Skip to content

Celebrating In Syracuse

by Bob Funkhouser

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Over the past few years the committee members of the Syracuse International have rolled up their sleeves and been hard at work making the show fun for exhibitors. Their efforts have paid off handsomely as more and more Saddlebred, Hackney, Morgan, and National Show Horse barns have made the trek to the New York State Fairgrounds for a competitive and entertaining week going into the Fourth of July weekend.

This year was edition 32 and in spite of some extreme heat early in the week, exhibitors enjoyed every minute of the fun filled schedule. Manager Naomi Blumenthal had Julie Kritzler and Theresia Giardino as co-chairpersons and this group could be seen constantly going through the barns and talking with exhibitors to welcome them and get their feedback.

The fun began even before the show started on Wednesday, June 29. The prior evening Wrighthall Stables (Cal and Darlene Trento-Wright) sponsored the Take-A-Break Party for all those moving in and setting up. It was a great way to kick off the show week. On Wednesday evening following the session, Casa Larga Winery and Kingwood Stables sponsored the Wine and Cheese Party which was held in conjunction with the American Saddlebred Horse Futurity of New York Limited Breeders Stake Auction. A nice selection of donated stallion services was offered and the resulting foals from the breedings of the purchased stallion services will be the only eligible foals for the NYS Limited Breeders Stake divisions.

For the fifth year a Hallston Manor Open House was the feature attraction on the Thursday afternoon schedule. Sponsored by the Fancy Footwork Partnership (Victoria Celia and Greg Fisk) and Hallston Manor LLC (the Hall family), the open house, just a short drive from the fairgrounds, was well-attended. The red carpet was rolled out to guests who enjoyed great food and drink before being entertained by a showing of babies and young stock. Katrina Wood was the master of ceremonies for the event and it was a good day for all as a couple of babies were sold.

Junior exhibitors also had their party on Thursday evening following the last class. Jack and Cathy Kunkel sponsored the party which included a dunking booth, karaoke, and the Make Your Own Sundaes table. Many adults enjoyed the evening as well. In the middle of the festivities tickets were drawn for the $10,000 raffle.

As if people weren’t having enough fun, Friday evening ended with the annual Bar-B-Que. Exhibitors brought different side dishes to go with the chicken and hot dogs which were prepared on the open grills by members of the show committee. It was a great night under the stars with fellow exhibitors.

Word of this nonstop hospitality has spread and barns throughout New York, New England, and Pennsylvania have made this a most competitive show again. Donna Pettry-Smith had the honor of crowning the many champions from the Saddlebred, Hackney Pony, roadster, and equitation classes, while Garn Walker was charged with determining the Morgan champions of the week. Both judges had strong entries from the open and amateur ranks, right down to the many young horse/pony classes offered.

A highly qualified group of officials joined judges Pettry-Smith and Walker on the Syracuse International official family. New Yorker John Franzreb III was back as ringmaster as were Shane Shiflet as photographer and John Owens as announcer. Roger Cabic served as the USEF steward.

Officials worked hard as there were many classes available at Syracuse. Class number 206 ended the show on Saturday evening and it was one of the best of the show, according to many trainers. The nine-horse Amateur Five-Gaited Championship was just as exciting as the 11-horse amateur qualifier. The audience was showing their appreciation as the exhibitors had to ride hard just to be seen. A new champion was crowned on Saturday night as Jessica Moctezuma and Blackhawk’s Girls Night Out were called to the winner’s circle where Shane Shiflet took the winning presentation picture. Moctezuma had been reserve in the qualifier.

Racking up a storm, Hawkcrest and Geralyn Dexter covered a lot of ground to make the reserve grand champion victory pass, which is another great part of the Syracuse show, especially in the highly competitive championships. Trained by Robin McGahey, they hung the blue ribbon on the RMD tack room from the qualifier. Moving up a notch, Bob Funkhouser and The King Of Music went home with the yellow streamers from the championship.

