Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 17, 2023—Over 200 horse-and-rider combinations vied for two Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships titles that awarded more than a combined $311,000 in prize money. Sixty-one returned to the Final Rounds on Thursday, August 17 in the Walnut Ring at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky where two walked away with tricolors.
Across three days of competition, Florian, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker and ridden by Scott Stewart, took the 3'0"/3'3'' Championship honors with a six-point lead on a score of 281. Two rounds at the 3'6''/3'9'' height saw McQueen, owned by Strasburg Morin Inc. and ridden by Nick Haness, take the top honors on an 11.50-point lead with a score of 284.
Scott Stewart is no stranger to taking home the 3'0"/3'3" Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championship tricolor. This year, the Flemington, New Jersey, rider added to his growing collection of championship titles with Florian, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker.
The duo kicked off three days of competition with a second-place finish in Tuesday's First Round, earning a bye to the Final Round and $7,915.44. By virtue of the new format debuted this week, where the top 10 horses from the First Round may elect not to compete in the Second Round, Stewart chose to save the gelding for Thursday's Championship Round. His decision paid off when they posted a leaderboard topping score of 281.
"Florian went well the first day, so I did not show him yesterday," said Stewart on opting to utilize the new 'bye' format to his advantage. "He hasn't shown since week six, so I was a little nervous not showing him, but I thought if I did show him, and he got a little plain and boring for the third day, I would kick myself. I was really thrilled with the way he went."
"I like the new format because if you have a horse that went and finished well on the first day, and that you thought could use the day off from jumping, you could," Stewart continued. "I think it's a good format being able to just bring the best horses forward because a lot of times some of the really good horses will make a mistake and it's nice to have them all in the final round."
With their tricolor, the pair collected $22,537.50 and took home the title with an impressive six-point lead under judges Mike Rosser, Holly Orlando, Jeanne Marie Dunford-Miller, Jennifer Bauersachs, Troy Hendricks and Jessie Lang. As the champion, Stewart was presented the Bye for Now Perpetual Trophy donated in honor of Joey Darby.
The top-scoring Tier II rider, Jennifer Hannan aboard Stephanie Bulger's Notorious, tied for second with Stewart and Cerulean Blue, owned by Rivers Edge. Both earned a score of 275.
"My horses were performing well all week and I felt very confident going into today. I just wanted to have a nice smooth round and I think this course allowed us to do that and to gallop a little bit," said Hannan of Wakefield, Rhode Island, of her final round.
"I think it's amazing," Hannan continued about having the chance to win additional money as a Tier II rider. "A lot of times we win a derby or a division and we really don't receive money for it, so it's a real added bonus."
"With Cerulean Blue, I messed up the first day, so he had to go yesterday and today," said Stewart. "He was great and went nice. I own him, so next year I plan on showing him in the Green Conformation or in the 3'6'' First Year Green."
Stewart and Hannan each took home $12,598.46 for their second-placing tie. As the highest-placing Tier Two rider, Hannan earned an additional $13,522.50.
Leading the class through the entire Championship and ending with an untouchable 11.5-point lead, McQueen owned by Strasburg Morin Inc., and ridden by Nick Haness, took the 3'6''/3'9'' Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championship title on a score of 284. For their efforts, they took home $6,424.13 in the First Round and $10,706.88 in the Championship Round, along with a trophy donated by Ken and Ceil Wheeler and a variety of prizes from USHJA sponsors.
"I thought that the rounds today went really well. It was a little bit of a challenge at the end of the day, the atmosphere changed quite a bit," Haness of San Clemente, California, said. "The weather shifted, it got kind of windy, but the Second Round was pretty inviting to allow your horse to really get a lot of single jumps. You could really gallop, and that was a fun part for me and letting him open his stride up and scope to be brilliant."
The pair are no strangers to the spotlight in the arena and have been making headlines since they won the $100,000 USHJA WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular earlier this year.
Thursday's competition started with 61 horse-and-rider combinations in the First Round, which was then narrowed down to 30. Moving up four spots in the Championship Round to take reserve was Christopher Payne aboard Stephanie Ring's Hemsworth on a score of 272.50. From Round One, Hemsworth and Payne earned $1,053.56 and $7,580.47 from the Championship round.
