Lexington, KY - No one has won the Leading Hunter Rider title at the CP National Horse Show more than Scott Stewart, and on Wednesday at the Kentucky Horse Park he did it again. Stewart rode to division championships in the First Year Green Hunters, the Green Conformation Hunters, the Regular Conformation Hunters and the High Performance Hunters before also claiming the Grand Hunter Championship and Leading Hunter Rider titles.
"I have some age on me," Stewart joked regarding his record nine wins of the Leading Hunter Rider Challenge Trophy. "I'm fortunate to have a good group of horses. I have Samantha, Julie and Terence who got the horses ready for us. They make everything easy for me. They should get most of the credit."
While Stewart is quick to credit his talented team, he was the one who rode Catch Me, First Light, Lucador and A Million Reasons to their division championships. He kicked off the day by winning the First Year Green Hunter championship, sponsored by Goshen Hill, aboard Catch Me.
The 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding, owned by David Gochman, topped the under saddle as well as an over fences before ultimately taking the top honor. The reserve championship in the First Year Green Hunters was awarded to Amanda Steege aboard Ellen Toon's Mirror Image.
Stewart's sweep of four out of five of the day's professional hunter divisions continued in the Green Conformation Hunters, sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Garber. He guided Stephanie Danhakl's First Light to two blue ribbons over fences and a second place finish in the model before they were named the division champions. The reserve championship in the Green Conformation Hunters went to Shelley Campf and Playlist, owned by Alexandra Zell.
In the Regular Conformation Hunters, it was again Stewart who stepped forward for the championship award presentation, this time with Dr. Betsee Parker's Lucador. "Lucador we've had for a few years, so I know him well," Stewart said of the Oldenburg gelding. "I think he likes the height even better than last year. He's a very scopey horse and a good horse. He's only 7 years old, so he's really maturing."
The reserve championship in the Regular Conformation Hunters, sponsored by the Wheeler Family, also went to a Parker-owned horse, with Hunt Tosh riding Cold Harbor to the win. The Second Year Green Hunter division, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Oare and Ms. Patricia Adikes-Hill, was the only one in which another of the talented professionals at the CP National Horse Show was able to break through Stewart's sweep of the championships. This time the top tricolor was awarded to Jennifer Alfano and her own Candid.
"He has been awesome. Every time in the ring he has just been perfect," Alfano said of the 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding. "I am so excited, and it's fun that I own him. I always get so nervous; I usually mess up on my own horse because I get so nervous!" Far from messing up, Alfano and Candid claimed the win in two of the over fences classes and finished third in the handy before ultimately earning the championship.
"He's such a fun horse. He's easy, and he's so fun to ride," Alfano said. "He always gives you a great jump, no matter what. He's awesome. He's a little shy. He has a little bit of 'stranger danger.' He's shy with people he doesn't know, but he's really sweet." Alfano started Candid as a pre-green horse and has been bringing him along ever since. "They are a great team," said SBS Farms' Susie Schoellkopf, who has witnessed Alfano and Candid working together every step of the way. "It's so nice. Jen has done all the work on him and has brought him along from pre-green to now. I don't think there are many professionals who have done that, so it's a feather in her cap." Finishing in reserve behind Alfano and Candid were Kelley Farmer and So To Speak, owned by Larry Glefke and Kensel, LLC.
In the final division of the day, the High Performance Hunters, Stewart was again back on the top of the list, this time with Parker's A Million Reasons. The mare was purchased last year immediately following the Pennsylvania National Horse Show for Stewart to ride, and he moved her up to the High Performance Hunter division during the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival.
"A Million Reasons just stepped up to the High Performance in Florida," Stewart said. "She's been winning a lot, but I think this is the best she's gone. She's a really scopey, easy jumper. She's a special horse." The reserve championship in the High Performance Hunters was presented to Kelley Farmer and Mindful, owned by Kensel, LLC.
While four of Stewart's mounts are going home with championship tricolors, it was Lucador who claimed the most points in his division to claim the Grand Hunter Championship and conclude the professional hunter divisions at the 2015 CP National Horse Show.
For more information about the CP National Horse Show, please visit www.nhs.org.