Friday night’s Five-Gaited Championship was small but entertaining nonetheless. It was a two-horse class with two hard riding ladies in control. By the time they had reversed, Sena Bowling and Darlene Trento-Wright were going head to head. The crowd went crazy as they turned it on at the rack. In the end, open class winner Cameo Appearance and Trento-Wright were crowned the grand champions for Jodie Goff. Sena Bowling gave Careless Dreamer the reserve grand champion ride for Theresa Sheroski.

Continuing to roll through the amateur walk-trot ranks, Strapless and Careen Dubuc marched to the winner’s circle both times at Syracuse. They had sharp competition from four-year-old Hawkwing and owner/rider Margaret Biggs. This team was reserve to Strapless in both classes.

Trainer Kevin Tomasko also had Dubuc on top in the Junior/Novice Three-Gaited class aboard the elegant, black mare Broadway’s Mama Mia. The UPHA Classics Reserve Grand Champion in 2004, this fancy mare was ahead of reserve champion CF Chief’s Early Light, an entry ridden by Sena Bowling.

Of the three entries in the Ladies Three-Gaited class, A Design To Remember OCF and Betty Reeves impressed judge Pettry-Smith the most. They were followed by Heir Balloon and Joellen Fisher Blount.

Junior exhibitor Jessica Moctezuma had an incredible week. Not only did she win the Amateur Five-Gaited Championship, this young lady also made the victory pass in the Open Three-Gaited Championship aboard The King’s Talent, an entry owned by her mother, Nealia McCracken. Coming off the amateur championship at Devon, Capsaicin and Doreen Weston were the reserve grand champions. The Talk Of Savannah and Alexandra Simpson had won the open qualifier.

The junior exhibitor division featured two elegant winners. On Saturday night You’re Charmed and Lara Mechling were a beautiful combination to march from the ring with the tricolor streamers flowing. Wes and Sena Bowling were the owners of the grand champion. The Wentz Stables entry of Sultan’s Sundance Kid made the reserve grand champion victory pass.

In the qualifying round it was Elke Trilla and Rosewood’s Potpourri turning back all challengers for Fairfield South. This was their only three-gaited performance before moving to the equitation division. You’re A Charm and Mechling finished reserve in this one.

Representing High Tail Acres, Alexis Taylor Pearson and Gitchigumi Girl were the lone contestants in the Three-Gaited Pony Championship and qualifier.

Competition was good in the Amateur Three-Gaited Park Stake as the Shawn Hennigan-trained Sagaman captured the tricolor honors with owner Charmane Delisle aboard. Reserve in the qualifier, Brandi Foster and the cocky Pecan Andy exited with the reserve grand champion streamers, followed by Spencer Day on the multi-titled champion CH Albelarm Tradition. Diana Kressley-Billig was on top in the amateur qualifier with Callaway’s Prime Rate.

The veteran team of Desert’s Supreme Lady and Margaret Biggs were on top of their game to win the Three-Gaited Park Championship for Lukens Stables. It was their second victory pass of the week as they also scored the blue prize in the open qualifier. Reserve grand champion honors belonged to Royalty At Midnight, an impressive entry ridden by Darlene Trento-Wright for Brian Fitzsimmons. Limit Three-Gaited Park Champion With Authority was also in the hunt for top honors in the championship with Gary Guz riding to a third place finish.

Wes and Sena Bowling greeted Showtime’s Superman and Kelly Self in the winner’s circle of the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Park Championship. It was a repeat performance from the junior exhibitor qualifier. Also a repeat winner, CSF Spesally was the reserve grand champion for Samantha Hoag.

One of the newest stars on the eastern show circuit, Tornado’s Tidal Wave was a standout as the Fine Harness Grand Champion and open class winner. Joellen Fisher Blount was the owner/driver under the direction of Jan Lukens. David Arnold directed Daryl Carlow and Kendall Jackson to the reserve grand champion honors. It was their second reserve of the week.

