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New England’s $10,000 Night Out!


By Sadie Killian Fowler

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Spectators flooded Northampton’s indoor arena Friday night with great anticipation as to who would trot away with a $10,000 check as well as the esteemed Amateur Hunter Pleasure Grand Champion title under their belt.
It was the first time and only time (excluding the Morgan Breeders Sweepstakes) throughout the week in which classes had to be moved inside due to rain, however for this class it almost added to the excitement as the arena was jammed full of spectators cheering on their favorites. Every place on the rail was taken, every seat on the bleachers full.

This show-sponsored event was a follow up to the $10,000 Remember November winner-take all Amateur English Pleasure Championships, held in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Peggy Alderman, Rick Stevens and Rick Lane put their heads together a few years back when they had pledged the combined $30,000 from the Remember November Sale to the show in hopes of boosting excitement and attracting the nation’s best horses to compete at New England.

“The Remember November contributions did exactly what they were intended to do,” said Molly O’Brien on behalf of the New England Show Committee. “It generated great interest and promoted the show incredibly, and our thanks go out to Peggy, Rick and Rick for that.”

After realizing the success of the Remember November winner-take-all classes, the show made an amazingly generous pledge themselves: to continue what Alderman, Stevens and Lane had started by sponsoring a $10,000 winner-take-all class not only in 2006, but in the years to come as well.

“We plan to continue offering a winner-take-all $10,000 class each year, always in an amateur championship, but not necessarily the same class from one year to the next,” continued O’Brien. “The Show Committee will decide each year what amateur championship will be designated for the prize money -- so it could be Amateur Western Pleasure, Amateur Park Saddle, Amateur Pleasure Driving, etc…Our intent in doing so is to continue the spirit of the Remember November Sale donation.”

The show certainly didn’t go wrong by designating the Amateur Hunter Pleasure Championship as the first division to compete for the top prize money donated by the show. Twenty-eight amateur riders signed up to compete in front of judge John McDonald at 7p.m. Friday evening and going into the event, the money could have gone to any one of those entries as the quality of competitors was outstanding.

“The sheer number of entries and depth of quality in the Amateur Hunter Pleasure Championship, not to mention in our entire hunter pleasure division, was amazing. It was wonderful to see so many outstanding horses and riders competing for the big prize money – but certainly all who made the cut in the championship deserve a huge congratulations,” said O’Brien.

Show management had split the class into two sections and then McDonald narrowed it down by pulling seven horses from the first section and four horses from the second section to come back for another go. Stamina definitely was a key factor in this class as those chosen to come back were worked fully both ways of the ring before McDonald made his final decision.

After the 11 horses lined up, having given it their all not once, but twice, spectators waited nervously to hear Peter Fenton announce the winner. Night Out, with Jenny Grey up, emerged from the line as the winner of the $10,000 Amateur Hunter Pleasure Championship. Traveling all the way from Michigan, this great accomplishment added to an already outstanding week for Sterling Training Center in their first trip to New England. Their tack room was filled with tricolor and blue ribbons from numerous classes in several divisions. On another very special note, Sterling Farm’s trainer Katie Mair is winning rider Jenny Grey’s daughter!

“All I can say is wow!” said Grey following her big win Friday night. “I feel very honored to have won this class…there were some incredible horses in this class with so much talent. We only decided to enter this class about two weeks ago, so it was sort of a last minute decision to show here.”

Maybe it was a last minute decision, but it was certainly a wise decision to make their New England debut this year. Grey and Night Out were one of the clear frontrunners going into the championship as they had previously won the Amateur Stallions/Geldings Sec B class earlier in the week. In their only other show in 2006, Grey and Night Out topped the Hunter Pleasure Amateur Masters class at Gold Cup this year after closing out their 2005 show season as the Hunter Pleasure Amateur Masters World Champions in Oklahoma City.

Following behind the champions, another talented duo with a grand résumé should be congratulated for their reserve finish. Baby Ruth MHF with Nicole Peterson managed to stand out among the large crowd and carried the reserve streamers back to Merriehill Farm. Baby Ruth and Peterson came to New England after topping the very competitive Midwest Hunter Pleasure Championship and Amateur Hunter Pleasure Championship.

Rounding out the remaining ribbons were Bradvue’s Sudden Impact and Tori Mattozzi, VVM Simply Elegant and Jillian Zick, FZM Hale Bopp and Erica Santa, Indian Creek Belle Isle and Julie Byrn, Shaker’s Maribeles and Judy Fox, and FCF Valparaiso and Jennifer Cooley.

Starting out with Alderman, Stevens and Lane coming up with this idea, the success of the $10,000 winner-take-all classes over the past four years, and the generosity of the New England Morgan Horse Show for continuing this tradition, there’s no doubt this class will be one of the most talked about highlights of this grand show for years to come.

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