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120th National Horse Show Wraps Up Wellington In Winning Style

WELLINGTON, FL – December 2, 2003 – The 120th National Horse Show was held for the second consecutive year in Wellington, Florida, over Thanksgiving Weekend, November 26-30, featuring top riders in the US qualified to compete. Produced by Stadium Jumping, Inc. for the National Horse Show of America, Ltd., at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club show grounds, home of the Winter Equestrian Festival, the National hosted 600 horses vying for national championships and more than $380,000 in prize money. The equestrian disciplines of show jumping, hunters, equitation, and sidesaddle were featured, as well as dressage at the 2nd Annual Zada Enterprises LLC Dressage at the National, which ran from November 28-30. Record-setting crowds overflowed the 7500-capacity arena for Jumping Under The Stars and the AGA Championship Grand Prix.

Highlighting opening day on Wednesday, Debbie Stephens riding Cosequin’s CEO owned by her Centennial Farm of Palmetto, FL, won the $25,000 Palm Beach Post National Welcome Qualifying Stake, besting a field of 34 entries. “It was a nice opening course,” said Stephens. “The top riders are here, so with only four clean obviously it was a little more difficult than we had anticipated.” Stephens bred and raised her mount, so the win was not only sweet for her as a breeder, but also because it was her first experience back in the Internationale Arena since last February when a bad fall at the water jump during the Winter Equestrian Festival put her out of the show ring for three months. She credits the Miami Project for Paralysis for putting her back in competition form. “It’s been a different kind of road, but I have a wonderful staff and horse,” said Stephens. “He’s Olympic caliber, no question.”

Scott Stewart of Flemington, NJ, and Wellington, FL, rode Chopard to victory in the Regular Conformation Hunter Round 1. “My horse went great. It’s a beautiful day and the field is perfect. I think they all jumped great. It was a nice course. It wasn’t’ too technical, it was a nice galloping use of the field and it let them jump their best.” Stewart has been riding the nine-year-old Bavarian gelding owned by Krista Weisman of Sherbourne, MA, for three years.

Ken Smith of Wellington, FL, and Miracle owned by Christy Russo won the first round of the Regular Working Hunter Class and placed second in Round 2. “She went incredible in the first round,” said Smith. “She was real relaxed. She jumped real high in the first round and didn’t touch a jump. Real smooth. She loves it out there on the grass.” Smith has had the ride on the eight-year-old Oldenburg mare for a year. He said Miracle impressed the judges because, “She had a lot of expression to her jump, nice style, and really gave it a big effort.”

Thursday was a Happy Thanksgiving Day for Shachine Belle, 30, of North Salem, NY. She claimed two championships in the Internationale Arena. Belle rode Attaché owned by Ellen Toon to First Year Green Working Hunter Champion. “He went like a very nice smooth hunter, very pleasant to look at,” said Attaché’s trainer James Toon. “He made crisp jumps and showed relaxed motion at the ends of the ring. The judges liked the fact that he made special efforts over every jump.” Attaché is a seven-year-old Oldenburg warmblood gelding that the Toons imported as a three-year-old. Belle started riding Attaché as a Pre Green hunter two years ago. “He’s a very big horse, and he has a huge stride,” said Belle, noting that the grand prix field suited him. “It allowed him to canter and show how big and scopey and powerful that he really is.”

Belle claimed her second championship of the day aboard In Disguise, riding him to Second Year Green Working Hunter Champion. The seven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding is also owned by Ellen Toon and trained by James Toon. “He’s an amazing horse,” stated Belle. “He’s won everywhere we’ve brought him. We’ve been working up to this. Yesterday in our first class he was a little cautious and after that he was spectacular the way he normally is.”

Jocelyn MacDonald, 24, of Upperville, VA, and Mistress Connie owned by Mary Laura Cramer won the Ladies Hunter Side Saddle Under Saddle class. Seventy-five percent of their score was determined by performance, manners, style and way of going. ‘Appointments’ accounted for the remaining 25%, which includes proper tack and the stylish habit, top hat and veil along with a sandwich case. “I have turkey on white, of course,” said MacDonald in the Thanksgiving holiday spirit. MacDonald and Mistress Connie, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred mare, have been partnered for three years. “She’s got lots of style,” said MacDonald. “She has a beautiful way of going and she’s always picture perfect.”

Highlighting Friday were the evening classes held as part of Jumping Under The Stars. Norman Dello Joio of Wellington, FL, riding Glasgow owned by The Glasgow Group won the $100,000 National Horse Show Jumper Championship CSI-W presented by Lexus. Twenty-five riders attempted the first round track built by Jose Gamarra, with three going clean for the jump-off. Margie Engle of Wellington, FL, aboard Hidden Creek’s Perin was first to go and posted a clear round in 37.85 seconds, but ended up in second place. Molly Ashe, also of Wellington, went next riding Lutopia for owner Jane Clark, but had a rail down and crossed the timers in 38.03 for third place. Dello Joio aboard Glasgow, an 11-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding, was third to go and crossed the timers fault-free in 36.48 for the win. Show jumping fans filled the sold-out Diamond Horse Shoe Club and box seats, and general admission seating was standing room only in the 7500-capacity arena. “A night class is fun,” said Dello Joio. “It seems to be fun for the public to come and watch at night.” He added that the local crowds have become well educated about horses and riding. “When they see a good round, they know it.”

