Darragh Kenny on Billy Dorito.
Lexington, Ky. – Oct. 30, 2019 – Donning festive costumes to celebrate the Halloween season, 57 horse-and-rider partnerships representing 10 nations tested their footspeed Wednesday evening in the $36,000 Free x Rein International Jumper Welcome Speed CSI4*, the first show jumping class of the 2019 National Horse Show. Ranked No. 9 in the world based on the Longines FEI standings, Darragh Kenny (IRL) proved why he deserves that distinction with a rapid navigation of the course with the reins on Vlock Show Stables LLC’s Billy Dorito, besting a field comprised of riders in guises such as the Flintstones, Toy Story characters and the Joker, among many other inventive outfits.
Operating under a one-round speed format, the class challenged exhibitors to be quick and careful over designer Ken Krome’s (USA) 13-effort track, which ultimately only saw a total of 26 clear rounds from the initial start list. Riding first in the order, Katie Dinan (USA) and Brego R’N B wasted no time as the first pair to successfully tackle the course without incurring any faults, serving as the trailblazers and setting the standard at 72.46 seconds. Just a few trips later still early in the order of go, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) substantially improved upon his peer’s time, slicing across the course and tripping the timers in 64.11 seconds aboard Karlin Van’t Vennehof to propel themselves to the early lead.
Amazingly trimming even more time off the clock, Daniel Coyle (IRL) and CHS Krooze maneuvered the pattern at a breakneck pace, galloping across the finish line almost ten full seconds faster in 53.80 seconds. Their time would not hold for long though, as fellow Irishman Kenny jockeyed Billy Dorito to the slightly faster time of 53.74 seconds, capturing the lead by mere milliseconds as the 16th duo in the order. More than 40 subsequent contenders, which featured costumes such as jockeys, a judge, Mario and Luigi, multiple generations of Madonna and more, chased down the frontrunners over the remainder of the class, but the swift speed put forth by Kenny and Billy Dorito proved uncatchable, solidifying the Irish partnership as the 2019 winners of the $36,000 Free x Rein International Jumper Welcome Speed CSI4*. Dressed as a skeleton, Coyle retained second position with his own CHS Krooze, and Andy Kocher (USA) jumped to the final podium spot aboard Eye Candy Jumpers’ Fashion V, breaking the beam in 54.070 seconds as Freddie Mercury and his golden steed.
Appropriately outfitted for the Kentucky crowd, Sloane Coles (USA) dressed as a bottle of bourbon for her ride aboard Calisto 26. Going all out with a body suit and cut-out photos of the famous Kentucky liquor, she was awarded the Best Costume Award for her creative efforts.
Scott Stewart and Becky Gochman Reign Supreme
Wednesday morning at the 136th annual National Horse Show brought top hunter horse-and-rider combinations to the Alltech Arena of the Kentucky Horse Park. As the oldest indoor horse show in the United States, the National Horse Show has earned a permanent spot on the calendars of many elite professionals and amateurs who make the trip from far and wide to vie for the titles and perpetual trophies up for grabs each year. Following Tuesday’s start to the hunter divisions, the first round of championship honors was awarded for the 2019 National Horse Show on Wednesday. Of the contenders, it was Dr. Betsee Parker’s Lucador, piloted by Scott Stewart, who received the Grand Champion Professional Hunter title. Stewart also went on to claim the Leading Hunter Rider trophy for his 13th time, while Becky Gochman and Catch Me earned the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter trophy, walking away with the iconic black cooler embroidered with the National Horse Show historic emblem.
Stewart and Lucador have a long-standing history of excellence together. After years of accumulating tricolor ribbons across the nation, the pair earned their final Grand Champion Professional Hunter title in their last show together. Stewart and the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding earned their points in the High Performance Hunter division, taking top three placings in all of the over fences classes and first in the under saddle class over the course of the two days, resulting in their championship honors in the division. Lucador’s name is already etched on the Grand Champion Hunter Trophy four times, adding his name once again to the coveted centerpiece in 2019 for the fifth time. The talented horse will go on to compete in the Junior 3’3” Hunters 15 and Under with Maddie Tosh, a transition that is bittersweet for Stewart as their successful partnership comes to a close.
During the awards ceremony, Stewart was once again invited back to the arena for the Meralex Farm Leading Hunter Rider Award for the Leading Hunter Rider Challenge Trophy. Phenomenally, this was Stewart’s thirteenth time placing his name on the Leading Hunter Rider Challenge Trophy, which was originally donated by Mr. and the late Mrs. Kenneth Wheeler. The well-known hunter rider accumulated his points towards the trophy with a whopping seven horses, including Everwonder, Cabrio, Critics’ Choice, Lucador, Private Life, Catch Me, and Cameo.
Also returning competitors to the National Horse Show, Gochman and Catch Me, owned by Gochman Sport Horse LLC, clinched the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter title for the “Ruxton & Scot To Do” Challenge Trophy. The pair made a clean sweep in the Amateur Owner 3’6” Hunter 36+ division, winning every single class for a perfect 40 points. This is Gochman and the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding’s second year in a row securing the Ellen Van Dyke-donated trophy. With “Snoopy,” Gochman has found much success in the Amateur divisions across the country, most recently taking Grand Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter Champion at the Washington International Horse show.
To learn more about the National Horse Show, click here.