Lexington, KY – Nov. 5, 2021 – Hunter competition closed out day nine of the 139th National Horse Show (NHS) on Friday, November 5th, as the country’s top hunters competed in the $50,000 NHS Hunter Classic.
As the oldest indoor horse show in America, the National Horse Show brings a collection of some of the country’s top hunter riders and horses to the Alltech Arena of the Kentucky Horse Park to contest for championship honors and a spot in the $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic, presented by The Chronicle of The Horse.
Of the 25 horse-and-rider pairs that put their names forward for the winning title and lion’s share of the money, it was Iwasaki and Reilly’s Small Love, piloted by Augusta Iwasaki, who jumped to victory in the prestigious two-round competition.
Throughout the first half of the week, invitations were extended to the Champion and Reserve Champion horse-and-rider combinations of hunter sections that competed over jumps at the 3’3″ height or higher.
Michael Britt-Leon, Callie Seaman, and Augusta Iwasaki each had two mounts apiece in the class to increase their chances of leaving with a portion of the pot. The competition began with the 4’ section, which included two combinations both piloted by Britt-Leon, then lowered the jumps to 3’9” for four pairs, then 3’6” for 14 combinations, and finally finished at the 3’3” height for the remaining seven riders.
Course designers Bobby Murphy and Kevin Holowack (USA) crafted the first round course fit for the occasion. The classic track featured 10 beautifully decorated hunter fences with natural elements including two walls that replicated the traditional hunter style. Following the first round, the top 12 horse-and-rider pairs were invited to return for the second round. Both Iwasaki on Small Love and Hunt Tosh aboard Redfield Farm’s Corragio scored the highest with scores of 91 points. Michael Britt-Leon and Kelly Sims’ Private I and Greg Crolick on Carole Chase’s Chappy were not far behind both earning first round scores of 87.50.
The handy hunter round tasked riders with showcasing the rideability and handiness of their mounts. Third to enter the ring over the handy track set at 4” was Britt-Leon aboard the 10 year-old Oldenburg gelding, Private I. The pair jumped to a second round score of 89.00 points for a two round total of 176.50 points taking an early lead in the class. Only three rides later, Croclick piloted the 11 year-old Mecklenburg gelding to another textbook handy ride taking inside turns and showing Chappy’s adjustability over the 3’9” track, earning a score of 86.50 and 174 points overall.
Eleventh to contest in the 12 horse handy round, Iwasaki knew what she had to do in order to best the talented field of professionals, juniors, and amateurs. Leaving it all in the ring and displaying experience beyond her years, Iwasaki rode the 9 year-old Hanoverian mare to the class high score of 91.50 points to secure a six point lead in the class with 182.50 points from the two rounds.
An added bonus for the hunter athletes, the top three scoring junior and amateur riders received an additional $10,000 bonus to be split between them. Iwasaki was the highest scoring junior athlete followed by Clara Propp and Joey Roman. For the amateurs, Jean Sheptoff took the lead followed by Alexa Bing and Callie Seaman.
Earlier in the day, junior hunter divisions concluded with the crowning of their respective age and height divisions and the Grand Junior Hunter championship. Sharing the prestigious title of Grand Junior Hunter Champion this year was Bikoff Equestrian’s Commentary, piloted by Ella Bikoff and Marnell Sport Horses’ Babylon, ridden by Ariana Marnell. Immediately following, 3’3” Junior Hunters took to the Alltech to conclude their age group sections where Madeline Brooks and her own Captain Jack took home the overall tri-color award in the Junior Hunter 3’3”.
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total
1. Small Love / Augusta Iwasaki / Iwasaki & Reilly / 91.0 / 91.50 / 182.5
2. Private I / Michael Britt-Leon / Kelly Sims / 87.50 / 89.0 / 176.50
3. Chappy / Greg Crolick / Carole Chase / 87.50 / 86.50 / 174.00
4. Paisley Park / Geoffrey Hesslink / Little Brook LLC / 86.75 / 86.5 / 173.25
5. Verdict / Jean Sheptoff / Jean Sheptoff / 85.87 / 87.0 / 172.87
6. Subtil / Alexa Bing / Alexa Bing / 83.37 / 84.0 / 167.375
7. Silver Lining / Callie Seaman / Callie Seaman / 86.0 / 79.5 / 165.5
8. Arabesque / Clara Propp / Aquitaine Equine / 87.12 / 78.0 / 165.12
9. Worthy / Maria Rasmussen / Sunset View Farms LLC / 85.5 / 78.5 /164.0
10. Corragio / Hunt Tosh / Redfield Farm / 91.01 / 68.0 / 159.01
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
On the National Horse Show Hunter Classic:
“This class is so fun – I think it’s a great goal for this week. I love the format. It’s kind of derby-like, and I love doing the derby. I think it’s a really good thing you want to achieve, just to be in the class with all of these amazing riders.”
On her horse, Small Love:
“Her barn name is Honey, and she’s probably the sweetest mare I’ve ever met. She doesn’t act like a mare at all. She will literally eat anything – if you put any kind of food in front of her, she will eat it and she’s so sweet. She’s learned really, really fast and I think she’s a really special horse.”
On going into Sunday’s ASPCA Maclay Finals:
“I go 92nd on Sunday – I like going in the top 100. This is my sixth year doing finals, so I feel ready for this weekend. I think I definitely have an advantage being able to do the hunters and jumpers before Sunday. Confidence is just so important in the eq, the jumpers, and the hunters.”
Augusta’s advice for other junior riders:
“I think you have to believe in your team and, of course, believe in your horse. Even if you’re feeling a little unsure, if you have a really good support system behind you it will help catch you.”
On riding at the National Horse Show:
“It’s exciting to be here at the National horse show, it’s an honor just to have qualified. You know we work all year on these horses, we campaign so much and they give so much to us. So to be showing here is an honor in itself to be able to make it into the classes is of course a bonus, a cherry on top.
On the NHS Hunter Classic:
“It’s so important to showcase our hunters at this level. I think there’s so much that our sport brings to the jumper side, and so much money to the jumper side…to have a big class like this at one of the biggest horse shows that we hold here in the States is very special. Being a hunter guy myself, I love that we get to showcase these horses and present them in front of all sorts of people.”
On riding two horses in the Classic:
“A lot of pressure for sure going in – the format can be a little bit tricky, I had two in the 4’ so going back-to-back I have to make sure somebody is there warming up the next horse and we don’t keep everybody waiting too long. But, you know, Private always comes to play and he never lets me down. He always tries, we trust each other and he listens to everything that I ask.”
Greg Crolick – Chappy
On riding at the National Horse Show:
“This classic really makes you want to achieve a qualified class, and we’ve come so close the last few years. It’s my first time at the National Horse Show getting the tricolor, and first time doing this class…so very exciting for myself, the client, and of course our whole staff. It’s all so special.You know we do this for the athletes – we try really hard. It takes timing, good luck, and a really good horse.”
On his horse, Chappy:
“Chappy is just a wonderful horse, we’ve had him for two years now. He’s become a really shiny element in our string of horses. He loves the handy, he loves the derbies. He’s such a cool horse.”