Hunters were also showcased at Jumping Under the Stars. Ken Smith, 36, of Wellington, riding Carmen for Millridge LLC, won the National Horse Show Hunter Championship. Smith qualified seven of the 12 horses competing in the final. Carmen, a 10-year-old, 16-hand, chestnut German-bred mare, is a Second Year Green horse. “She was never under an 85 average throughout the whole five rounds, which was pretty spectacular,” said Smith. ”One of her good qualities is she’s a beautiful mover between the jumps. She goes across the ground real nice. She has a real spectacular jump when she gets there, so it all kind of flows together nicely.” Smith placed second with Storyline owned by Henrietta Armstrong; third with Miracle owned by Christy Russo; fifth with Cavalier owned by Elizabeth Russo; and sixth with Eminence owned by Sue Stanley. “It was probably the highlight of my career, for sure,” said Smith.

Saturday in the Internationale Arena featured a win by Jeffery Welles, 41, of Pound Ridge, NY, riding Equinox for owner Elizabeth Saunders. The duo claimed victory in the $10,000 Chesapeake Petroleum National Speed Stake besting a class of 20 entries. The time allowed was 76 seconds, and Equinox blazed around the course clean in the unbeatable time of 51.290. “It was a very fast class,” said Welles. “The other entries that really tried to go fast ended up with some mistakes at the end. The horses got a little flat and had rails. My horse really kept his focus all the way through and jumped a really nice round. The horse went great and I’m very happy with him.” The competition was a faults converted class, which meant that jumping faults were converted into seconds. “In that way you really had to go for broke knowing that everybody was really going to be taking a shot,” Welles explained. Equinox is a nine-year-old Dutch gelding.

On Sunday morning in the Internationale Arena, Charlie Jayne, 17, of Elgin, IL, riding Ivy clinched the win in the Victor Hugo-Vidal Equitation Championship. The three-phase championship was contested over three days and included testing on the flat, over a hunter course, and a jumper course. Charlie bested the reigning champion, his sister Maggie Jayne, 19, aboard Cedar owned by Sarah Willeman, by two points, edging her out when the two were asked to work-off following the jumper phase. Riding off against his sister didn’t faze Charlie. “That was just fun,” he said. “If I won or she won, it was in the family, so I felt pretty good about that. It’s not as much pressure.” Ivy is a nine-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding owned by Charlie’s trainer Missy Clark. Charlie assessed why Ivy did well in the championship, “The fact that he’s so smooth and that he can go from a 14-foot stride to an eight-foot stride really helps in the lines. And he’s easy, so easy.”

A resounding finale to the 120th National Horse Show was a packed house for the $100,000 Budweiser AGA National Championship Presented By Chesapeake Petroleum. Margie Engle of Wellington, riding Hidden Creek’s Perin took the win, besting a field of 20. It was Engle’s third time to claim victory in the Championship, and the second time aboard Perin. “The other times that I’ve won it, I haven’t had to go fast,” said Engle, who topped the eight-horse jump-off. Alison Firestone of Upperville, VA, aboard Casanova owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone, was the only other double clear, posting 39.50 in the jump-off for second place. Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, FL, aboard Gardenio owned by YZ Partners, posted the fastest time in the jump-off, crossing the timers in 36.75, but a four-fault knockdown cost him the win and he placed third. Last to go in the jump-off, Engle aboard her Sydney Olympic mount posted a clean trip in 37.52 to the cheers of an appreciative crowd. The victory marked eight-time AGA Champion Engle’s 125th career grand prix win. “My horse is really good at galloping. He’s a big horse and he actually jumps well out of the gallop,” said Engle, who said she rode the first five jumps like a steeplechaser. “He’s a fantastic horse. He’s been in the money in every class he’s been in this year. I’ve never had a horse that’s been that consistent.”

In addition to world-class competition, spectators at the 120th National Horse Show also enjoyed shopping at more than 35 vendor booths, and were entertained by a variety of exhibitions and events. Costumed riders on Friesians, Andalusians, Lusitanos, and Romany horses performed daily in the Rost arena, demonstrating tricks and synchronized rides to music including an eight-stallion quadrille produced by Frieze Frame Friesians. Mexican charro Gerardo Diaz thrilled audiences with his roping maneuvers and horsemanship skills. The Taste of Wellington on Friday offered samplings of cuisine gratis from participating restaurants. The Children’s Fair on Saturday delighted hundreds of youngsters on the Great Lawn with a carnival of entertainers and rides.

Eugene Mische, president of Stadium Jumping, Inc. and a director of the National Horse Show Association of America, Ltd., was enthusiastic about the event, “Two of the best Grand Prixes that I’ve seen all year were Friday night when Norman won the National Grand Prix – it was the last horse in the ring and had a spectacular round – and then Margie duplicated that on Sunday with the AGA Championship. >From the standpoint of the horse show, we couldn’t have choreographed two better classes than what came out of the competition here and that’s because we did have the top riders in the country participating. We’re looking forward to next year.”

The 121st National Horse Show will be held in Wellington, FL, from November 30 through December 5, 2004, at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club show grounds.

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