October 5, 2022 – Upper Marlboro, MD – 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
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