Peter Pletcher Returns to the Top with Sambalino in $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge

Melissa Feller and Serafino Win $5,000 Emerging Pro Challenge

Jennifer Wood

October 3, 2012

Upper Marlboro, MD – It was a full day of competition at the Capital Challenge Horse Show with two highlight classes held in the evening session. Peter Pletcher rode Becky Gochman's Sambalino to victory in the $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge, while Melissa Feller and Serafino won the $5,000 WCHR Emerging Pro Challenge. Havens Schatt took the top place in the $20,000 Added North American Future Hunter Championship with Bacardi and won the Grand Future Hunter Championship with Sans Souci. Scott Stewart dominated the hunter divisions, leading the way with Grand Hunter Champion Garfield.

The remaining highlight class of the week for the professional hunter riders is the $5,000 WCHR Professional Finals, presented by the John R. Ingram Fund, for the top six hunter riders in the country on Friday, October 5. Today's WCHR Professional Challenge determined the six riders that qualified for Friday night's WCHR Professional Finals. They are: Peter Pletcher, Scott Stewart, Hunt Tosh, Kelley Farmer, Elizabeth Boyd, and John French. The Capital Challenge Horse Show, held at the Prince George's Equestrian Center, will run through Sunday, October 7.

Visit Jennifer Wood Media to watch an interview with Peter Pletcher about his win!

In the $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge, it was Peter Pletcher of Magnolia, TX, who came away with the win. It was a great win for Pletcher, who won this class with the famous January's Best in 2000. Pletcher was happy to have his mother here to see him win, and it was a triumphant return to the winner's circle for Pletcher, who experienced a life-changing injury little more than a year ago.

Pletcher and Sambalino, a 10-year-old Brandenburg gelding by Samba Hit, scored an 89.66 in the first round and sat in second place just behind Scott Stewart on Alexandra Crown's Garfield. They returned for the second round and scored an 85.91 for a total of 175.57, which would hold onto the win when Stewart scored an 84 in the second round for a total of 173.91 and fourth place.

Elizabeth Boyd and Quatrain, owned by Finally Farm and Janet Peterson, finished second with a total of 174.24. Kelley Farmer and Jessica Stitt's Taken scored a total of 174.08 for third place. Fifth place went to Akinda, owned by Victoria Press and ridden by Patricia Griffith, who had a score of 173.16.

“When we got to the first round, I thought, 'It’s always nice to have a little bit of a lead in case you have a little rub or something,' and when I had a little rub, I thought, 'Wow, sometimes you think that will open a door,' but as it went, Scott had one little thing and I did too.”

He said of Sambalino, “It’s so nice to be able to have a horse like that to ride in any competition, but at this level when it’s all of the great horses put together, it’s amazing. He’s an amazing horse, I love him. He always looked like the kind of horse that everybody wants to ride. He just has that look about him. He’s beautiful, and when you walk by, you see people turn and stare at him. He has that ambiance about him and it goes right through to his workmanship as a horse.”

He added with a smile, “He would probably jump over that brick wall if there was a mint on the other side of it. He’s pretty much about grass and mints - food! He loves it. He looks to everybody; everybody’s there to give him some kind of treat.” He compared, “I won (this class) on January's Best, my mother’s horse, that looks very similar, and I thought today, wouldn’t it be nice if I won on both. He’s probably my all-time favorite horse. I was telling my mom today, they are really similar. But (Sambalino) is quiet. January had a lot of blood!”

Last August, Pletcher had a slipped disc in his back, which led to him being in a wheelchair temporarily and months of recovery. He missed last year's Capital Challenge, so to be back showing and to win this class was redemption for his hard work to get back in the saddle.

He expressed, “My doctor, Dr. Chan, he is such a positive thinker and he changed so much of the way I think. Every day he was positive, (saying) 'Of course you could, why couldn’t you [get back to pro riding].' It makes you really realize what’s important. Like if you get an eighth-place ribbon, it’s really not the end of the world because eventually it can turn around and be like this.”

Pletcher and Sambalino were presented with the “Little Brook” Perpetual Trophy donated by Gary Duffy.

Up-and-Coming Pros Get The Spotlight

Twenty-eight-year-old Melissa Feller of Lincoln Park, NJ, rode Serafino for owner Elisabeth McFadden to the win in the $5,000 WCHR Emerging Pro Challenge. Feller rides for trainer Robert Beck and has been training with him since she was 10 years old. This is her second year as a professional and she stated that Capital Challenge is her favorite horse show. Feller won the Ariat National Adult Medal Finals in 2010.

Feller and Serafino, a six-year-old Brandenburg gelding by Sir Donnerhall, showed in the Future Hunter 6 & Over division this week, and a high score there qualified Feller for tonight's Challenge class. Feller was unsure if she would ride Serafino in the Challenge, but after a solid showing in the North American Future Hunter Championship earlier in the day, she felt confident that she could do well in the Challenge.