Jonathan Cleveland presented Sultan’s Sweet Pea as the lone entry in the Junior/Novice Fine Harness class. Showing for Hallston Manor, Roger Kearney drove Elusive Love Affheir to win the UPHA Fine Harness Classic. Deidre Henry and Celtic Charmer had the reserve performance for Nancy Cashman-Reed. Another of the Hallston Manor home-bred stars, Heir Comes The Man was the Two-Year-Old Fine Harness Champion with Kearney at the whip.

When announcer John Owens called for the amateur road ponies to turn on the speed it was indeed a pony race. It was a highly competitive division from top to bottom and Saturday night’s amateur championship was just one example. Turning it on for the second time this week, Regal’s Rebel LF sailed to the winner’s circle with Diana Kressley-Billig in the silks for David Glover. Putting their two strongest performances together, Courtney Cahill and Rhythm King LF were the amateur reserve grand champions.

Six highly qualified speedsters competed for the Open Road Pony Grand Championship. Coming from a reserve finish in the amateur qualifier, Mastercraft’s Gambler and Joan Sylvester had it in high gear to command tricolor honors. Open class winner Namesake’s Abbie crossed the finish line in reserve with Cindy Stanton again at the whip for Michael Chase. Ricky Harris came back with the junior pony, Kilbro’s Mr. Big Stuff, to wear the yellow streamers.

Kilbro’s Mr. Big Stuff had been reserve to Heartland Double Trouble, the three-year-old winner of the junior class with Bob Funkhouser debuting for Tim Lydon and Funkhouser.

Part of the winning contingent from the Rodney Hicks Stables, Dun-Haven Exquisite and Sharon Francis swept the Amateur Harness Pony Championship and qualifier with two impressive performances. Their closest competition was High Performance Lad, an entry owned by J. Fisk and R. Fornango.

Hicks came back with the three-year-old Michigan’s Habanero to win the Harness Pony Championship on Friday evening for Nathan and Betty Roden. Open class winner Twin Willow’s Dimitri received the reserve championship for Ryan Fornango. Michigan’s Habanero had been reserve to Twin Willow’s Kaitlyn and Jodi Fisk in the junior long-tail class.

Unfortunately there was no competition for Betty Roden and Totally Excellent. With two of his strongest shows, the Rodney Hicks-trained entry won the Amateur Hackney Pony Championship and qualifier.

With five nice entries in the Hackney Pony Championship it was Unique’s Starlighter and Brook Sweigart making the victory pass ahead of Rodney Hicks and The Marksman. The order was reversed for these two in the Junior Hackney Pony class. In the open qualifying class Darlene Trento-Wright guided Heartland Classic to the winner’s circle ahead of Jodi Fisk and MH Joker’s Wild.

Hicks Stables struck again with Janet Crawford Hicks and limit winner Miss Excellence making their second victory pass of the week in the large Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony Championship. Reserve grand champion among the eight entries went to the reserve winner in the open class, Steal The Show, driven by Mary Cichowski for Christina Sokolowski. Herb Headwell and Marked By Rhythm enjoyed the victory pass drive from the open class.

Moving to the Saddlebred park pleasure division, Rachel Crystal and Dark Heiress topped six others in the Park Pleasure Prospect qualifier including reserve champions Starmaker’s Winning Colors and Robin McGahey. In the championship round Dark Heiress and Crystal repeated, however, this time Sena Bowling and Jordan’s Gunslinger were reserve.

Nicholas Villa had two of the six entries in the UPHA Park Pleasure Classic. He had Robin McGahey catch ride Bella Dahl, who won yet another blue prize for owner Avery Kapple. Sena Bowling and Tango Blues were second in the good class, followed by Darlene Trento-Wright and Starsnip Enterprise in third.

Right on the money with each pass, Titleist Commander and Tracy Massaro piloted their way to the Five-Gaited Pleasure Championship. This was yet another tricolor for the Jan Lukens-trained team. Lori Neumann and Select Fire moved up in the ribbons to be named reserve grand champions. Third place finishers in the championship, Jessica Moctezuma and Bare Asset had won the qualifier.

