Junior riders reigned supreme in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring, securing the top three spots in Saturday evening’s $100,000 WCHR Central Hunter Spectacular. The star-studded class welcomed 31 competitors across professional, junior, and amateur lines, but the win was claimed by 17-year-old Augusta Iwasaki and Attendu De Lannois Z, owned by Ashland Farms.
The young star from the West Coast and her partner two years in the making drew first in the order of go, setting the score to beat at 86.50, which would hold as the second highest score as the first round drew to a close. Returning for her handy trip, Iwasaki knew risks were required to propel her to the top of the leaderboard. Opting for bold inside turns, Iwasaki piloted the 9-year-old Zangersheide gelding by Arko to beautiful jumping efforts and a second-round score of 89 for a two-round total of 175.
“My main thought was to be as tidy as I could,” Iwasaki commented on her handy round strategy. “I galloped to jump one and tried to be as tidy as possible after that. My horse is primarily an equitation horse so I thought showing off his handiness would be the best way to display him. He’s an amazing horse because he’s really flashy. He has such a big presence in the ring. The way he goes is so smooth; it looks really effortless.”
Rising from fifth place in round one, Ariana Marnell and the Marnell Sport Horses entry Babylon rode to a flawless second round, scoring an 88.5 and 173 overall, claiming second.
“He has such a big heart and he tries so hard,” Marnell said of Babylon, just a 7-year-old this year. “I think he knows how much our whole team loves and respects him. Everybody has a ton of respect for what an amazing athlete he is and what a good heart he has. He knows he’s the star of our family.”
Setting the high score for round one, Raina Swani and Small Occasion, owned by Shadowfax Equestrian, LLC, confidently commanded the second round track, earning a score of 85.25 to combine with her first-round score of 87.25 for a 172.50 total and third place overall.
The course designer, Joe Carnicom, set a challenging track for the field, including a fence surrounded by water decorations that caused concern for many of the less experienced horses, plus a walk pattern in the handy round, in which combinations were asked to weave through poles before continuing the course.
“I thought the course was amazing today,” Iwasaki remarked. “There were a lot of impressive jumps which you don’t see a lot. The course was long but it flowed really nicely. The walk pattern was cool; it’s interesting to take a deep breath and it builds up the anticipation a bit.”
The WCHR Spectacular allowed hunters to take center stage in the Turtle Creek & Casino International Ring for the first time this season. “It’s really nice to do bigger hunter classes and not just stick to the Junior Hunters,” continued Iwasaki. “Being able to do bigger courses in bigger rings is really beneficial as a rider. This ring is amazing. I’ve shown hunters, jumpers, and equitation horses in it and it’s an amazing ring to ride in.”
“The hunters don’t usually get to go in these big rings and I think it makes for a lot of brilliance when you can gallop all over the ring,” echoed Marnell. “Tonight’s course was 16 jumps which is a big test and I think it was really great.”
All three young riders, thrilled with their own and their horses’ performances in Saturday’s class, will now turn their focus to the Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships, set to take place June 28-July 2 at Traverse City Horse Shows own Flintfields Horse Park. All three riders are past tricolor recipients at previous editions of the event, with Iwasaki claiming grand 3’6” Junior Hunter champion in 2020, Marnell taking championship honors in 2021 in the Small 3’6” Junior Hunter 15 & Under division, and Swani earning reserve championship honors in the Small 3’3” Junior Hunters 15 & Under in 2020.
Marnell knows her horse will shine regardless of the competition, so she plans to focus on herself for the week to come. “I won last year on [Ocean Road], so of course I’d like to do that again,” she commented. “But mainly I’d like to give him a good confident ride again and do my best for him. He’s such a winner and I don’t want to let him down.”
Swani hopes for smooth, confident rides on both Small Occasion as well as her new 6-year-old Junior Hunter. “I’m hoping for confident rides because they both have huge hearts and that’s what they deserve,” she continued.
