Riders Prepare for Pre-Green Incentive Championships at Bluegrass Festival Horse Show

RELEASE: August 13, 2013
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Emily Riden for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

Jennifer Alfano and Candid (Phelps Media Group, Inc. International)
Jennifer Alfano and Candid (Phelps Media Group, Inc. International)
Lexington, KY
- The eyes of the hunter world are glued on the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show this week as the country's top horses and riders converge for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship Finals and the inaugural USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Program Championship. Today riders utilized the first day of the World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) week show, running now through Sunday, August 18, to prepare for the Pre-Green Championships which kick off tomorrow at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Spectators and golf carts packed the perimeter of the Stonelea Ring as over 120 horses competed in the Pre-Green 3' Hunters and the Pre-Green 3'3" Hunters. Thanks to the large turnout, the classes utilized a California split, pinning two sections each in both the Pre-Green 3' Hunter and Pre-Green 3'3" Hunter divisions.  In the Pre-Green 3'3" division, Jennifer Alfano and her own Candid earned the first place award in Section A, and Louise Serio and Rock Harbor took the top call in Section B.

"I was thrilled with how he went today," Alfano, of Buffalo, NY, said of Candid, who earned a score of 87 over the Patrick Rodes designed course. "He just started in the Pre-Greens in May, and he has just been great. He's been a really fun horse to have so far, and he just keeps getting better and better."

Alfano and 5-year-old Candid have seen great success in the Pre-Green Hunters throughout the summer, and Alfano is a strong advocate for the newly initiated USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Program.

"It's an amazing program," Alfano said. "Most of the shows that I have been to this summer have had huge Pre-Green divisions, more so than in previous years. It makes owners want to have Pre-Green horses because there is really something to look forward to. This championship is a really big deal, and I think it's going to make people want to invest even more in young horses."

The USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Program was designed to provide a series of stake classes across the country to encourage and aid in the development of hunters in the United States, as well as offering a championship event to further benefit and market young horses.

Today's Pre-Green 3'3" Hunter Section B winner Serio served on the committee that brought the program into fruition. "It's a fantastic program," said Serio. "I think the proof is in the support that it's gotten here, the amount of money that the young horses can jump for and the amount of excitement that it's brought for people to buy a young horse that can do the Pre-Greens for two years and hopefully get a little bit of money back. It's also very nice for American breeders to be recognized and for those horses to be eligible for additional awards."

Serio's winning mount, Rock Harbor, owned by Bright Star 158, LLC, maneuvered through the course seamlessly to earn a score of 85.

"This is only his fifth horse show, and he was awesome," Serio said. "He has just really stepped up. We were thrilled with him tonight. He went beautifully; he loved the ring, and he felt like he jumped great. He has really come a long way."

In the Pre-Green 3' Hunters, Tracy Fenney and MTM Cash, owned by MTM Farm of Flower Mound, TX, took the top call in Section A, while the first place in Section B went to Amanda Steege and Charm, owned by Dr. and Mrs. John McGuire.

"I was so excited with how Charm went today," Steege said. "This is the practice class for tomorrow, but it felt so important going in there with so many people here watching. It got my heart pounding a million miles an hour. It was definitely a good start to the week."

Charm, a Swedish Warmblood, was purchased by John and Megan McGuire in December and since then has seen great success with Steege in the saddle, including being named the Pre-Green Circuit Champion at HITS Ocala. Now the Pre-Green Incentive Program and this week's championship are serving as great stepping-stones for the talented young horse's future.

"Megan [McGuire] is hoping to eventually have Charm as an amateur horse for herself, so this is super experience for him," Steege said. "Just the atmosphere of this show is so much different than our average horse show. So as far as looking forward to the future to doing the First Year Greens and shows like Devon and the indoor circuit, this feels more like that. This show has that energy and the decorations of the jumps and everything like that for him to get used to."

Steege continued: "This program is really nice to encourage owners to start with younger horses. I hope more and more shows start to pick it up. I think anyone that would be here today looking around would see the success of it already. It's almost 6 p.m., and there are golf carts lined up and so many spectators. Everyone seems really excited about it. I think any time that we can show for that amount of prize money, whether it's Pre-Greens or Hunter Derbies, it makes it more enticing and exciting for everyone."

The Pre-Green Hunters concluded their day with the Under Saddle classes of each section. In the Pre-Green 3'3" Hunters, the Section A first place honor went to Peter Pletcher and Lucador, owned by Sagamore Farm Inc. The first place ribbon in Section B was awarded to Christopher Payne and Truman, owned by Maypine Farm. Payne also took the first place position in Section B of the Pre-Green 3' Hunter Under Saddle aboard Show Off, owned by Susan Moriconi.

While the Pre-Green Hunter horses vied for the top honors in the Stonelea Ring, nearby in the Murphy Ring, riders utilized the Green Conformation and Regular Conformation Hunter divisions to prepare for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals and to compete for additional points in the WCHR standings. 

Kelley Farmer recently became the first hunter rider to win more than $1 million in prize money, and this week she'll be looking to add to her earnings with an impressive lineup of horses. She kicked off the week with three blue ribbons in the Green Conformation Hunter division aboard Quotable, owned by Dr. Kenneth and Selma Garber. She earned the top call in the first Green Conformation Hunter over fences class as well as the model and the under saddle. The blue in the second Green Conformation Hunter class was awarded to Havens Schatt and Balin, owned by Ainsley Sadlo.

Another hunter highlight at this week's Bluegrass Festival Horse Show will be the $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby on Sunday, August 18. In addition to being the week's premier hunter competition, the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show offers top jumper competition throughout the week, attracting top riders from across the country. This week, jumper highlights include the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic on Friday, August 16, and the $40,000 Bluegrass Festival Grand Prix on Sunday, August 18.