Bob Funkhouser had the pleasure of catch driving Millie LeBoff’s Mundy’s Landing to win the Show Pleasure Driving Championship and qualifier. Ricky Harris had the newcomer to the driving division ready for prime time to sweep the division for LeBoff. Leslie Brent and Eyes Wide Open were reserve grand champions among the seven entries. Third place winners Legacy’s Memories and Phillip Holowacz were reserve in the qualifier. In their only performance of the week, Jayne Romano and Dakota’s Cloudburst won the Limit Pleasure Driving class.

Multi-talented CH Lover’s Heir qualified for the ASHAF Youth Challenge Finals with a winning performance in the pleasure driving section. Cassi Wentz was the winning driver. Danielle Benson picked up the reserve streamers with CH Kingwood Supreme.

With Grand National and ESHBA money added to the Adult Three-Gaited Show Pleasure Championship, there was a ring full of more than qualified entries for the Saturday night showdown. When the dust had settled, Diana Kressley-Billig and Steeling Home slid into the winner’s circle for the championship honors. Owner Carson Kressley had made the winning ride in the limit class to qualify. Syracuse International continued a winning trend for this team.

With an entertaining performance to win the adult qualifier, the young team of Society’s Upper Krust and Cheryl Innis came back strong to take the reserve championship home to Somersdream. Las Vegas Lights and Cindy Daniels had been reserve to Society’s Upper Krust in the 11-horse adult qualifier.

Another tricolor adorned the Lukens Stables tack room following the performance given by Chemistry In Motion and Sally Kropp in the Novice Rider Show Pleasure Championship. This was their second trip down victory lane for the week. Allison Sowers came away with reserve champion honors aboard Cameron Crest Stonewall.

Wentz Stables enjoyed a sweep of the junior exhibitor pleasure division. CH Lover’s Heir was the 15-17 grand champion and qualifying winner for Cassi Wentz. Devin Race rode Hold On My Heart to place reserve in the qualifier. The other half of the Wentz tricolor team was 14 & under grand champion Highpoint’s Merlot, ridden to the second victory pass of the week by Kirby Tapper. Cameron Crest Stonewall and Leslie Mechling moved up a notch to be named reserve grand champions for Wes and Sena Bowling.

A champion for many years now, CH Heir Tight scored the tricolor from the Country Pleasure Driving Championship as well as the blue prize from the qualifier. Once again Kristin Keno was at the whip for Leigh Keno. Moving up three places, Megan Adams and Genius Poetic Justice were reserve grand champions.

When the card was turned in for the Adult Country Pleasure Championship it read Livin’ On A Prayer and Diane Ahlin at the top. Reserve grand champion honors went to CH Harlem’s Jamaican and Barbara Matthews, winners of the adult qualifier. Mary Lehan and Happenchance had picked up the blue in the limit class.

There were large turnouts for both the Novice Rider Country Pleasure Championship and qualifier. The Ricky Harris trained Nu Generation sailed through the division winning both rounds with Donna Tardif in the saddle for Independence Farm. Mary Coon was aboard Stonewall Nite Of Pandemonium for the reserve championship ribbon.

Junior exhibitors riding country pleasure horses also had their time in the spotlight. Earning championship after championship, Gypsy’s First Edition and owner/rider Candace Longo went two for two again this week. Also two for two, Mary Mitkish and SS Inner Vision were reserve grand champions.

One of the Hall of Famers for the Western division, CH A Magic Surprise was crowned the ASB Country Western Pleasure Grand Champion with Pat Johnson in the saddle. Trained by Nealia McCracken, they also won the Country Western Pleasure qualifier. Susan English and Mapleridge Rare Event jogged to the reserve championship. Bethany Shirkey and Portrait Of A Lady were the top choice from the Shatner class.

