningham (93).

Going into the crucial third round, however, Boyd drew Pletcher’s petite, bay mare Surella. A bending six-stride line through the middle of the course was their downfall, however.

“The six looked really far away, so I did seven,” quipped Boyd, who chipped the oxer out of the line. Her 80.66 average dropped her to fourth and out of the top three.

Entering the handy, the veteran professionals Stewart, French and Pletcher returned in that order, scores low to high, to vie for the title while Boyd, Bragg, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and Coe, Katonah, N.Y., watched from the sidelines.

Aboard Boyd’s Sienna, Stewart went for broke in the handy. Sienna had a late lead change early on course, but Stewart’s tight, aggressive turns impressed the judges and earned a 90.66 average.

French entered next aboard Bragg’s elegant gray Cunningham. French’s turns were tight as well, but the opinionated stallion stalled a touch in one turn. Their average scores of 90 were good enough to tie Stewart for the lead, however.

So, it was all up to Pletcher. He had Coe’s Aston for the final round, an established equitation horse and junior hunter, and he was thrilled.

“I drew great horses,” he said. “I loved the final horse that I got to ride. He’d done a lot of equitation, which was nice. I knew it was going to be easier making the turns.”

Capital Challenge Tidbits

•    Kirsten Coe, 26, solidified her first invitation to the WCHR Professional Finals with victory in the WCHR Professional Challenge aboard Heartfelt. She won both rounds of the class and finished with a 188.99 total.

•    Close finishes abounded in the professional divisions, with the culmination being Peter Pletcher aboard MacArthur Park and Scott Stewart with West Point earning the co-grand hunter championship.

•    Jamie Ringel, 20, Wilton, Conn., conquered her nerves on the way to top honors in the WCHR Adult Amateur Challenge. “I tend to get overanxious before second rounds, and that has messed me up a lot before,” Ringel said. She scored an 87.34 in the first round and topped that in the second round with an 88.66 for the wire-to-wire victory.

•    After Caroline Clark Morrison’s Milan stumbled in the first class of the amateur-owner, 36 and over, division on Thursday, she wasn’t expecting to walk away with the championship. But a stellar performance in the stakes class, and a winning score of 89.5, gave them the tricolor.

•    Laura Beckworth, 48, Magnolia, Texas, the WCHR National Adult Amateur Champion, had to wait until her sons finished their high school football careers before she could get back into the tack. The wait was worthwhile, though, as she also earned the grand adult amateur championship at Capital Challenge aboard Holiday.

Their smooth and consistent round, with tight turns and bold jumping efforts, scored an average of 90 for the victory.

Pletcher said even though he’s contested the Professional Finals eight times the class still means a lot to him.

“I say every year I’m not going to do it again, but then I strive for it,” said Pletcher laughing. “It’s a wonderful class, and it’s another added rush to the sport.”

Raise The Roof, owned by Cloe Baumrim and selected by French as his mount for the Finals, was awarded the best horse title by virtue of scoring the most points with the four riders.

The other horses donated included: Mary Jane Stone’s Surella (Pletcher); Mary Slouka’s Cunningham (Bragg); Annie Gardner’s Sienna (Boyd); Heritage Farm’s Aston (Coe); and Glen Senk’s True (Stewart).

Special AHJF Awards
Old Springhouse Lifetime Achievement Award: Pam Baker, Bealton, Va.


Jeffery Katz Memorial Award For High-Score Green Hunter: Molly Ohrstrom’s Ovation ridden by Scott Stewart

China Blue Farm Working Hunter Challenge Award: Alexandra Stathis’ Truly ridden by Scott Stewart

Alabama Clay Conformation Hunter Award: Krista and Alexa Weisman’s Westpoint ridden by Scott

Rox Dene Award For High-Score Professional Hunter: Molly Ohrstrom’s Ovation ridden by Scott Stewart

Winter’s Run Sportsmanship Award: Jack Hammond, Sommamish, Wash.

Dover Saddlery Junior Hunter Challenge: Ursula Wise, Polson, Mont., and Kathryn Miller, Gainesville, Fla.

Heard A Rumor Award For Excep-tional Ability: Lilly Marshall’s Onyx

National Champions: Professional—Peter Pletcher; amateur-owner—Krista Weisman; junior—Lucy Davis; pony—Schaefer Raposa; adult amateur—Laura Beckworth.

Tricia Booker

Mohr Returns For More

Lindsay Mohr made winning look easy when she captured the blue in the Ariat National Adult Medal Finals. Her Ariat victory is a nice bookend to her 2004 win in the Show Circuit Medal Finals, also held at the Capital Challenge.

Mohr counted on Lion King for both titles. This year she rode him to an 88.5 in the first round and an 89.4 in the second; Mohr ruled the field of 31 riders.

The first course consisted of inside turns, combinations and bending lines that caused problems for many riders. Mohr described the first round as a hunter-type course that suited Lion King perfectly.
“My horse has a huge stride, which made the bending lines easy,” said Mohr. “So I was really focusing on keeping him collected in the turns and holding him together.”
Lion King’s stride worked to Mohr’s advantage again when she returned for her second round. The course started with a line that gave an option of a forward five or easy six strides. Most riders chose to do six strides, but Mohr went in and loped up the five.

“Before I went in the ring, my trainer Robert Beck said, ‘I don’t want to mess you up or anything, but if you get the five you’ve won the class,’ Mohr said.

Beck’s advice was accurate; both second-placed Devon Poeta and third-placed Amy Brubaker rode the first line in six strides.
Mohr, a freshman at Centenary College (N.J.), purchased Lion King four years ago from Frank and Stacia Madden of Beacon Hill (N.J.), where she also trains when not riding with Beck.   

Beth Johnson
A Memorable Swan Song

Heading to college is a monumental adjustment for anyone, and when you factor in horses it can create a big change in a riding schedule. Add in the pressure of the fall indoor circuit and juggling schoolwork, and you have a good reason why so many riders give up the sport during the school year.

For Stephanie Barnes, 19, of Seattle, Wash., the Capital Challenge was her first time back in the saddle since she started her freshman year at Bryn Mawr College (Pa.).

“I’ve hardly ridden the last month and a half so I’m really rusty. The first day here was a little iffy. Nothing really bad happened. I just felt a little off and out of practice. After spending a day on the horses, I’m sort of back in my element,” said Barnes.

Barnes may have had to get her riding legs back, but her 11-year-old, Hanoverian gelding Carnaby Street gave her confidence in the WCHR Amateur-Owner Challenge and the blue ribbon with an 86.33.
Although Barnes rode Carnaby Street in the junior hunters before aging out, Capital Challenge was the young rider’s first time riding on the East Coast.

“We obviously came a really long way from Seattle, and this was my big goal this year,” said Barnes, who trains with Jill Pierce in Kirkland, Wash.

Although she would like to continue riding and perhaps train with Louise Serio, whose barn is close to Bryn Mawr, Barnes was simply happy about ending the year on a positive note.

“We got done what we wanted to get done. So I’m really happy about that. It is a great way to finish up,” she said.

Barnes blinked back the tears as she explained that her horses are now for sale.

“This was probably the last time I rode my horse. This was my last chance, my shot, and he was great for me,” she added.




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