Geoffrey Hesslink and Mon Tresor. © Sportfot.
Wellington, FL – February 19, 2022 – The pinnacle event of World Championship Hunter Rider week, sponsored by IDA Development, at the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) was on Saturday night, February 19. The country’s best hunter combinations battled to win the $100,000 USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. Young professional Geoffrey Hesslink of Shelburne, VT made his mark on the class’s history as he scored a career-high victory aboard Mon Tresor, owned by Little Brook LLC.
Andy Christiansen Jr. designed the flowing track that offered riders several areas to show off their mounts. The panel one judges consisted of Chris Wynne and Shane George, panel two was Mary Lisa Leffler and Tom Brennan, and panel three held Wendy Peralta and Mark Jungherr. Entries for the night class qualified by winning the champion title in their respective divisions at the 3’6” height or above.
Of the 35-horse field, 26 combinations qualified from various different divisions held at 3’6”, while the remaining nine pairs stepped in from the High Performance, High Performance Conformation, and Green Hunter 3’9” divisions.
Hesslink and Mon Tresor took the class’s early lead with a first-round score of 90.66. Amanda Steege and the legendary Lafitte De Muze earned the second-highest score of the round with a 90. Liza Towell Boyd and Cascartini rounded out the top three of 12 moving on to the handy round after producing a score of 89.91.
Michael Britt-Leon was the first to return and blazed the trail around Christiansen’s handy track to an average score of 88.66, but with plenty more challengers still to go. Christiansen gave competitors several options to highlight their horse’s best features and included a canter to walk transition to feature the rideability of the mount.
If the pressure of having the best first round score and being the last to return weighed on Hesslink, it didn’t show. The 25-year-old piloted the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Nekton confidently over each obstacle on the course and managed to nearly replicate his first round score as he finished with 90.5 points in the handy. The two-round total of 181.16 was just good enough to bump Mimi Gochman from the lead and secure the top honors.
Gochman and the Gochman Sport Horses LLC’s Catch Me (Casiro I) totaled a score just two points below Hesslink’s to land in second place. The 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding is no stranger to the victory gallop of the class, having won the event in 2016 and 2017 with professional Scott Stewart.
Third place went to last year’s winners Amanda Steege and Lafitte De Muze who produced an overall score of 177.66. Steege and Cheryl Olsten’s 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding by Darco have traveled down from their home base of Ocala, FL for four consecutive years for the event, and the pair has placed in the top multiple times.
In another class full of talented combinations during WEF 6, it was Spencer Smith (USA) who rose to the top of the 82-horse field with Picobello Full House Ter Linden Z in the $37,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Course designer Ana Catalina Harris Cruz (MEX) winnowed down the original list to just seven to return for the jump-off on the grass Derby Field at Equestrian Village on Saturday.
Smith was the first to return for the jump-off, and he put everyone on notice when he galloped across the field, urging his horse for speed and crossing the timers in 37.95 seconds, which would end up a full 2.71 seconds faster than the next clear competitor.
It was a solid win for Smith and Picobello Full House Ter Linden Z, a horse he has only had the ride on since last month thanks to Belgian show jumper Gregory Wathelet, David Simpson, and the horse’s owners, Picobello Horses. Wathelet was the horse’s previous rider, and they competed in 10 five-star shows in 2021.
Second place went to Karl Cook (USA), this time riding Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet, owned by Helen Signe Ostby. They finished the jump-off clear in 40.66 seconds. Emily Moffitt (GBR) and Poden Farms’s Bacara d’Archonfosse were double clear with a time of 41.56 seconds for third place.
The winner of the $10,000 Hermès Under 25 Welcome was Tanner Korotkin (USA) riding Ideal, owned by Castlewood Farm Inc. and Sandalwood Farm. They were also presented with the Champion Equine Insurance Jumper Style Award. Emilie Conter (BEL) and Legolas Ter Wilgen, owned by Stephex Stables, won the $1,000 Hermès Under 25 1.40m.
For more information and results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.