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Connecticut Summer Classic

by Bob Funkhouser


There’s nothing quite like the Connecticut Summer Classic to beat the dog days of summer in New England. It’s the calm before the storm (Louisville) for the Saddlebred and Hackney enthusiasts who are joined each year by a good group of Morgan and Friesian exhibitors. The vision of Millie LeBoff, the 18th Annual Summer Classic was held August 2-4 at the much-used Eastern States Exposition Center in W. Springfield, Massachusetts.


LeBoff and her entire staff, including manager Jim Parks and secretary Nancy Galusha, make sure exhibitors have fun, first and foremost. Competition is a part of the weekend. However, FUN is emphasized from start to finish.


There are more than enough horses, ponies and equitation riders that will be making a strong statement in a couple of weeks but there are also an abundance of grassroots type classes for academy, open pleasure, novice rider, geriatric horses (over age 20), costumed dogs and stick horse riders. If that doesn’t interest you there are several parties including one of the best progressive aisle parties you’ll find anywhere. Also on the social schedule are a scavenger hunt and the always enjoyable ice cream sundaes that the show provides exhibitors on Saturday afternoon.


Jim Cherry came in from California to officiate in the Saddlebred, Hackney, roadster and equitation divisions, while John McDonald returned to New England to judge the Morgan division. John Bennett once again did a great job as announcer as did Bob Moseder behind the camera. The official panel at the Connecticut Summer Classic is a well-oiled machine that has worked together for a while. Kent Moeller was back as ringmaster and Jason Lawrence once again had control of the paddock area.


Some of the highlights of the competition included a couple of really nice gaited horses going at it in the open division. Our Secret Weapon and David Cater won the qualifier but Jan Lukens and The Echo Of Thunder came back with a bang on Saturday night to take the championship.


New England has been a little light on walk-trot horses lately, but the Connecticut Summer Classic changed that. New to the scene, Sue Me looked every bit a big-time walk-trot horse with Jan Lukens riding for Annika Bruggeworth. They won the championship and open class with The Cardiac Kid and Dorothy Riley as the reserve grand champions.


Kyle Gagnon was the catch rider above Amateur Three-Gaited Grand Champion Callaway’s Born A Star. The Maura Fratus entry had solid competition from juvenile winner The Martini Shot, ridden by Nicole Crawford. The Massaro family now has two black contenders showing from Lukens Stable. The newest, Albelarm Radiant Lady, was the Amateur Three-Gaited Champion ahead of Dr. Geraldine Meanor’s Prince Of The Day.


There’s nothing like showing and winning with a homebred and that’s exactly what Amanda O’Keefe Murchison got to do with Phinest Heirloom in the Open Three-Gaited Park division. In the amateur section, The Big Dance and Mystery Guest traded places from the qualifying round. Rick Daigle and The Big Dance took home the tricolor over qualifying winners Mystery Guest and Dianne Tambussi.


CH Can’t Touch This moved up a notch from the Junior Exhibitor Park qualifier to win the championship. CK One and Nicolette Powers claimed reserve honors ahead of qualifying winners Circle Of A Promise and Nicole McLaine.


The A-1 Three-Year-Old Park Sweepstakes always draws a nice crowd of horses and spectators to the ring. Jan Lukens rode away with the added money this year aboard Joellen Fisher Blount’s sporty youngster, Prince In The Park. Kevin Tomasko and Purrfect Petunia got the reserve money.


There was world-class talent in the harness division this year. World’s champion My Special Dream doesn’t seem to age as he was still marching enough to win the Fine Harness Championship and open class with Jon Douglas. Joellen Fisher Blount and Tornaado’s Tidal Wave were reserve with a good show in the open class.


Continuing a good season, Heartland Double Trouble was teamed with Raye Lynn Funkhouser to take the Road Pony Championship and open qualifying blue. In her first show, Extremely Beloved was the reserve grand champion for Mike Kropp. Rodney Hicks and the three-year-old Regal’s Calypso LF had been reserve in the qualifier.


The amateur division was filled with several nice ponies but none of them could knock off Dun-Haven Highly Impressive and Don Spann. They’ve made several victory passes this year under the Cater Stables banner. Nathan Roden and his Michigan’s Habanero claimed reserve grand champion honors, while Caroline Morrison and Heartland Yankee Strutter exited with the red steamers in the first round.


