October 4, 2013--The Capital Challenge Horse Show, presented by The Gochman Family, featured the best hunters in the country as well as up-and-coming talent in both horses and riders. The day was full of competition, but the highlight class was the $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge. John French took home the win for the third time in class history on Small Affair.
The $5,000 WCHR Developing Pro Challenge victory went to Greg Crolick riding Grey Street. Peter Pletcher rode Susan Baker's Q to the win in the $20,000 Added North American Future Hunter Championship. After the final four professional hunter divisions finished competition today, the Grand Hunter Champion and Leading Hunter Rider honors were awarded as well. Don't forget, you can watch all of the winning jumping rounds by clicking on the "Individual Rounds" button at www.capitalchallenge.org.
The remaining highlight class of the week for the professional hunter riders is the $5,000 WCHR Professional Finals, presented by the John R. Ingram Fund, for the top six hunter riders in the country on Friday, October 4. The Capital Challenge Horse Show, held at the Prince George's Equestrian Center, will run through Sunday, October 6.
The $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge, sponsored by Pony Lane Farm, had 23 entries, and 12 of those returned for a second round in the evening session. Coming back on top for the second round was John French on Iwasaki & Reilly's Small Affair, the winner of this class in 2010 and 2011. In the first round, they scored 90.33, and they returned to score 88.08 for a total of 178.41 for victory. Second place went to Kelley Farmer on Mythical. They scored 88.50 and 89.33 for a total of 177.83. Hayley Barnhill and Fonteyn were third with a total score of 175.66. Jennifer Bauersachs and Avignon placed fourth with a score of 173.91, while Havens Schatt and Bacardi scored 171.66 for fifth place.
French said of his rounds, "His first round was exceptionally great. He just jumped high and it was super smooth. I think I had enough of a lead coming into the second round. I'm not sure where I ended up in the second round, not the top, maybe third or fourth. But when you add the two scores together, it was enough to win. That was good having that cushion coming in. He had a rub in the second round, but otherwise he was great."
"Third time's a charm," French said with a smile. "He loves this class. It's pretty hard to win it three times on the same horse. Those are the best horses. Most professionals bring in their heavy hitters, their top horses."
It was a redeeming class for French, who has had a tough year of injuries. In a fall in January, he broke his foot and had major tendon and ligament damage. It has not healed as well as he hoped, and in June, he underwent shoulder surgery as well. "It was kind of an off year, but I got well enough to come to indoors," he acknowledged. "At first, it was nice to take a little bit of a break. Then when these kinds of shows come, you want to be better and back riding again. I love this horse show and what they do for the World Hunter rider awards."
French said that his five-year relationship with Small Affair, a 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Elf d'Or, is what leads to their success, even if French doesn't compete with him very often. "I think there are some horses that you just have a partnership with," he expressed. "I know what upsets him, what he likes, how much work he needs. I wouldn't have wanted to ride any other horse in the class tonight because I know him so well. He always gives and tries to jump a beautiful jump every time."
French and Small Affair were presented with the "Little Brook" Perpetual Trophy donated by Gary Duffy.