Karissa’s Great Day and Jessica Moctezuma led the way in the ASB Hunter Country Pleasure qualifier ahead of Callaway’s Anastasia and Joy Warner. In the championship round, Moctezuma did it again, only this time Silver Sparkle and Francesca Fields were reserve.

Supporting the Saddlebred breeding industry in New York, the NYS Limited Breeders Stake and Futurity Of New York offered four in hand classes. Roger Kearney led Patriot Missile to the Two-Year-Old Limited Breeders Stake title for the Fancy Footwork Partnership. Herb Headwell’s Design’s Dancing Air captured the Yearling Limited Breeders Stake blue for Misty Hills.

Hallston Manor and the Fancy Footwork Partnership also teamed up to take both Futurity classes with Roger Kearney on the lead. Goose Gossage was the Yearling Champion, while Flashyheir took the Two-Year-Old honors.

There was plenty of action in the equitation division. North Wind Stables’ Jessica Moctezuma had a busy week showing and winning in nearly every division possible. One of her Saturday night victory passes came as the Saddle Seat Equitation Grand Champion. Moctezuma had qualified with a victory pass in the 14-17 age group. Representing Fairfield South, Elke Trilla rode as the reserve grand champion after qualifying with a victory pass in the UPHA Challenge Cup.

Other winning equitation riders included Alexis Taylor Pearson in the nine-rider 13 & under class, Marissa Gillispie in the NHS Good Hands, and Adrienne Hariry in the USEF Medal.

The best of the Pleasure Equitation Championship riders turned out to be Alexandra Layos. She had also won the 11-rider qualifier. Reserve grand champion honors went to Danielle Benson who scored the blue ribbon ride from the Saddle & Bridle Pleasure Medallion earlier in the week.

Walk and trot riders were out in full force with qualifying classes having to be split. In the final round, Fairfield South’s Gavin Gagnon began to pave his own path with the Walk and Trot Equitation Championship being his second victory pass of the week. From Rocking Horse Farm, consistent winner Kaitlyn Powers was the sharp reserve grand champion.

Margaret Biggs dusted off her equitation suit and made her way to the winner’s circle of the Adult UPHA Challenge Cup topping reserve champion Melissa Holowacz, among others. On the other end of the spectrum, aspiring Leadline riders gave it their all, but none could top High Tail Acres’ Connor Patrick Henry.

The Morgan division at Syracuse gets strong support with a large New York base. The Park Saddle Grand Champion came from Massachusetts, however. The Silver Brook Surprise kept her winning season alive with victory passes in both the championship and qualifier with owner/trainer Tim Lydon in the saddle. Twice Alicia Fraser presented Col-Leys M.T. Pockets to take reserve honors for E. Wayne Colley. Frank Garguilo and EB Moonlight were the lone team from the amateur class.

A competitive Morgan English Pleasure Championship found FCF Champagne Command and Betsy Clark on top. Stallion/gelding winner E.B. Golightly was named the reserve grand champion with Cindy Stanton aboard for Mary Miexell. With a strong performance Percy McDaniel and MEM Out On The Town finished third in the championship. Also in the open division, Marie Vandemark and Scarborough Fair captured the mare qualifier. Scarborough Fair was even more effective in the amateur ranks in which he was two for two with Vandemark in the irons. Sue Coleman rode Fidelo to the reserve grand champion honors.

Topping seven other entries for the Morgan English Pleasure Junior Exhibitor Championship was Kandle’s Legenda with owner/rider Elizabeth Loftus. It was their second victory pass of the week. Moving up a few places to take home the reserve championship was Rachael Colley aboard Luminescence.

A competitive Morgan Junior English Pleasure Championship found Sunny Acres Sinful and Nancy Vidler in the winner’s circle for the second time. This just continued the tricolor week the Vidler family had. Mary Ellen Mulligan and Stoneleigh Flair For Life were awarded the reserve championship honors, just ahead of the impressive youngster, Hartland Best Man, ridden by Alicia Fraser.