Connecticut Summer Classic usually draws a nice group of ponies and this year, followed suit. From Misty Hills Farm, the leg-waving Twin Willow’s Dimitri trotted out with the tricolor following his blue ribbon performance in the Open Harness Pony Class. Reserve to the grand champion was High Mark, an entry driven by Darlene Trento Wright.


Longtime supporters David and Janine LaSalle were on hand with Janine driving Sir Galahad to the Amateur Harness Pony blue. Bud Laivo and A Fine Affair took reserve. Turning into a New England legend, Totally Excellent added another tricolor to his career winnings. The Hackney Pony Championship and open class belonged to him and co-owner Betty Roden. New kids on the block, Sue Spann and Skymark applied the pressure as the reserve champions in both classes.


“Ruthie” rules in the east and she continued to do so. Miss Excellence (a.k.a. Ruthie) won her sixth and seventh titles of the year as the Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony Grand Champion and qualifying winner. Janet Crawford Hicks again provided the winning drives for Rodney Hicks Stables. AHHS Youth Medallion winners Meg Ryan and Time To Dance were the reserve grand champions in a good class. Mike Kropp and Prissy Devil took home the blue streamers from the Northeastern Hackney Pleasure Driving class.


It was great to see Frank Hester showing ponies.


Moving to the Saddlebred pleasure sections, it was no easy task winning the Five- Gaited Pleasure Championship. The extremely competitive class produced catch-riding Caroline Rose and CH Berry Garcia as the grand champion for injured owner Caroline Deshaies. Rick Daigle and Liquid Thunder stepped it up for reserve grand champion honors. Sharon Stoltz and Don’t Ask Why WRF made the victory pass in the qualifier.


One of the most consistent, yet extremely expressive, horses showing in New England, Pearl Buck’s Leading Lady swept the open park pleasure division with David Arnold riding for Gail Dearth. Turning in the best two classes of their short career, Twizzler and Tamara Dlugous were right there to be twice reserve in a deep division.


It was great to see Ann Jones back in the winner’s circle. She was riding Adult Show Pleasure Grand Champion Nothing But Class. Two reserves went to the extremely athletic He Is The Heir, ridden by Careen Dubuc. Third in the championship, Charm’s Top Cat claimed the first prize in the qualifier.


Ann Jones with Nothing But Class


Phoenix Stables had entries at the top in several places. Christie Milbury and the bold moving Spirited Edition found victory lane twice in the Junior Exhibitor 14-17 Show Pleasure division. Delta Phire and Kaci Holbrook turned back the other challengers as the reserve grand champions.


A sweep also occurred in the 13 & under section where Corporate Focus and Melina LaBonte were the stars for RMD Stables. Molly Maguill and SMD Capture The Moon were pleased with their reserve grand championship.


Millie LeBoff has the competitive fire of a woman half her age and it shows in the ring. She had lots of family and friends on hand as she drove the aptly named Drop Dead Gorgeous to the Show Pleasure Driving Championship. The Somersdream team put the grand champions together. LeBoff had been reserve in the qualifier to another nice talent, Unclaimed. This gifted star is the new entry for Jan Beardsley Blanco and Fairfield South. Herb Headwell and Mi American Gigolo finished as the reserve grand champions.


Millie LeBoff introduced her grandson Matthew

to her Show Pleasure Driving Grand Champion

Drop Dead Gorgeous and Sue Gethicker.


There seemed to be a lot of repeat winners in the pleasure divisions. Holli Esposito and Co-Ed’s Impressive Lady were two for two in the adult country competition as were Worthy’s Heirloom and Joellen Bennett in the junior exhibitor section. Reserve grand champions were Sports Bar with TJ Santaferra and Bella Dahl with Elena Vail, respectively.


Add to that, Dark Heiress and Pam Arruda were twice winners in country pleasure driving where Devon Garone and CH Heir Tight were twice reserve. Maverick’s Miracle Mike came from way back in the qualifier to take the Country Western Pleasure Championship for Ray Ann Merrill. Qualifying winner Cascade’s Cappuccino was reserve with Nancy Benson. Merrill also won the Shatner class with Mavericks Miracle Mike.


