Wellington, Fla., Feb. 19, 2006 -- "Wow, this feels really good. I think I am still in shock," said a proud Sandy Ferrell, Bernville, Pa., after negotiating Sarah Chovnick's "Late Entry" to win the 2006 AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla., on February 18.
A record crowd witnessed the 38-year-old professional negotiate the seven-year-old, bay Hanoverian gelding to their first Hunter Classic victory. The Hunter Classic was celebrating its tenth anniversary.
In the first round, Ferrell was "a little conservative" to the first jump but when "he felt great" she knew they were "good to go and it felt really good after that." Their first round score of 86.687 put them fourth behind Socrates, ridden by Addison Phillips (87.5); Pamela Polk on Fiyero (87.5) and defending champion Louise Serio aboard Costello (87.062).
After Ferrell negotiated a second round "that felt fabulous," Ferrell knew that Late Entry who "has all the talent in the world was on it tonight." That talent showed through when the judges awarded them a second round score of 87 that only Take Away, ridden by Jack Hardin Towell, Jr. could surpass (87.5). Their two round total of 173.687 put them at the head of the class. Costello was second (172.812), Take Away and Towell stood third (171.5).
When it was all over and Ferrell and the others had a chance to reflect on the evening, they kept talking about what fun the night was. "It's exciting. It's pretty overwhelming," said Towell.
"It's fun because the people are here to have a good time. The riders have arrived at the fun part," explained Geoff Teall, American Hunter-Jumper Foundation (AHJF) president noting that once the riders had qualified it was time to "go for it all."
"Out on this field there's no slowing down, you have to risk it all and take a shot," said Ferrell.
"You have to do that--you have to go for broke," added Serio.
Ferrell had been a part of Last Entry's life for many years even though he was a recent purchase for Chovnick. "I knew from the beginning he had the potential to be a great horse," she said.
Towell was riding Take Away for the first time, thanks to owner Cortie Wetherill. "I knew he'd done it before," explained the junior rider. In fact, Take Away was second in the 2005 Hunter Classic Spectacular. His second mount, Blink, a six-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding "is green," explained Towell. In the first round he got a little deep on Take Away to the first fence and his score of 84 placed him seventh. "I knew I had nothing to lose because the worst I could do was eighth."
For Costello it was a coming home party. "Costello loves the field. You don't worry about him spooking. He has such good scope, you know you have a chance," said Serio about the seven-year-old, Selle Francais gelding.
The starting field of 33 horses each jumped at their respective showing heights of 3'6", 3'9" and 4'. The horses were judged by four teams of two judges. Each team of judges gave one score and then the four scores were averaged for a final round total. The eight horses with the highest points then returned for a second round, which was then added to the first for a final tally.
In addition to the class winners a number of special awards were given out during the evening as a result of accomplishments achieved by the riders throughout the week. The Marylon Alexander Memorial Award went to WCHR Adult Amateur High Score Rider (89) Christina Serio. High Score honors went to Holly Orlando (95) in the Professional division, Teri Kessler and Sheila Motley (90) in the Amateur-Owners, and Junior rider Addison Phillips (95). The Leading Hunter Riders were Phillips and Orlando. The Mia Palambella Grooms Award went to Will Guy. The Grand Junior Champion for the Lyrick Trophy went to Who's On First ridden by Phillips.
For information about the Hunter Classic, the AHJF or its programs, contact the AHJF at 335 Lancaster Street, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369, call 508-835-8813, fax 508-835-6125 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.