On a sunny Saturday afternoon with a spectacular backdrop, John Bragg bested a field of 28 to take top honors in the 2015 $25,000 USHJA World Champion Hunter Rider West Coast Hunter Spectacular, presented by Valencia Saddlery, at the Blenheim June Classic I in San Juan Capistrano, CA, aboard Laura Strasburg's Social Hour.
"The footing was quite nice and the length of the course; my horse actually got more relaxed as he went, so I liked that it was a nice long course and there were long lines," said Bragg of the flowing hunter course.
Bragg and Social Hour finished the two-round class with the top score of 175. Finishing on a score of 172.87 was John French aboard 2014 USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Reserve Champion, Boss, owned by Laura Wasserman. Rounding out the top three with a score of 171.87 was Nick Haness aboard Banderas, owned by Ecole Lathrop.
In addition to finishing second in the class, Boss was named the Best Turned Out Horse, and his groom, Alex Garcia, received the Best Turned Out Award, sponsored by Shapley's. Sally Stith-Burdette, Shapley's director of marketing, presented Garcia with the award, which included a cash prize, gift basket of Shapley's products, and commemorative ball cap.
"It was a hard course," said French. "Every single line was a bending line with 10 or 11 strides. It seemed like for some people the bending lines to the last in-and-out was a little bit hard. Instead of bending it, they tried to make it straight and then it ended up getting there sooner than they thought. That was one of the hardest lines."
The courses, set on the Blenheim grass Grand Prix field and designed by Jasen Shelley of Wellington, FL, proved to be difficult but appropriate for the class. Round 1 featured 13 jumping efforts with long bending lines and an oxer to oxer in-and-out. Round 2 had 10 jumping elements with few related distances. Judges included Thom Brede and Otis Brown on Panel 1 and John Roper and Ellen Gates on Panel 2.
"It wasn't a spooky course but it was a scopey course," echoed Haness. "All the oxers were set pretty wide and you had to capture them on a flow in those bending lines. So it required you to have just enough accuracy to have your horse jump the best they could jump through those wide combinations."
Haness and Banderas competed at the 4' fence height, while Bragg and French competed their younger First-Year Green horses at the 3'6" fence height. All three horses and riders had just returned to California after competing for a week at the Devon Horse Show in Pennsylvania.
"These classes are good for the First-Year horses," said French of the WCHR Hunter Spectacular class. "Boss has never done anything before but his division. This was nice to start, and maybe now we can start doing him in the derbies. But it's nice for the owners to have a Hunter Classic or the Spectacular because we can take our First-Year horses and give them the experience; and it's very exciting to them. And, it's good money."
Other special awards presented between rounds included the week's high-score WCHR honors: Professional, John French/Boss with a score of 90; Developing Professional, Rose Carver/Small Adventure with an 89; Adult Amateur, Abigail Friedman/Diamond River with an 88; and Amateur Owner 3'6", Lee Kellog Sadrian/Wingman with an 88.
In addition to the WCHR Hunter Spectacular class, exhibitors and spectators attended the WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular "Picture Perfect" Gala, which supported the WCHR Program and the USHJA Foundation Horseman's Assistance Fund. With gourmet food and drinks, the Gala featured a red carpet for exhibitors to walk, as well as a fun photo booth so attendees could pose for the "paparazzi." Special swag bags were provided, courtesy of Valencia Saddlery, to keep in line with the Hollywood theme.
"Blenheim is a beautiful facility to show at, and having this event here at this show is a really great addition this year," stated Haness.
SOCIAL HOUR/JOHN BRAGG/LAURA STRASSBURG
88.00 83.00 – 85.5
90.00 89.00 – 89.5
BOSS/JOHN FRENCH/LAURA WASSERMAN
92.00 84.5 – 88.25
82.50 86.75 – 84.625
*BANDERAS/NICK HANESS/ECOLE LATHROP
81.75 90.00 – 85.875
84.50 87.50 – 86
*CENTER COURT/JOHN FRENCH/HILLER FARMS
91.00 86.25 – 88.625
81.00 85.50 – 83.25
CRUSH/KATIE GARDNER/Q OF E FARMS, LLC
84.50 86.50 – 85.5
84.00 85.00 – 84.50
SET THE STAGE/JENNY KARAZISSIS/SUZANNE VOSS
82.00 87.00 – 84.5
83.00 86.00 – 84.5
TROUSDALE/JENNIFER JONES/DEANNA SAGE
84.00 78.00 – 81.00
85.00 87.00 – 86.00
ZARETINA/JAMIE TAYLOR/EMMA WALDFOGEL
84.25 82.5 – 83.375
78.00 83.50 – 80.75
WILLOW CBF/JAMIE TAYLOR/JULIE HANCOCK
81.00 81.00 – 81.00
82.00 84.00 – 83.00
CANTHANO/KATIE GARDNER/ABIGAIL FRIEDMAN
79.00 85.00 – 82.00
80.00 79.00 – 79.95
HIGH FIVE/TARA METZNER/TAMMY WILLIAMS
77.00 86.00 – 81.50
77.00 82.00 – 79.50
SOCHI/JOHN FRENCH/LEE KELLOG SADRIAN
79.00 89.00 – 84.00
79.00 50.00 – 64.50
*In the event of a tie in either the first or second round: Panel 1's score is the tie-breaker. In case of a tie in the overall standings, Panel 1's second round score is the tie-breaker.
Photo Credit: McCool Photography