She recalled, “We got into the Future Hunter Championship, and he was really good. He wasn't spooky, wasn't green. I figured he would be good at this, it was a little bit bigger, and he was really great. I think he really loves his job. He's quick to learn, and he's totally game. When I knew he was good in that class and not green at all, I was super psyched to do this (Challenge) class. I was very excited. He's been showing all day and he just gave it his all today, right now.”

Feller and Serafino made a big jump up the leaderboard when they sat in fifth place after a first round score of 84.5. A fantastic second round score of 90 gave them a 174.5 total for the win.

“I was sitting kind of in the middle, so I knew I had to be really good,” she remembered. “I didn't think I would have had enough points to be on top, but he gave it his all and so did I, and it worked out.”

Tom Brennan and Purple Heart, owned by Lynn Ellen Rice, finished second with a total score of 172.24. Caroline Willard and Emma Gerber's Stay-Tuned were third with a 171.16 score. Fourth place went to Arly Golombek on Kindle, owned by Caroline Donnally, with a 170.5, while Hayley Barnhill and Reid Patton's Lennon were fifth with a total of 169.33.

“I think it's awesome because obviously in the class before us, all those guys are perfect and unbelievable. (The Emerging Pro Challenge) is a nice class where no one's been super successful at a national horse show to compete against each other,” said Feller.

Future Champions Take Top Prize Money and Honors

Bacardi and Havens Schatt, who rode for Caroline Moran, led through both rounds of the $20,000 Added North American Future Hunter Championship sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Wheeler, Makoto Farms, Inc., and Kocher Tack. In the first round, they scored an average of 88.7 and increased their second round score to 90.5 for a victorious total of 179.2. Second place went to Scott Stewart and Concept, who scored a total of 177.10. Jennifer Bauersachs and Avignion, owned by Francesca Migliore, were third with a total of 175. Havens Schatt rode Ainsley Sadlo's Balin to fourth place with a score of 171. Elizabeth Boyd and Sarah Orberson's First Dance were fifth with 170.35.

For their win, Schatt and Bacardi were presented with the Beverly Brooks Solter Memorial Trophy donated by Hilary Scheer Gerhardt and Zan Martin Dillon.

“I was definitely nervous,” Schatt said of her mindset going into the second round. “I hadn't been in that situation for quite awhile in my career. But I knew on the way to the first jump he was on it. I knew he was ready and he would be good and everything was going to be just fine.”

She said of her win, “I really think that he deserves it. He's won so much as a young horse and that's a big, big class for Pre-Greens. Everyone watches it and it's a really good thing for his career. Last year he was second, and I wanted him to win last year, but I knew he wasn't ready for First Years, so he would have another chance this year. It was really great for him to pull it off and me too, and for him to have that on his resume going forward. So many horses that have won that class have gone on to have great careers. Hopefully he will go on and have a great career like those horses did.”

It was an exciting win for owner Caroline Moran. “The competition here is incredible. To have that many really nice Pre-Green horses and come out on top is amazing and very exciting,” she said. “It is a big group and there wasn’t one horse in there that I didn’t think was competitive. I knew that he was going to go well, but I just wanted him to get what he deserved.”

Moran noted, “He’s matured a lot. Havens has been great about taking her time with him and putting a lot of work into him. When he came here last year he was still a little green. It doesn’t look like it when Havens rides him because she’s so smooth.”

Schatt also took home the Grand Future Hunter Championship with Sans Souci, owned by CH Farm, LLC. The championship was sponsored by David Belford and Christopher Payne/New Hope LLC. They were presented with “A Rare Diamond” Perpetual Trophy donated by “The Friends of Mickey.”

Scott Stewart Dominates Hunter Divisions and Awards

Scott Stewart started out his day by winning in his first division with Enjoy, owned by Rose Hill Farm. Enjoy, a six-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Cassiano, won three classes and was second in the under saddle to win the championship in the First Year Green Working Hunter Section A, sponsored by PJP Farm. The reserve champion was Lapis, ridden by Holly Orlando for Missy Luczak Smith. They placed first, second, and third over fences and third in the under saddle.

Stewart bought Enjoy as a three-year-old, and he was purchased by Rose Hill Farm for junior rider Chloe Hymowitz. Stewart described, “He's like a big pony, and he's really good for Chloe in the juniors. He's a little horse, but he has a great jump and a big stride.”

Enjoy was presented with the Grand First Year Green Hunter Championship and the Magda and George Z. Lefton Memorial Trophy donated by Stacey Lefton Glick. The grey gelding also won the Grand Green Hunter Championship sponsored by Balmoral Farm Inc./Uphill Farm, Inc. and won a cooler sponsored by Carleton Brooks.

Beholden, a six-year-old Westphalian stallion by Continus Grannus, was a shoo-in to win the model class. He added two firsts, a fourth, and a fifth over fences. He capped off the top tricolor with a win under saddle for the Green Conformation Hunter, sponsored by Lisa A.H. Cudahy championship. The reserve championship went to Lugano, ridden by Chris Payne and owned by Susan Moriconi, was first and fourth over fences, second in the model, and second in the under saddle.

