Wellington, Fla. – March 9, 2019 – The expansive Stadium Derby Field welcomed junior, amateur and professional riders to take part in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Classic on Saturday morning during the ninth week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), which saw Havens Schatt rise to the top spot in the professional section riding Happy Thought, while Sofia Roberts secured the win amongst the juniors and amateurs aboard Small Gesture.
The first round boasted a total of 70 entries, with 36 professionals vying for a spot in the handy phase and 34 riders in the junior/amateur group hoping to do the same. Course designer Andy Christiansen, Jr. built the day’s courses, with the classic round consisting of 11 fences including six high options for those looking to accumulate additional points. The handy phase featured ten fences with a trot jump at fence seven going towards the in-gate.
The handy round invited back 12 of the top-scoring pairs from each group. Entering the handy phase, Roberts and Small Gesture led the way in the junior/amateur section, while the professionals saw Peter Pletcher in the first place position aboard Entourage.
Third to last to go for the professionals, Schatt trotted into the ring and laid down a near flawless round with Happy Thought. The judging panel, which consisted of Sissy Wickes and Tucker Ericson, awarded Schatt a base score of 87 and four additional points for handiness for a combined total of 180.5 to jump to the top of the scorecard, a lead she would maintain to ultimately win the class.
Gogul was next to tackle the handy round, where he earned an 85 from the judges plus four additional high-option points to end with an 89 and a combined tally of 178, just two and a half points shy of Schatt’s score.
Pletcher was the final entrant in the ring and delivered a round that included all high-options. The judges awarded him with a base score of 85 plus four high-option points for a total of 89 to finish up with a combined 180, leaving him to settle for second place honors behind the winning pair of Schatt and Happy Thought and bumping Gogul into third place.
Schatt, of Georgetown, Kentucky, runs her Milestone Farm operation and has had “Bobby” in her barn for the past three years. Her client, Caroline Moran, purchased him two years ago in the summer, and before that another one of Moran’s clients, David Lubin, owned him. Bobby has made quite the comeback to the show ring after being diagnosed with Lymes disease. Schatt said that after his treatment and some time off, the gelding is back to his winning ways.
In the junior/amateur section, Meredith Lipke aboard For Love sat in the third place position heading into the handy phase, returning with a first round score of 84. In the handy, Lipke and her mount climbed to the top of the leaderboard after receiving a base score of 83 plus four high-option points to finish on 87 points and a combined total of 171.
Chloe White was the second-to-last rider on course aboard Game Face. The duo secured an impressive 87 from the judges plus four high-option points to finish up with a 91 for a combined 176.5 after both rounds to eclipse the leaders and take over the top spot.
With the pressure mounting, Roberts was the final entrant on course and solidified her win after delivering another top performance that earned an 85 plus four high-option points. Roberts’ rounds cumulatively earned her and Small Gesture a combined 178 points, just one and a half points ahead of White to win the class.
Roberts, of Wilmington, Ohio, trains with Patty Rogers and Jeff Gogul. Despite this year marking her first year competing in Florida at WEF, Roberts was able to pull off an incredible derby performance with her gelding of three years. “Nemo,” as he is affectionately called in the barn, was the first horse Roberts showed when she moved up to the Junior Hunters, and since then the duo has been making their names known in the derbies.
Derby competition will return to the Stadium Derby Field on Friday, March 29 during the twelfth and final week of WEF, where riders will compete for top honors in the $15,000 International Hunter Derby Hunt & Go, followed by the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby in the afternoon.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Havens Schatt – $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Classic (Professional section) winner
On the courses:
“I liked the courses today. Two of the horses I had were quite young. I rode Happy Thought in the derby last week at Deeridge Farms, but for the other two it was their first time. I liked the courses because it was spooky enough but also very inviting even for those newcomers. It was nice to have an inviting way around. For the handy, I thought if you wanted to do the inside turns, which I thought most everybody did, with the rocks and the liverpools and everything it made it a little tricky because there was other stuff to look at when you turned the corner at the jump. Overall, I liked the courses a lot.”