Hillwoods Irish Proverb and Kaitlin Ahern were the best of the limit pleasure horses and they were followed by SF Noble Aura and Marie Vandemark.

Judge Walker’s first two places in the Morgan Pleasure Driving Championship were the same two from the open qualifier. He had Percy McDaniel and NWF Evening Breeze above the rest in both rounds for Linda Barber. LSF Nevermoretal took command of reserve honors with Alicia Fraser at the whip for Ladyslipper Farm.

Coming back with a strong showing, Margaret Brown and Oak Creek Chief Of Staff turned back challenges from four others in the Amateur Morgan Pleasure Driving Championship. It was a tricolor drive that defeated, among others, reserve grand champion Westonfeld Band Leader who had won the qualifier with Dean Bartholomew.

Tenn-Mor Boutonniere was crowned the best of the Morgan Junior Pleasure Driving Championship. Longtime Syracuse supporter Jack Kunkel was the winning driver. They had switched places with junior qualifying winner Stoneleigh Flair For Life, driven by Mary Ellen Mulligan.

The name to remember in the Western pleasure division was Delawares Night Life. Owned and ridden by Stepanie Shearer, Night Life swept the Amateur Western Pleasure Championship and qualifier as well as the open championship. Will Vidler’s limit champion, The Sorceror, was the reserve amateur champion, while Lindsay Perry and Seal Of Quality were reserve open grand champions. Jewels Jazzman and Ray Ann Merrill went uncontested in the junior exhibitor ranks.

Entries in the Morgan hunter pleasure ranks are tremendous across the country and Syracuse was no exception with 15 competing for the open tricolor on Friday night. Rising to the top with a smooth, yet ground covering performance was UVM Simply Elegant, ridden by Jennifer Baskinger for Richard and Mary Zick. Their closest competitor in the championship was open class winner Sunny Acres Sneek A Peek with Nancy Vidler. Will Vidler had ridden Sneek A Peek to top honors in both the amateur qualifier and championship. Equinox Renaissance and Lindsay Perry were amateur reserve grand champions. As if he hadn’t done enough in the Western division, Delawares Night Life won the Morgan Limit Hunter Pleasure class with Stephanie Shearer.

UVM Simply Elegant was not only the open grand champion, she also scored the highest in the Junior Exhibitor Hunter Pleasure Championship and qualifier with Jillian Zick aboard. Equinox Adagio and Emily Hammond made the reserve championship victory pass.

Rounding out the Morgan division with the Classic section, Westonfeld Band Leader and Dean Bartholomew finished the week with a visit to the winner’s circle of the Classic Pleasure Driving Championship. Linda Barber and Black Orchid Broadway Joe applied the pressure as the reserve grand champions. Among the five teams they were tied in that order in the qualifier as well. Third in the driving championship, Ultra’s Now and Forever topped the limit saddle class with Lindsay Perry riding.    

With six other teams behind them, Equinox Courante and Marla Snyder were the stars of the novice rider class, while RBC The Profit and Kaitlin Ahern defeated 13 others to win the junior exhibitor class. Snyder and Equinox Courante went on to win the Morgan Classic Pleasure Saddle Championship. Reserve grand champion among the 11 entries was Rambling Brook Macho Man, ridden by Maggie Smith. Finishing third place in the championship, Westbay Defender and Sharon Currie were the winners of the open class.

Popular with the spectators, the Friesians were represented with quality, but the numbers were not there. Jorrit and David Arnold continued their undefeated season for Lou and Delia Fox as the Under Saddle Grand Champions and qualifying winners. Shawn Hennigan and Wilcop were the reserve champions.

Auke was the lone driving Friesian with Bobbi Jo Beck at the whip.

This brought to a close the 32nd annual Syracuse International Horse Show which again benefited the Upstate New York Hospice Alliance. It was a great week of hospitality and competition to gear people up for Lexington and Northampton right around the corner.

Complete results can be seen on this web site by going to Statistics and clicking on Show Results.

More Stories