John French rode Marnell Sport Horses’s Babylon to victory for the second year in a row in the $25,000 World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Professional Challenge, sponsored by The Gochman Family, at the 2022 Capital Challenge Horse Show. The class was the highlight of the schedule on Wednesday, October 5, at Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Rounding out the evening’s competition, Jared Depermentier and Sebastian, owned by Brad Wolf, triumphed in the $10,000 WCHR Developing Pro Challenge, sponsored by John R. Ingram Fund.
Earlier in the day, Scott Stewart and Florian, owned by Betsee Parker, won the $25,000 KASK North American Green Hunter 3’ and 3’3” Championship, sponsored by The Wheeler Family.
Riders qualified for the $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge by finishing in the top four in professional hunter classes at the show or ranking in the top 10 nationally. The class consisted of a first round for all 26 competitors and a second round for the top 12 horse-and-rider combinations.
French and Babylon, a seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Crumbie, led from the start with an average of 92.33 from the three judges’ positions. They returned to better that position and win by more than nine points when they received scores of 95, 95, and 94 in round two for an average of 94.66 and a total of 186.99.
“We had a pretty good lead, so I didn’t want to take any daring risk and run or hand gallop really fast to the last jump,” French related of his second-round ride. “I sort of played it safe. I just counted on him jumping the way he did, and I think the judges rewarded him for how smooth and well he jumped.”
Circumstances have changed for both French and Babylon since their victory in 2021; French had hip surgery following a severely broken femur in May, and Babylon has been competing in the junior hunters with owner Ariana Marnell. French did not show Babylon in the professional hunters this week, choosing to just compete in the WCHR Professional Challenge since the horse will show in the junior hunters later this week.
“Ariana is a very good rider. It was good for me to see somebody else ride him,” said French, who has been riding Babylon since the horse was four years old. “It made me realize that he’s all grown up now, and I don’t have to worry about any of the things that happened in the beginning, a little bit of his greenness. He’s just a confident, seasoned contender now.”
A native of Maryland and now a resident of Wellington, Florida, French enjoys coming back to Capital Challenge Horse Show every year. He noted, “There’s so many special classes for hunters here, and it really showcases the hunters.”
Second place in the $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge went to Blink, ridden by Jennifer Bauersachs and owned by Lee Kellogg Sadrian. They scored 89 in round one and 88.83 in the second round for a total of 177.83. Scott Stewart and Nottingham, owned by Betsee Parker, placed third with scores of 87.16 and 87.33 for a total of 174.49.
It was a banner day for Elizabeth Boyd and Guess Who, owned by Irene Neuwirth. The pair picked up the overall Grand Hunter Championship title, sponsored by RBS Farms, Inc., Rob Bielefeld, and Chrystal Knight; the Grand Green Hunter 3’6” Championship, sponsored by Memorial Park Hunters; and the Grand Green Hunter Championship, sponsored by Balmoral – Traci and Carlton Brooks. For the Grand Hunter Championship, Boyd received the Janet Polk Read and Margaret Hough Sabbatini Memorial Trophy, donated by The Goguen Family. They were given the Tribute Perpetual Trophy, donated by Scott Stewart, Ken Berkley, and Rivers Edge.
The Leading Hunter Rider Award, sponsored by the Gibson Family and Shadyside Farm, was also awarded to Elizabeth Boyd.
Can Can and Christopher Payne earned the Grand Champion Conformation Hunter award, sponsored by Snowfield Farm, and were presented with the Kenneth M. Wheeler Perpetual Trophy, donated by BJ Meeks and Pablo Perez. Jennifer Hannan was awarded the Professional American Style of Riding Award, while Halie Robinson won the Developing Professional American Style of Riding Award, both sponsored by Bill Rube.
Click here for the full results of the $25,000 WCHR Pro Challenge, presented by The Gochman Family.
Depermentier and Sebastian Rise to the WCHR Developing Pro Challenge Win
Redemption for Jared Depermentier came in the form of the champion ribbon and leading the victory gallop in the $10,000 WCHR Developing Professional Challenge, presented by John R. Ingram Fund. After a second-place finish in 2021, Depermentier returned with Sebastian, owned by Brad Wolf, to take the win.
Depermentier started out round one with the high score of 89.16, putting on the pressure when he was last to go in round two. The pair stayed consistent, scoring 89 for a total of 178.16 for victory.
“I’ve got to be honest, that has been eating at me all year,” said Depermentier of his reserve finish last year. “I knew exactly what I needed to do last year to win, and I was not going to make that mistake again. We came back with vengeance, and I’m really, really happy it panned out the way it did.”
The 31-year-old rider, originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and now based in Nashville, Tennessee, has been working for the Ingram family and Brad Wolf for two years, since he turned professional.