On Happy Thought:
“I bought him during Florida two years ago for another client of mine as an investment horse. The summer before last, Caroline saw him and was like, ‘He’s just my type: he’s little, he’s cute and he’s a good jumper,’ so she ended up buying him. I happened to see him in the warm ups in ring six. Ivan Rakowsky had him and Jacob Pope was riding him. He just looked like a super cute, fun horse to ride. He goes without a martingale and wears a rubber bit. He’s so tiny but he can really, really jump.He’s been in the Pre-Greens and she’s shown him a little bit. This is the first year we’ve actually campaigned him. He showed at Deeridge Farms last week, and that was his first time on the grass. He was second last week so he must like the grass.”
On Happy Thought’s comeback from illness:
“I’ve never had a horse with Lymes disease before, and this horse came back with a very low grade but kind of chronic, so it wasn’t something that was jumping out at us. He just wasn’t himself, so it was hard to figure out, but once we figured it out, gave him time and treated him, he came back super.”
Sofia Roberts – $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Classic (Junior/Amateur section) winner
On Small Gesture:
“I’ve had him for a while – he was my first junior hunter so he basically taught me how to do the junior hunters. He’s a really good boy, and he’s so sweet. I’ve done some derbies with him before, in Kentucky and at the World Equestrian Center, but this is our first time coming to WEF. It’s really nice here. We really like it and we don’t want to go home.”
On her rounds:
“The first round was pretty straightforward; it was really nice to ride. In the second round, we were really focusing on the first turn from the first jump bending in the eight strides to the oxer. We were really focused on that and I was a little nervous about it because it’s sort of a blind turn, and then also the inside turn to the last oxer. He took a little look at the trot jump; it was a little big. I’ve never shown on the grass, so this was my first time. I did all the high options in both rounds.”
On her partnership with Small Gesture:
“I’ve ridden him for probably three years. We call him Nemo in the barn. He is the kind of horse that when I first got him, no one really knew him. When you look at him, he doesn’t stand out but when he jumps he really stands out because he’s such a good jumper.”
$10,000 USHJA National Derby (Professional Section)
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total
1. Happy Thought / Havens Schatt / Caroline Moran / 89.50 / 91.00 / 180.50
2. Entourage / Peter Pletcher / Legado Farms, LLC / 91.00 / 89.00 / 180.00
3. Counselor / Jeff Gogul / Roaring Brook LLC / 89.00 / 89.00 / 178.00
4. Generous / David Oliynyk / Lori Gaudet 88.50 / 88.50 / 177.00
5. Rockaway / Molly Sewell / Cynthia Chaconas / 86.25 / 90.00 / 176.25
6. My December / Peter Pletcher / Legato Farms, LLC / 88.25 / 86.00 / 174.25
7. No Doubt / Molly Sewell / Elizabeth Phillips / 86.50 / 86.00 / 172.50
8. Salt Creek / Havens Schatt / Havens Schatt / 86.00 / 85.00 / 171.00
9. Clockwork / Havens Schatt / Cece Williams / 88.75 / 81.00 / 169.75
10. Maverick / Jeff Gogul / Roberts Stables, LLC / 90.00 / 77.00 / 167.00
11. Quickborn 7 / Heather Caristo-Williams / Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Caristo / 88.00 / 76.00 / 164.00
12. In Time / Rush Weeden / Glory Days Farm, LLC / 87.00 / 72.00 / 159.00
$10,000 USHJA National Classic (Junior/Amateur Section)
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total
1. Small Gesture / Sofia Roberts / Roberts Stables, LLC / 89.00 / 89.00 / 178.00
2. Game Face / Chloe White / Virginia Langloss / 85.50 / 91.00 / 176.50
3. For Love / Meredith Lipke / Meredith Lipke 84.00 / 87.00 / 171.00
4. Privateer / Kelley Corrigan / Kelley Corrigan / 83.00 / 87.00 / 170.00
5. Golden Dream / Gigi Moynihan / Christy Johnson / 78.00 / 85.00 / 163.00
6. Aiden / John Yozell / John Yozell / 77.00 / 84.00 / 161.00
7. Cassius / Sandra Epstein / Sandra Epstein / 75.00 / 78.00 / 153.00
8. Conway / Michael Baum / DP Racing / 85.00 / 67.00 / 152.00
9. Eleventh Hour / Meredith Lipke / Meredith Lipke / 76.00 / 72.00 / 148.00