November 2016 - Winner's Circle
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 01 November 2016 02:53

French, Gardner, Bragg & Glynn Rock Hunter Ranks in D.C.

California rider and trainer John French punctuated his early October week at the Capital Challenge in Washington, D.C., presented by World Equestrian Center, with an exclamation point when he topped a star-studded field in the $5,000 World Champion Hunter Rider Professional Finals. French led from start to finish to win his fourth WCHR Pro Finals title. He also concluded the year as the WCHR Professional National Champion.

John French aboard Chris Iwasaki and Elizabeth Reilly’s Small Gesture in the final round of the three-round WCHR Pro Finals. Photo: Shawn McMillen Photography

Defending champion Scott Stewart, competing in his 17th WCHR Pro Finals, finished second, while Elvenstar’s Katie Gardner, a newcomer to the Professional Finals, impressed with third place.

This was the fourth year riders competed in a three-round format on Friday night. The six top riders in the WCHR Professional National standings qualified to compete over two rounds on unfamiliar horses and then rode their own horses for the third and final Handy Round. This year’s competitors-three riders each from the East and West Coasts-also included Hunt Tosh, who placed fourth, fifth-placed John Bragg and Kelley Farmer in sixth.

After the first two rounds aboard the donated horses Alant and Everglow, French stood first over Stewart by 9.82 points. He returned to the ring last aboard Small Gesture for the Handy, and he retained the lead with a solid performance and three-round total of 271.32 points. Stewart finished second with 262.32 points after a strong Handy ride aboard Reality, and Gardner moved up to claim third riding Chrush, with 258.83.

French said he chose Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Gesture as his Handy mount because he felt especially confident with the 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding and his ability to easily and quickly lengthen and shorten his stride in the confines of the Show Place Arena.

“In years past, I’ve not really had a horse to ride sometimes, and I’d borrow a horse for the final round because maybe the few horses that I bring all the way from California, they did a division with me and then they had to do the juniors or the amateurs,” he said. “I thought it was too much. For some reason, I just felt like this was going to be good for Small Gesture, and I really wanted to ride him.”

Earlier in the week, French also captured a plethora of prizes, including the Grand Hunter Championship and Regular Conformation Hunter Championship aboard Laura Wasserman’s Boss. French also earned the Leading Professional Hunter Rider title that Stewart had won last year, a fact that he quipped about during a pre-event interview that aired before the class started. The pair bantered back-and-forth in the videos, entertaining the spectators and providing a glimpse of the light-hearted rivalry that goes on behind the scenes.

Gardner, of Moorpark, was especially pleased to have qualified to compete in the class for the first time, and to place third was the icing on the cake. She rode Redeemed and Show Me before tackling the Handy with Q of E Farms LLC’s Chrush.

“Just to get to do it was such a thrill,” she said, grinning. “When my friend heard over the live stream (on Wednesday night) that I’d made it she sent me a text, ‘You made it!’ I said, ‘What? I made it?’ Honestly, being a little bit of an underdog was, I think, an awesome thing for me. My first time in there I wanted to just go in there and do the best I could. I really liked the horses; they were super fun. It was just a blast. I’m really honored.”

With this fourth victory in the class, French will once again have his name engraved on the All The Way Perpetual Trophy. He also won prizes from USHJA/WCHR sponsor Blue Ribbon Blankets, the Official Cooler Sponsor of the WCHR Pro Finals.

Hope Glynn Honored

Among many special awards presented during the Challenge, Sonoma trainer Hope Glynn was recognized for exemplifying the ideals of sportsmanship with the Winters Run Sportsmanship Award, which is donated by Patricia Bosley in memory of her mother.

Known for her sunny disposition and charming sense of humor, Glynn makes friends at every competition she attends. Based out of Sonoma Valley Stables in Petaluma, California, Glynn has found success across the country at the highest levels of the sport. Currently in the top 10 nationally for USHJA International Hunter Derby Lifetime Money Won, Glynn was the leading International Hunter Derby rider of the Southwest Region in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and has had top-10 finishes in some of the biggest Derbies in the country including the International Hunter Derby Championship.

Glynn has also had success as a WCHR professional rider, including back-to-back wins of the WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular in 2013 and 2014 as well as WCHR member-events on the West Coast. In 2013, Glynn was named the California Professional Horsemen’s Association Horseman of the Year.

Professional, junior and amateur riders are invited to compete at the Capital Challenge Horse Show by qualifying through the WCHR National and Regional programs throughout the year. A rider’s top four WCHR Member Events count toward awards in these categories: Professional and Developing Professional, Junior (3’6” and 3’3”), Amateur-Owner (3’6” and 3’3”), Adult Amateur, Handy Hunter, Children’s and Pony. Riders are then invited to contest WCHR Challenge Classes, and the WCHR presents its national awards at the Capital Challenge. Regional champions are also recognized in two separate parades.

Press release provided by the USHJA.

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