Final Results: $100,000 WCHR Central Hunter Spectacular
- Attendu De Lannois Z / Augusta Iwasaki / Ashland Farms / 86.50 + 89.00 = 175.50
- Babylon / Ariana Marnell / Marnell Sport Horses / 84.50 + 88.50 = 173
- Small Occasion / Raina Swani / Shadowfax Equestrian, LLC / 87.25 + 85.25 = 172.50
- Get Rowdy / Karli Schroeder / Teton Farms LLC / 78.75 + 86.50 = 165.25
- Chivalry / Geoffrey Hesslink / Little Brook LLC / 78.00 + 86.00 = 164.00
- Unbelievable / Jacob Pope / Forget Me Not Farms LLC / 84.50 + 79.50 = 164.00
- Didgereedoo VDL / Kelsey Epperson / Lashier Properties LLC / 81.00 + 81.50 = 162.50
- Small Love / Augusta Iwasaki / Iwasaki and Reilly / 81.00 + 81.00 = 162.00
- G. Eleven / Jacob Pope / Don Stewart / 83.75 + 77.50 = 161.25
- Sweet Caroline / Sterling Malnik / Sterling Malnik / 80.50 + 78.00 = 158.50
- Aribo / Lauren Little / Little Brook LLC / 80.25 + 75.50 = 155.75
- San Pedro 15 / Jacob Pope / Don Stewart / 85.00 + 45.00 = 130.00
Calculated Results for Junior Riders in Infinite Computer Solutions 3’3” Small Junior Hunters
Two junior riders set themselves up for optimal success at the Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships by earning tricolors Saturday morning in the Infinite Computer Solutions 3’3” Small Junior Hunters during WCHR week at Traverse City Spring, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel.
Lauren Gee and Quoted, owned by Don Sheehan, are still in their first year together, but their partnership is really starting to mesh. The 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Quidam De Revel laid down flawless trips in the Infinite Computer Solutions 3’3” Small Junior Hunters 15 & Under division Friday and Saturday to claim top honors and take home the championship.
“‘Teddy was a little hard at first but I figured him out,” Gee said. “He was one of the first horses I ever rode; I just started on horses last year. I showed him for the second time at [Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships] and he got fourth overall, which was really good. I was so proud of him. And he’s just gotten better and better. We’re just so connected and I think we’re a really good team.”
“I really like his jump,” Gee remarked about Quoted. “He tries so hard and will jump anything in his path. He was pretty quiet today so it was really smooth all the way around. He went up the lines perfectly and jumped so well.”
In her second appearance in the national championship event, Gee has high hopes for a strong performance with Quoted. “I think next week is going to be a good week for me,” she continued. “I’ve wanted a big championship all my life and I really hope this is my time. It definitely gives me confidence [to be champion]; I’m really excited.”
Reserve championship honors in the Infinite Computer Solutions 3’3” Small Junior Hunter 15 & Under division went to Martel VDL and Hayley Hewitt for owner Eva Mackenzie.
In the Infinite Computer Solutions 3’3” Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division, it was Mackenzie Katz’s lucky day with Rachel Nichols’ Lucky For You, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Levistano. In her first trip to Traverse City, she secured championship honors with a win in the under saddle and the second over-fences class.
“I started riding him at the end of August last year,” Katz, age 18, remarked. “I love him. He’s really just amazing, and he’s so fun. With him it’s always fun and any round still feels great, so it’s easy to wipe away any past mistakes and just start over.”
Headed into her third Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships, Katz, from Long Island, New York, has confidence on her side for a top performance, saying “My goal is to do the best I can and enjoy it.”
Reserve championship honors in the Infinite Computer Solutions 3’3” Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division went to Broadway and Ava Cukrowski for owner Melissa Rowe.
Additional champions were crowned in the 3’3” Junior Hunter divisions Saturday. The Large 3’3” Junior Hunter 16-17 division was topped by Don’t Forget and Eleanor Rudnicki for owner Andrea Sandman, while Dom Perignon took reserve championship honors with owner Samantha O’Brien. Caracalla took top honors in the Large 3’3” Junior Hunter 15 & Under division with Mary Rose Canterbury for owner Mimi Herbert, with Fair Game taking reserve champion with Alexandra Rowe for owner Bernadette Mulliken.
WCHR week at Traverse City Spring Horse Shows concludes Sunday with the $10,000 Traverse City Hunter Derby, presented by Alltech.