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Smith Lilly and Central Perk Win Five-Gaited Saddle Horse Stake at the 2014 Devon Horse Show

RELEASE: May 31, 2014
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Lauren Fischer for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Devon, Pa. – The Devon Horse Show & Country Fair hosted its ninth day of competition on Friday featuring hunters, jumpers, driving, gaited horses, Friesians, Hackney ponies, and much more. Concluding another exciting day, the $3,000 Five-Gaited Saddle Horse Stake class was held, sponsored by Willisbrook Farm, with a win for Smith Lilly and Woodlea Farms LLC's Central Perk. For the win, the pair was presented The Walter Graham Memorial Perpetual Trophy donated by Willisbrook Farm.
Smith Lilly and Central Perk (© Doug Shiflet Photography)
Smith Lilly and Central Perk (© Doug Shiflet Photography)

Annika Bruggeworth's Attache's Crown Royal placed second with Dannette Musselman riding, and Geraldine Meanor's CH Five O'Clock and Jason Molback earned the third place prize.

From Princeton, West Virginia, Smith Lilly operates his family's Mercer Springs Farm, a public training stable specializing in American Saddlebreds. He showed Central Perk on Friday for owners Mike and Amy Stinnett of Woodlea Farms. Lilly also won the $5,000 Three-Gaited Saddle Horse Stake earlier in the evening with Woodlea Farms LLC's My Hail Mary.

Five-Gaited winner, Central Perk, is a five-year-old gelding by Superb Manhattan. He was a World Champion three-year-old and now mostly shows in the amateurs with his owner, Amy Stinnett. Central Perk qualified for Friday night's class by showing in the unique Five-Gaited Special that was held Wednesday night. The class brings a group of hunter and jumper riders together to show their skills aboard the gaited Saddlebreds. Central Perk finished fourth ridden by two-time U.S. Show Jumping Olympic Team Gold Medalist McLain Ward leading into Friday night.

“We really just brought him up for the special class, for the celebrity class for the jumper riders to ride the gaited horses, and then we thought, 'Well, he's up here. Let's go ahead and show him,'” Lilly detailed. “I thought he could get a little more seasoning. He's only been in training with us since January, so I'm trying to know him a little bit more. He's certainly a quality animal. I thought it would just be a great opportunity to get to know him in the ring a little bit, and then he goes and pulls it off and wins. I was really proud of him.”

Speaking about Central Perk's big win and the horse's strengths and best qualities, Lilly described, “He is beautiful; the classic picture of what you want a five-gaited Saddlebred horse to look like. He absolutely just fits the mold. He is beautiful in every way, from the way he is turned out, to his beautiful hair coat and his head and ear. He just looks the part.”

“Beyond that, he has nice motion,” Lilly continued. “He is a square trotting horse. He is particularly classy at the slow gait. We call it a money gait. I knew he would have the best slow gait in the ring. The rack, he's not the fastest horse yet, but he is younger than most. He is only five years old, and I think he will develop more speed as he comes along. I thought if we didn't win tonight, it would be because we lacked a little foot speed. I tried to present him in a way where we sort of covered up that weakness as best we could and, fortunately, we were able to pull off the win.”

Lilly grew up in the horse business and has been coming to Devon for more than ten years. It is always a special show for him to compete at, and to have the opportunity to show Central Perk and win the big class was very exciting.

“I have been fortunate to win the gaited stake here one other time,” he recalled. “It has also always been fun to come up here and rub elbows with the big-time jumper trainers and learn what we can learn, and watch people like Guy McLean do their thing. It's nice to be exposed to some different things.”

Lilly noted that the atmosphere of the Devon Horse Show makes competition even better. “The show horses love this ring, the saddle horses love it. It's a big, open space to look at, and the crowd is always cheering. We say a cheering crowd makes everything about a show horse get better. We love coming to Devon with nice horses because they always seem to show well here,” he expressed.

Central Perk, named after the coffee shop from the television show 'Friends,' is also known as Joey in the barn after one of the show's main characters. Lilly describes the horse as very “friendly and gregarious.”

Following his win at Devon, Central Perk will continue to compete with his owner long term, and Lilly hopes that he will continue to learn and improve.

“We'll see if we can build on this experience and move forward,” he stated. “With a young horse, you just want them to keep getting better every show, and I think he's doing that. Hopefully we can keep him on that path and see how good he can get.”