“When I turned pro and started riding with Tom [Wright], there was a huge learning curve, and I just tried to soak in as much as I could,” he said. “They’ve been incredibly patient with me. I feel like every day at work is like a lesson, and I don’t know how I got that lucky. It’s fun, and it doesn’t even feel like a job.”
Depermentier started riding Sebastian, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Cancara, one year ago and felt that their evolving partnership is what led to victory this year.
He acknowledged, “We know each other so much better. He’s super straight forward. He’s a character in the barn, and he’s very spoiled, but he deserves to be. He’s a unicorn.”
The WCHR Developing Pro Challenge was “not really on my radar,” said Depermentier, until Tom Wright and Torrey Hardison pushed him to compete in the class.
“This is the biggest honor, award, class – ever – for me,” he expressed. “It was totally out of my realm, but it means a lot. It means everything.”
For his victory, Depermentier was presented with the Bittersweet Trophy, presented by Rachel B. Kennedy.
Second place in the WCHR Developing Pro Challenge went to Vivian Yowan aboard Belle, owned by Tracy Treace. They scored 88.33 and 88.66 for a total of 176.99. Ashley Foster and Chivalry, owned by Little Brook LLC, received scores of 88.08 and 87.50 for a total of 175.58 and third place.
Click here for the full results of the $5,000 WCHR Developing Pro Challenge, presented by John R. Ingram Fund
Scott Stewart and Florian Fly to Victory in the $25,000 KASK/Vogel Green Hunter 3’ and 3’3” North American Championship
Earlier in the day, 26 horse-and-rider combinations entered the Show Place Arena for the $25,000 KASK/Vogel Green Hunter 3’ and 3’3” North American Championship. After posting scores of 87.16 in round one, and 88.50 in round two, Scott Stewart, of Wellington, Florida, and Betsee Parker’s Florian came out on top with an overall score of 175.66.
“I love these special classes at Capital Challenge,” expressed Stewart, who won this class last year with Betsee Parker’s Ackergill Castle. “The best riders are here with their best horses, so I think it’s a spectacular horse show.”
The class was overseen by three panels, each with two judges. Tammy Provost and Dale Pederson sat on the first panel, while David Beisel and Gavin Moylan made up the second, and Tom Brennan and Bobbi Reber were the third. Each panel awarded a score with the average representing the rider’s overall mark. Horses competing at either the 3’ or the 3’3” heights were scored equally, and the top 12 returned in reverse order for the second round.
Stewart noticed the six-year-old Westphalian gelding by Like Angel x Lupicor on a video and called René Tebbel in Germany to purchase him, but at the time, he wasn’t for sale. With some persistence, Parker was able to buy the handsome bay during the winter show season, and the horse made its U.S. horse show debut in the spring. Now in just their fourth competition together, Stewart was able to make it memorable, tacking this win onto the championship title they picked up in the Green Hunter 3’ Colts and Geldings division, sponsored by Boggs Hill/Mr. & Mrs. Tim Goguen.
“He is really a confident horse,” noted the seven-time WCHR Professional Final winner. “He’s quiet but he’s a little bit alert, so I wasn’t sure about the weather. He ended up being really good outside all week.
“You can count on him at the jump all the time,” continued Stewart. “He is a little bit green, like sometimes he looks outside the ring, but he’s really straightforward to jump.”
In a very competitive group, the reserve championship went to Duke of Argyll, also owned by Betsee Parker and ridden by Hunt Tosh of Milton, Georgia, with a final score of 173.66. Third place was awarded to Liza Boyd of Camden, South Carolina, and Irene Neuwirth’s Coconut Grove for their 173.24 score.
For his win, Stewart was presented with the Beverly Brooks Solter Memorial Trophy, donated by Hilary Scheer Gerhardt and Zan Martin Dillon.
Vivian Yowan, of Darien, Connecticut, was the recipient of the William “Bill” Ellis Sportsmanship Award, dedicated in memory of Bill Ellis for his exceptional commitment to horsemanship. The award is presented to the rider of the best turned out horse in the $25,000 KASK/Vogel Green Hunter 3’ and 3’3” North American Championship.
Nick Haness of Temecula, California, and Circa, owned by Glade Run Farm LLC, won the Grand Champion Green Hunter 3’ & 3’3” award, sponsored by David Belford and Christopher Payne of New Hope LLC with 31 points. For the award, Orlando was presented with the “A Rare Diamond” Perpetual Trophy donated by “The Friends of Mickey.” They were also the winners of the EMO Green Hunter 3’ & 3’3” Trip of the Show with a score of 92.
The 2022 Capital Challenge Horse Show continues Thursday, October 6, with the North American League (NAL) Children’s Jumper Final, presented by Equifit, and the NAL Adult Jumper Final, presented by Johnson Horse Transportation.