"I love it, I thought the first course was nice and the final course was wonderful," Payne, of Cincinnati, Ohio, said of the course. "You could just let them canter across the ground and fire at the jump. I thought it was a really, really nice course."
Stewart and Colter stayed in the top company through both rounds, rounding out the top three on a 271.50 and earning $4,548.28 from Round One and $4,389.82 from the Championship Round.
"Colter is a first-year horse and he's never really done anything quite this impressive," Stewart said. "He does the Amateur Hunters with Sophie and he was champion at Devon. He hasn't shown since Upperville, so he's had a long time off as well. He is just a little, nice easy horse to ride."
Both Championships offered recognition and 20 percent of the prize money through the Green Hunter Rider Ranking System, which categorizes riders into two tiers based on their prior earnings within the program. Tier I riders are those who are ranked 1-30 in money won in the program over the past three years, and all other riders are considered Tier II. This year, 3'/3'3'' Tier II riders contested for $45,075 in prize money, and the 3'6''/3'9'' Tier II riders competed for an additional $17,131.
The 3'0"/3'3'' High Score Overall Tier II rider was Hannan with Notorious with a 275. The 3'6''/3'9'' High Score Overall Tier II rider was Geoffrey Hesslink aboard Meridan Farm LLC's Drumroll with a score of 270.
Between rounds, additional awards were presented to competitors.
The USHJA thanks the sponsors who helped to make these championships possible including Title Sponsor Platinum Performance and Official Sponsors CWD, Nutrena and Parlanti International. Thanks also go to Official Broadcast Provider ClipMyHorse.TV and Livestream Sponsor Windsor Stables; Championship Official Sponsors Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and Pharmacy and The Clothes Horse; Supporting Sponsors RingSide Pro, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and Human Touch; Award Sponsors Essex Classics, and Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks; and Bonus Award Donors Oakwell Farms, DS Holdings, LLC, Colleen McQuay and Patrick Rodes.
The USHJA also thanks Show Manager Hugh Kincannon and the entire Kentucky Horse Shows team for their assistance with the Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships.
Wall-to-wall live streaming coverage presented by Windsor Stables is available at no additional cost to members at watchushja.org and ClipMyHorse.TV. Additional coverage will be available in the upcoming issue of In Stride.
For more information about the Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships, visit ushja.org/GreenChampionship. For online results, visit ushja.org/competition/hunter-week-championships.
Photos: Shawn McMillen Photography, Tricia Booker/USHJA
Horse | Owner | Rider | Score
1. Florian | Dr. Betsee Parker | Scott Stewart | 281
2. Notorious | Stephanie Bulger | Jennifer Hannan | 275
2. Cerulean Blue | Rivers Edge | Scott Stewart | 275
4. Maradona | Seth Vallhonrat | Daniel Geitner | 272.50
5. Private Collection | Kelly Sims | Micael Britt-Leon | 260.50
6. Forsini | Hannah Toohey | Havens Schatt | 270
7. Oceanside | Shadow Ridge | Kate Conover | 268
8. Royale AM | Robinson Ridge, LLC | John French | 267.50
9. Monarchy | Shadowfax Equestrian LLC | Geoffrey Hesslink | 267
9. Chicoletto | Mercedes Flett | Courtney Lenkart | 267
11. Admiral Blue | Caroline Ratigan | Scott Stewart | 265
12. Custom Romance | Ashley Weiman | Nick Haness | 264
Rider | Horse | Owner | Score
1. McQueen | Strasburg Morin Inc. | Nick Haness | 284
2. Hemsworth | Stephanie Ring | Christopher Payne | 272.50
3. Colter | Sophie Gochman | Scott Stewart | 271.50
4. Drumroll | Meridian Farm LLC | Geoffrey Hesslink | 270
5. Manhattan | Martin Schlaeppi | Daniel Geitner | 268
6. Amazing Grace | Eva Mackenzie | John French | 267.50
6. Day Won | Balmoral | Elizabeth Boyd | 267.50
8. Pavlova | John & Stephanie Ingram, LLC | Nick Haness | 264.50
9. Atlas | Stephanie Ring | Christopher Payne | 262.50
10. California Love | Rivers Edge | Scott Stewart | 262
10. Brentwood | Bridget Hallman | Elizabeth Boyd | 262
10. Oslo | Alexis Meadows | Shauna Pennell | 262