A perfectionist doesn’t rest on the pinnacle of achievement—this type of questing personality is always looking at what can be done better. So even though he took the National Horse Show’s new $50,000 Hunter Classic with Lucador last night, Scott Stewart was focusing on something that went wrong.
His other mount, Private Life, had plowed through a big brush jump in the class’s handy round, and Scott wanted to find out why.
“I don’t know what happened. I’ll have to look at the video,” the puzzled rider said as he left the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena after collecting his trophy, checks and getting a year’s lease on a new Audi that he drove with spirit around the ring.
That mindset explains why he took the show’s Leading Hunter Rider honors for the fifth straight time (and the twelfth in all), while Lucador was named the Grand Champion Professional hunter for the fourth time in five years.
Lucador, who like Private Life is owned by Betsee Parker, normally wouldn’t be Scott’s first choice for a class that involves a handy round as its second segment. But the 10-year-old High Performance Conformation hunter acquitted himself beautifully under the rider’s judicious guidance.
Find out what Scott had to say about the Oldenburg and a problem in the first round by clicking on this video.
The $50,000 feature was open to champions, reserve champions and second reserves in the hunter sections where the horses jumped 3-6 or higher. Lucador actually was reserve in his section to champ Private Life, but because the model class points only counted for the division championship and not the Grand trophy, Lucador got the nod for the bigger prize.
The classic was run at three heights, with 23 of the 32 starters jumping 3 feet, 6 inches. Six horses competed at 3-9, while there were only three tackling 4 feet, though none of those made the second round, which finished off with a hand-gallop to the final fence.
Discussing the impetus for the class, National Chairman Mason Phelps cited the state of the professional hunter divisions. “To be perfectly blunt, those divisions aren’t getting entries. They can’t fill them.” So adding a sweetener seemed like the perfect solution to bring competitors to the National in an era when they have so many choices of where to show. The class was originally billed as a derby, but the show wanted horses to qualify through their divisions. So the Classic format was the one that worked, with professionals earning the top three prizes.
The class offered excitement from a spectating viewpoint, as several entries besides Private Life had hiccups along the way. The leader after the first round was Tracy Fenney on MTM Outbid, scoring an 89, while Lucador was second on an average of 87.25 from the four judges. But at the first fence in the second round, Tracy’s horse chipped in, getting a 64 and winding up tenth. Throughout the class, there were some refusals and iffy jumping that could perhaps be attributed to horses who appeared over-impressed by the fences along the Bobby Murphy’s beautifully designed course.
Lucador earned 87.5 in the second round for a two-round total of 174.75, while the dark brown Hanoverian stallion Diatendro was second on a total of 171.50.
“He handled it amazingly, as he’s handled everything we’ve ever put in front of him,” said Diatendro’s rider, Havens Schatt, who has been showing him since the end of February , a month after he was imported.
“He’s definitely hard to handle on the ground,” continued Havens, cheerfully citing as proof the black eye she got from him at the International Hunter Derby Finals in August. “But to ride, he’s just a dream. He just has great balance and he’s brave.”
Diatendro, a former show jumper who was a breeding stallion in Europe, is supposed to be gelded on Tuesday, in preparation for his owner, Kelley Corrigan, to show him.
“He has a very hard time to focus on things,” explained Havens, noting the hustle and bustle of the warm-up area might make it hard for an amateur to handle him there.
However, she added, “I have a feeling after tonight’s class we’re going to have another conversation about that.” Interestingly, Scott had tried him and told Havens, “I’m not sure about this horse,” so she got him.
Third on 170.50 was Zara, a 9-year-old Zangersheide Green Conformation hunter ridden by Amanda Steege. During the 2018 season, Amanda has been most closely identified with Lafitte de Muze, who has been winning everywhere, but this time that horse had to settle for seventh. Zara and Amanda got together last winter in Florida, though after that, the mare went home to Connecticut with her owner, Frances Moppett, before being sent to Amanda for indoors.
“This was the first experience for her in any sort of any derby, classic, high-atmosphere event, so I was beyond thrilled with her,” Amanda commented.
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