United States Hunter Jumper Association Press Release
Lexington, KY----August 12, 2015----Jennifer Alfano knew the moment she saw Castle jump his first fence in the United States that he was a special horse. Her instincts have since paid impressive dividends, especially today as the 6-year-old jumped to victory in Round 2 of the USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Championship and picked up a check for $14,665.94
"He was great," said Alfano. "He's so easy and fun to ride. He's been an easy horse right from the start. He's so straightforward, and today he was awesome."
The third Pre-Green Incentive Championship, held August 11-13 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, offers a purse of $234,655 with 160 horses entered in this year's Championship.
Rounds 1 and 2, August 11-12, had purses of $58,663.75 each, and the top-30 horses, with the highest combined scores, will return tomorrow with a clean slate for the Championship Round over a third course designed by Patrick Rodes, of Argyle, TX.
Alfano, of Susie Schoellkopf's SBS Farms in Buffalo, NY, found Castle in Texas through Mike McCormick and Tracy Fenney who imported the bay warmblood gelding last fall. Fenney was taking her very first ride aboard Castle when Alfano spotted him.
"I saw her jump two jumps, and I was like, 'What is that horse?' She said, 'He just got out of quarantine, and this is the first day I've ever ridden him.' So I said, 'OK, I'd like to ride him tomorrow.' So, I rode him the next day, and I was like, 'We're vetting him!' "
Owner Sharon O'Neill was thrilled with her new horse and has enjoyed Castle's successes this year, with victories from Florida to Texas to Ohio to Illinois and now Kentucky.
"I should thank Jen. She picked him, she found him, she rides him, although I rode every jump with her today," said O'Neill laughing. "I don't know how he got us both around, but he did. It was thrilling and something you think about but you never count on. It was terrific.
"[This win] means a lot," O'Neill added. "I've been in the business a really long time, and it's nice to have a good horse. It really is....and a good rider."
Thanks to their blue ribbon today and seventh yesterday, Castle and Alfano have already earned $16,777.84, with tomorrow's championship offering an additional $117,332.50.
"I feel good going into tomorrow," said Alfano with a smile. "He's been great for two days, so, hopefully, we can pull it off again. But, if not, we have today."
Scott Stewart, of Wellington, FL, the defending champion, is well positioned for a repeat performance. He guided Evermore to the top call in Round 1 and placed eighth in Round 2, earning a combined score of 529 points, the best in the field from judges Linda Andrisani, Rick Fancher, Danny Robertshaw, Claudia Roland, Mike Rosser and Steve Wall.
"Evermore was good today; I thought almost as good as yesterday," said Stewart of the 6-year-old Bavarian Warmblood who is by Empire, the stallion he showed to countless successes in the Conformation sections and who is a top Amateur-Owner Hunter for Becky Gochman.
"I bought him [Evermore] when he was 2 years old in Europe, and then I left him over there until he was 3, after which he came to the States. He's really easy; he's always been easy," said Stewart. "I think he was champion his first time in Florida. This summer we've just been riding him and keeping him working. We saved him for this."
Before the Championship, Stewart had predicted that William Hill might be the horse to carry him to another title, but a rail during Round 1 dropped him down in the standings. The 5-year-old Bayer (Coronas-Nappalapp NC) rebounded in Round 2 for second place and a check for $10,383.48.
"He's a horse we bought when he was 3, and he's just 5," said Stewart. "Ken [Berkley] did him here last year; it was his second horse show, and he was a little green. After that, I showed him a few times, and he was champion at Fairfield [Connecticut], and he's been really consistent. My hopes were high for him, but we had bad luck."
In addition to Evermore, Stewart has qualified Rivers Edge's 6-year-old Wish (Be Cool-Hush) for tomorrow's Championship Round. "There's no pressure," he said. "I'm just hoping to do well."
Tracy Fenney, of Flower Mound, TX, may have lost Castle from her Pre-Green show string, but she traveled to Kentucky with plenty of horsepower. She and MTM Farm's MTM Personalized finished third in the combined standings after placing second in Round 1 and seventh in Round 2. The impressive 7-year-old gray warmblood earned $12,495.38 for his efforts so far.
"He rides lovely, does great lead changes, has a great stride, and jumps really nicely," she said. "There's not much really to work on with him."
Fenney also qualified MTM Nestle, a 10-year-old black warmblood, for the Championship Round after placing 17th in the two-round standings.
Kelley Farmer, of Keswick, VA, the busiest rider of the Championships with nine mounts, qualified five of her rides for the Championship Round. She finished fourth in the standings with Kensel LLC and Woodland Way's Clever Conversation, eighth with Kensel LLC's Speak Your Mind, 18th with Kensel LLC's Having Said That, 23rd with Kensel LLC's Confessions and 24th with Cismont Manor Farm's Silver Charm.
The inaugural Pre-Green Incentive Championship winner Hunt Tosh, of Alpharetta, GA, has also qualified for the Championship Round, with top-30 finishes aboard The Wheeler Family's Valhalla in sixth, Betsee Parker's Liberty Road in seventh and Ceil & Kenny Wheeler's Largesse in 12th.
The Championship Round will take place August 13 at the Stonelea Ring at the Kentucky Horse Park, with the opening ceremonies at 4:30 p.m. EDT and the first horse on course at 5 p.m. All 30 qualifiers return with a clean slate. Free live streaming will be available through EQSportsNet, the Official Host Broadcast.
The Pre-Green Incentive Program has gained popularity since its debut in December 2012 and has garnered praise from members across the country for its encouragement of the development of young horses. The program would not have gotten off the ground without the early support of many people, including USHJA committee members and staff.
The Founding Members include: Colleen McQuay, Amanda Lyerly, Bill Ellis, Betty Oare, Diana Strumberg, Don Stewart, Emil Spadone, Geoff Teall, Jenny Karazissis, Joey Darby, Liza Boyd, Louise Serio, Peter Pletcher and Susie Schoellkopf.
The USHJA thanks the Official Sponsors who helped to make this championship possible, including: Charles Owen, the Official Helmet of the USHJA; Rood & Riddle, the Official Equine Hospital and Veterinary Pharmacy; Standlee Hay Company, Official Forage Company of the USHJA; The Clothes Horse, Official Cooler of the Pre-Green Championship; EQSportsNet, Official Host Broadcast; KY Lake Trailers Sales, Award Sponsor; Shapley's, Best Turned Out Award Sponsor; Hospitality Sponsor SmartPak; and Contributing Sponsors Perfect Products and Professional's Choice.