A good-sized turnout of Country Hunter Pleasure entries featured Rita Anne Whirlwind in the winner’s circle with Katie Bozeman riding. Specially Designed and Amanda Boutet sported the blue streamers in the first round.


Connecticut Summer Classic offers many fun classes to go with the serious. Caroline Rose and David Cater had fun taking turns aboard Patti Bartsch’s Mr. Rockefeller to win top honors in the Pro-Am class.


Fairfield South was home to the Saddle Seat Equitation Grand Champion Olivia Prentiss. She qualified with a blue ribbon ride in the NEHC Medal. From Wright Hall Stables, reserve grand champion Michaela Gillispie had won the NHS Good Hands class. Other equitation blues were awarded to Alexis Taylor Pearson, Meghann Wright, and Elizabeth Dirth.


Teamed with her new partner, Virtual Viper, Margaret McCool was a cool customer winning the Walk and Trot Equitation 9-10 Championship and qualifier. UPHA Walk and Trot Challenge Cup winner Emily Hodock was the reserve grand champion.


What a year it’s been for Kasey Saccocia. After sweeping the division at New England Morgan the week before, she comes to Connecticut Summer Classic and takes the Walk and Trot 8 & Under Championship. It was a championship stacked with top riders including reserve grand champion Molly Codeanne and third place finisher Clara McCool who had won the qualifier.

With New England Regional ending just four days before the star of Connecticut Summer Classic it’s hard to draw a large Morgan crowd, but each year a core group of supporters show up.


A star in the area for the past few years, KGA’s Center Stage captured the Morgan English Pleasure Championship and qualifier with David Arnold in the irons for Linda Dzicek. Cliff Rowe rode the reserve grand champion Angel’s Rare Gold.


Matthew Cole presented Tara’s Mandalay Bay to win the Amateur English Pleasure Championship and qualifying blue. Lisa Cullity had the reserve ride with Whispering Maximillian.


Jeff Doyle was the winning trainer/driver with Morgan Pleasure Driving Grand Champion MEM Let’s Go Girls, an entry owned by Laurel Malvezzi. Joe Burke drove Another World to the reserve grand championship. They placed that way in the qualifier as well.


Stanley Skwira and Eire Crest Center Stage delivered the good to command top honors in the Morgan Amateur Pleasure Driving Championship and qualifier. The Vine family’s Drakkar Noir was the amateur reserve grand champion.


No stranger to the winner’s circle, Mainistee Blaze Of Glory was twice a winner in the Morgan Classic Pleasure division with Elizabeth Tylawski up for John Bennett. If that wasn’t enough they also swept the driving division.


River’s Edge and Diana Zahrednik were two for two among the Morgan Western Pleasure competitors. The Morgan English/Western Pleasure Junior Exhibitor Championship and qualifier went to Chelsea Haber and That’s My Man. It was also a sweep for Kim Bernier and PAF Boomerang in the Morgan Hunter Pleasure division.


Talking about a complete horseman, David Arnold made victory passes aboard an American Saddlebred, a Morgan Horse, and a Friesian. He rode the ever-popular Jorritt to win the Friesian Pleasure Saddle Championship for Lou and Delia Fox.


This highlights some of the action from the 18th Annual Connecticut Summer Classic Horse Show. Complete results can be found by clicking here.


Seen at CT Summer Classic:


CT Summer Classic brings good friends together:
Carolyn Genatossio, Holli Esposito,

Cheryl Innis, Walter and Holly Armstrong.


Diane Flynn, Sally Gallagher, Heather Thompson,
Don Spann, and Jeannie Buiel were railside

 to support the Cater Stables riders and drivers.

Cindy McLeod, Rick Daigle, Susan Wagstaff
and Jessica McLeod were part of the
winning Fairfield South family.


Carly Lettre continued the family tradition
at Wright Way Stables.

Mom, Sarah Lettre was on the lead.

Rick and Leslee Hill were on hand to support

their winning daughters Katie and Ainsley.

Jill Saccocia showed Hattie for her
in-laws, Gary and
Rosemary Saccocia.

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