Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 17, 2018 – The premiere hunter spectacle of the Winter Equestrian Festival series brought 36 elite pairs to the International Ring Saturday evening for a chance to chase down the winning title in the 2018 $100,000 World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. Louise Serio and Rock Harbor ultimately prevailed ahead of the pack with two standout trips to emerge victorious as the 2018 champions just slightly ahead of two-time champions Scott Stewart and Catch Me.
Now in its 22nd year, the 2018 Hunter Spectacular competition saw the best of the week’s Professional, Amateur and Junior athletes, each of whom qualified to ride under the lights as a division champion or reserve champion throughout the week. Of the evening’s 36 contenders, the large majority of 30 chose to ride course designer Steve Stephens’ track at the 3’6” height, with four pairs opting for the 3’9” fences and only two selecting the highest 4’ option. After a handful of horses and riders took to the ring, a number of light poles shut down and forced entrants to tackle a corner of the ring in the dark. Headed into the handy phase after the classic round of competition, the cut-off score was a lofty 83 points, awarded as an average from the tallies of the three judges panels.
Earning classic scores of 91, 88.5 and 89 for average marks of 89.5, Serio and Jennifer Burger’s Rock Harbor entered the second portion of the class as the pair to beat. Not far behind sat Daisy Farish and Meralex Farm, Inc.’s Cinemagic with a score of 88.167, followed in third position by Kelley Farmer and Shameless, the horse owned by Aizlynn Radwanski and Autumn Hill, with 86.91 points. Both household hunter names, Farmer and Scott Stewart each piloted two mounts into the top twelve, posing the greatest chances to conclude the evening with the lion’s share of the prize money.
Sitting in 11th position as they returned to the ring, Stewart and Gochman Sport Horses LLC’s Catch Me, twice a winner of the Hunter Spectacular in 2016 and 2017, laid down a textbook ride to earn scores of 88, 92 and 93, some of the highest individual marks of the night from the judges panels, for a cumulative score of 174.333 that would propel them into first position with ten left to ride. Subsequent duos valiantly chased them down, but Stewart and the grey gelding still sat atop the leaderboard with only Serio and Rock Harbor still to ride.
Proving a consistent pair, Serio and “Harry” garnered three more top scores to the tune of an 86, 86.75 and 87.50. Though Serio and Rock Harbor’s handy scores alone did not surpass Stewart and Catch Me, combined with their more than 6-point lead ahead of Stewart and his mount after the classic phase, it was just enough to reclaim the lead, finishing on final marks of 176.25. With impressive scores of 86.5, 87 and 93 in the handy round, WEF rookies Tracy Fenney and MTM Outbid, owned by MTM Farm, leapfrogged up the ranks from seventh place to sneak into the third position with a final score of 174.163, just two-tenths of a point behind reserve champions Stewart and Catch Me.
The Winter Equestrian Festival at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center will continue Sunday with plenty more hunter champion crowned across the showgrounds, with the highlights coming in the form of the WCHR Amateur Owner 3’3” Hunter Classic and the WCHR Junior Hunter 3’3” Hunter Classic. Nearing the conclusion of Week 6, the circuit is close to its halfway point, with six more weeks of competition still to come.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Louise Serio – $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular champion
On her reaction to winning:
“First, I’d like to say how exciting it is because Peter Wetherhill was one of the founding members of the American Hunter Jumper Foundation, which also now funds the USHJA Foundation, so just to have his name is really important. You never know when you are going to be back here [in the winner’s circle] again, so it’s very rewarding. Jennifer Burger owns Rock Harbor and has been a wonderful client and a big supporter for a long time, so to do it on her horse is really nice.”
On Rock Harbor:
“My horse was awesome tonight. I thought he jumped really well. He was on it tonight. I’ve never done him in a night class under the lights, so I was thrilled. The first round was really noisy at one end of the ring and he kind of noticed that, but I thought he was really on his game, so I was happy with both of his rounds. We did the 3’6” Performance [Hunters] this week. He often does the High Performance [Hunters], but this week did the 3’6” and I think he really enjoyed that. I’ve been riding him for almost six years now, so we know each other very well.”
On her plan to train more and ride less:
“That plan has not changed, but it just doesn’t seem to happen. I am looking forward to doing more training. I love riding, but I am 63 years old and I need to think about my future. I have a little bit of a back issue so I have to start thinking about that. I still really love to ride. The showing is hard on me, the horse after horse. I’ll always ride.”
On inviting Scott Stewart into her championship photo:
“I do that often. I actually have pictures around my house. I have one with four people in it – it is Jennifer Alfano, Sandy Ferrell, Scott Stewart and Peter Pletcher and I hanging in my bedroom. I really love those pictures. I think we should have a whole group class photo so that we can look back on it and think on the lineup.”
Scott Stewart – $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular reserve champion
On his plan for the handy round:
“I had nothing to lose. I had a little bit of a funny jump in the first round, so I was really happy that I made it back at all. Since I had nothing to lose, I just went for it. He was awesome and that was probably one of the best rounds that we have had, especially for the handy. It was great. Everything worked. The jump that he took a little look at in the first round, we really sliced in the handy and he was perfect about it. It all just worked out great.”
Tracy Fenney – $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular third place
On her first experience at WEF:
“It’s a great class and there is a really fun crowd. Everyone really gets into it. Competing against these guys is amazing. My horse seems to deal well with whatever, he is good under the lights. Since I won the Capital Challenge this year, I could come show here and not have to be champion or reserve like everyone else. They are so used to showing here and I was a little starstruck when I first got here. The jumps seems so wide length-wise and the ring is so big. I kept thinking to myself ‘come on Tracy, get a grip here.’ I had to get a handle on myself.”
Place / Rider / Horse / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total
$100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular
1. Louise Serio / Rock Harbor / Jennifer Burger / 89.50 / 86.75 / 176.25
2. Scott Stewart / Catch Me / Gochman Sport Horses LLC / 83.33 / 91 / 174.333
3. Tracy Fenney / MTM Outbid / MTM Farm / 85.33 / 88.83 / 174.163
4. Kelley Farmer / Shameless / Aizlynn Radwanski / 86.91 / 87 / 173.91
5. Daisy Farish / Cinemagic / Meralex Farm, Inc. / 88.16 / 84.83 / 172.997
6. Kelly Tropin / Chablis / Libertas Farm LLC / 86.00 / 85.16 / 171.16
7. Scott Stewart / Private Life / 84.50 / Dr. Betsee Parker / 86.66 / 171.16
8. Augusta D. Iwasaki / Small Affair / Lyn Pederson / 84.66 / 85.30 / 169.967
9. Kelley Farmer / More Fun / Libbie Gordon / 84.00 / 85 / 169
10. Callie Seaman / Chicago / Callie Seaman / 86.16 / 70 / 156.16
11. Brady Mitchell / Kind Of Blue / Float On Equestrian, LLC / 86.00 / 45 / 131
12. John Ingram / Airport 48 / John & Stephanie Ingram, LLC / 83.00 / 0 / 83
For full results, click here.