Beholden, who is an approved stallion in Germany, showed at Capital Challenge last year in the Future Hunters. Stewart believes he has won a tricolor at every horse show he's been to, but thinks this week was special. “I thought this was one of his better ones,” he said. “He's such a big horse that the 3'6” is sometimes too easy for him, but he really tried hard all week. He's really big and doesn't know it, and he's a stallion but he's always well-behaved.”

The Regular Conformation Hunters, sponsored by Hidden Hollow and Ginny Edwards, awarded the championship ribbon to Showman. Showman, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding by Showstar, won the Regular Conformation model class. He went on to place first, first, second, and sixth over fences and was first in the under saddle. Peter Pletcher rode Becky Gochman's Touchdown to the reserve champion ribbon after they placed first, second, and fifth in the division and second in the model.

It was a reunion for Stewart and Showman in the spring; he and partner Ken Berkley originally imported Showman and he was purchased by the Weisman family soon after arriving in the U.S. “I never got to ride him much. I think I jumped him over a three-foot course once,” Stewart said of their early relationship. “This is my third time showing him. He's so laid-back and is super sweet. He is probably the easiest horse at the horse show.”

Showman won the Grand Conformation Hunter Championship and was presented with the Kenneth M. Wheeler Perpetual Trophy donated by BJ Meeks and Pablo Perez.

Alexandra Crown's Garfield won the Tribute Perpetual Trophy donated by Scott Stewart as the horse who earned the highest cumulative numerical point total in a single professional division. He was also named the Grand Hunter Champion, an award sponsored by RSB Farms, Inc. and Rob Bielefeld, and presented with the Janet Polk Read and Margaret Hough Sabbatini Memorial Trophy, donated by the Goguen Family. Stewart was named Leading Hunter Rider, sponsored by the Gibson Family and Shadyside Farm and Hobby Family Foundation. He was presented with the BJ's Hunt Room Trophy, donated by BJ Meeks and Pablo Perez.

The EMO Professional Trip of the Show was a tie between Garfield and Balou, ridden by Amanda Steege for Lisa Arena. They both received scores of 90 in their respective divisions.

Remarking on his great success this week, Stewart said, “There have been times when we won all of the WCHR awards, but I don't remember winning all of these horse show awards before. It's pretty exciting. All of my horses went so amazing all week. It's just been a lot of fun. I'm fortunate to have really great horses that I've had for a long time. I've gotten to know them all since they were babies. Even Garfield, I rode him as a First Year horse. That makes it a little easier job for me!”

Patricia Griffith piloted Victoria Press's Akinda to the championship in the First Year Green Working Hunter Section B sponsored the Sadrian and Kellogg Family. Akinda, seven-year-old Warmblood mare, won three over fences classes and was fifth in the under saddle. Reserve champion Winfield, ridden by Katie Taylor for Hannah Stabler, was second, third, fourth, and sixth in the division.

Griffith and Akinda started showing together at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival and started in the First Year Green division, but she realized that the mare needed to step back down to the Pre-Green division. “At home she was always so made up, but you could tell she didn't have a lot of show experience. She didn't go in and look for the jumps. She was very distracted by everything outside of the ring,” Griffith explained. After some time at three-foot and with more experience, Akinda moved back up to the 3'6” at the end of the winter circuit. Along with Griffith, Akinda shows with owner Victoria Press in the junior hunters.

“She knew the drill,” Griffith said. “Ever since June, she's a very smart mare, and she was like, 'I've got the name of the game.' Now she knows exactly what she's doing. I've never had a horse get it that fast. Now when you ride her she feels totally confident.”

She described, “You basically get one rhythm. She sights in on the jumps and takes you there. For a small horse, she really jumps in front and behind and gives a good effort.”

Akinda is qualified for the remainder of the indoor horse shows with Press. Griffith expressed, “It was nice that they let me bring her here and ride her. I'm happy for them too.”

The Grey Slipper Award and Perpetual Trophy, donated by Bridget Hallman, was awarded to Megan McGuire's Candlelight for excellence in the professional and amateur hunter divisions.

The Capital Challenge Horse Show continues tomorrow with championships for the Amateur-Owner 3'3” and 3'6” Hunters and three sections of Adult Amateur Hunters. The WCHR Amateur-Owner Challenge 3'3” and 3'6” will be held in the afternoon, and the $10,000 Children’s/Adult Jumper Challenge will wrap up the evening festivities.

For full results, please visit and for live scoring please visit If you can’t attend the Capital Challenge Horse Show, remember you can log on to to see all the action live.

About Capital Challenge
In its 19th year, the Capital Challenge Horse Show sets itself apart with a distinct and unique focus on preeminent hunter competition. Held each autumn at the Prince George's Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, this year's show will take place on September 29 through October 7.

Top competitions include the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals and the THIS National Children’s Medal Finals, along with the Capital Challenge Equitation Weekend, presented by In addition to these prestigious equitation events, the Capital Challenge Horse Show will once again host the World Champion Hunter Rider Finals and will assemble the country's best horses and riders to compete in junior, amateur, and professional hunter classes.

For more information, please visit or visit the Capital Challenge Horse Show Facebook page!

Back to Archived News