West Coast Finds Redemption in $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge, John French Leads the Way

RELEASE: March 16, 2014

John French and Comex Gold lead the West Coast in the $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge (Flying Horse Photography)
John French and Comex Gold lead the West Coast in the $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge (Flying Horse Photography)
Thermal, Calif.
- The West Coast came out on top this year as they swept the top five spots in the $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge. John French of Woodside, California was the inevitable winner when he piloted Comex Gold to scores of 90 and 94 for amateur rider Lee Kellogg Sadrian.
“Comex Gold is a great, quiet, beautiful mover and he actually goes better for Lee [Kellogg Sadrian] than he does for me,” joked French after the class. “So, my plan going into this week was to ride like Lee and her style got it done for me.”

French’s overall score of 184 was a solid five points above second-place rider Hope Glynn of Penngrove, California. She and Emma Waldfogel’s King’s Peak jumped to an overall score of 179.

Challengers from both HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida and HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California rotated rounds in a “battle of the coasts” that was evaluated by two sets of judges – one set at each location. A live simulcast connected the two sets of judges watching on high definition monitors while the audience saw the events play out on the opposite coast with ringside scoreboards.

Furthering the cutting-edge nature of the class, off-site spectators were able to get in on the action, thanks to a live webcast provided by Galopando TV and The class reinvented the bi-coastal concept first employed by HITS from 1999-2001 when the company staged the industry’s first simulcast events between Florida and California.

“This format is a perfect way to showcase the hunters to owners, trainers, riders and spectators alike,” said French.

Glynn admits that while French was trying to ride like Kellogg Sadrian, she was trying to ride like French and piloted King’s Peak to familiar territory. They placed second in the 2013 Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final in Saugerties last September and she is hoping to return with the gelding again this year.
“This horse is a naturally good jumper, so I don’t have to create anything and that gives me so much confidence,” said Glynn. “I love going into these big classes on a horse that I’m confident on and I am hoping that this year I can change my color scheme from red to blue in Saugerties.”

Completing the West Coast sweep, Jenny Karazissis of Calabasas, California was third aboard Kelly Straeter’s Undeniable with a combined score of 175.5. Nick Haness of San Clemente, California claimed both fourth and fifth on Mountain Home Stables’ Krave and Café de Colombia, respectively. He scored a 175.25 on Krave and a 174 with Café de Colombia.

Leading the East Coast contingent was Jennifer Jones of Marion, South Carolina, and Redfield Farm’s Clear Sailing. They earned a combined score of 172.5 and finished in sixth. Last year’s victors – Kate Conover and Jessica Stitt’s Taken – made a return to the money this year, jumping to seventh. Conover, an Ocala, Florida native, collected a score of 171.

With the conclusion of the $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge, attention will now turn to the big-money offerings scheduled for Sunday. In Ocala, the $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, will take the stage, while the coveted AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini Newport Beach, finally arrives in Thermal.