Amateur-Owner and Junior 3'3" Hunters Crown Champions of WCHR Competition
RELEASE: February 15, 2014
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
Winning presentation with Quest, groom Juan Bernardo, ringmaster Gustavo Murcia, USHJA's Marla Holt, Enough Said, and rider Stephanie Danhakl (Sportfot)
- As World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition continues at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF), Amateur-Owner and Junior Hunter divisions set at the 3'3" height awarded top honors on Friday afternoon. For the victories, Friday's champions will earn spots in the $5,000 WCHR Amateur-Owner Junior Hunter 3'3" Classic on Sunday morning.
The FarmVet Amateur-Owner 18-35 3'3" Hunter division was the first to announce division championship recipients, with Stephanie Danhakl taking champion with Enough Said as well as reserve champion with Quest.
Danhakl was thrilled with her one-two finish with her two new mounts. Enough Said, an eight-year-old Warmblood gelding, won the under saddle class and finished first in the final over fences round for the division in the International Arena. Quest, a seven-year-old Warmblood gelding, was second to Enough Said in the under saddle before earning first and sixth place ribbons over fences.
"I am so happy with them. They were both so amazing!" Danhakl beamed. "Enough Said was a little spooky yesterday, but ended up winning the hack. I came in here today thinking there was no way [Enough Said wouldn't be spooky again]! He's really green, and he's only been to a few shows. But he was just perfect."
Both horses are relatively new to Danhakl, who just acquired them at the end of last year. Enough Said and Quest are both still green, evidenced by Enough Said's extra spirit during the jog for the class in the International Arena. Danhakl admitted she's enjoying still getting to know them, and both horses' talent is undeniable. In addition to Friday's results, trainer Scott Stewart rode Quest to the Equine Tack & Nutritionals First Year Green Working Hunter championship on Thursday morning.
Despite being mounted on green horses, Danhakl was excited to take on the sprawling International Arena, explaining that it suited Enough Said quite well. "Enough Said has a huge stride, so I'm constantly thinking about steadying and collecting everywhere in the ring, so it was nice today to just be able to go on his natural stride and go with a little more pace. It was definitely fun for me to ride him in here and it was lucky that we didn't get going too fast!" she said with a smile. "It's nice to have the space to just get out and gallop and have fun."
Seasoned partners Daryl Portela and Winner, an eleven-year-old Warmblood gelding, were next to pick up top honors. Portela and Winner were second under saddle before finishing second and first over fences. Reserve champion for the division was Positano, owned and ridden by Missy Luczak-Smith. Positano and Luczak-Smith won the under saddle class and placed third and second over fences.
Winner has continued to live up to his name, picking up countless division championships with Portela in the irons over the last several years, but his worth goes far behind his raw talent. "I'm really competitive, so it's nice that I can always count on him and trust him. It's different going into that big [International Arena], but I can trust him and know he's not going to do anything stupid," Portela expressed.
As with many top horses, Portela and trainer Jimmy Torano carefully pick which shows Winner goes to in order to keep him in top form without over-showing. Winner is always aimed at WCHR week at the FTI WEF, and Portela believes he can sense when an important class is at stake.
"We pick and choose our shows, but I think he knows. He knows the prestige and he rises to the occasion for sure. We're both really competitive and aim for the same thing, and the results have been good!" Portela smiled.
One of the highlights of the week for Portela was her top score in the handy round for the division. Winner has always done well in those classes, but Portela was particularly excited to win the class with a 90.
"It's nice when you get 90s thrown at you. You see 90s in the professionals and the top juniors, but [not as often] in the amateurs. You'll get the 86s and 88s, maybe an 89. So it's nice," Portela acknowledged.
Thirteen-year-old Daisy Farish picked up the final division championship of the day with Larkspur in the Junior 3'3" Hunter division. Larkspur, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, and Farish won two over fences classes and placed second in another to clinch the championship title. The reserve champion for the division was Bombay, ridden by Samantha Cohen and owned by Lyn Pedersen. Bombay and Cohen were first in the under saddle and first and second over fences.
Farish has earned plenty of championship prizes in the pony divisions, and as she continues to transition up into horses, she's maintained her edge. Her first time riding Larkspur was only a few days ago, but the pair kept their cool in the International Arena for the final class of the division. The Jumbotron, towering palm trees, and spread out course tripped up quite a few riders and horses, but Farish laid down a consistent round with "Larry" to win the class.
"Larry is such a great horse. He doesn't spook at anything. He was more confident than I was about the course!" Farish laughed. "He makes me feel like I don't have to worry about him doing anything bad or being fresh."
She continued, "He's really fun. He's got a really great rhythm and the jumps come right up. He was really easy to get to know. He's very sweet and consistent. He made it easy."
Farish has enjoyed learning the ropes of the horse divisions, which she admitted were an entirely different world from ponies. "I like it. Horses are so different from ponies because the competition is harder. There's people that have been doing it longer and I'm smaller [than most other riders in the division], but it's definitely fun!"
Farish's win wrapped up WCHR competition on Friday. The 3'6" junior and amateur-owner divisions will kick off the final round of championships on Saturday before the feature event that evening, the WCHR $100,000 Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular.