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Penn National Holding On To Saddlebred Participation

by Bob Funkhouser


HARRISBURG, Penn. - At the risk of sounding like a badly, broken record it remains a mystery to me why trainers and exhibitors will not support the shows which require a little effort and/or sharing of the stage, yet have a tremendous upside with a real live audience? Penn National falls into the same category as Devon, Eastern States, the former Cow Palace, the former National Horse Show and to some degree current day Lexington Junior League. In case no one is paying attention, the word – former - is attached to a couple of these unique venues. It won’t take much for a few more to be added to that list.


Last year a core group of supporters got together and made a strong push to get more Saddlebreds and ponies to the show that features a nationally televised Grand Prix, and a world class draft horse division. Exhibitors responded with a slight increase but then this year dropped the ball again.


Some of the schedule was rearranged, not necessarily to the benefit of the Saddlebred world. Also, the few pony classes that had been added last year were dropped and that didn’t sit well with the pony exhibitors who were trying to do their part. Neither of these factors helped to keep the entries up, but overall it was the Saddlebred world that again missed the opportunity to entertain a large and responsive audience.


Peter Doubleday was once again at the helm of this, the 62nd annual Penn National Horse Show. John T. Jones of Versailles, Ky., was Doubleday’s judge for the Saddlebred division, and Jones was joined in the ring by photographer Shane Shiflet.


Hats off to those who did make the trip to Harrisburg, Penn., and the all-indoor Pennsylvania State Farm Show Arena. They provided the cheering crowds with some nice classes with several top individual performances. The NHS Good Hands Finals was again the highlight although it was down in riders as well.


When Judge Anne Judd tabulated her scores following the individual workouts, DeLovely Farm was in the winner’s circle for the third consecutive year. It was Mandy Martin in 2005, Alexandra Flynn in ’06 and the newest winner of this prestigious Final was the multi-titled world champion Brittany McGinnis. The Lillian Shively/Todd Miles team continues to turn out the best of the best in the Good Hands Finals.


Brittany McGinnis and Amandari


“For her it was a dream come true,” said winning instructor Lillian Shively. “Brittany set high goals from day one and she has put the work into it. We’ve had a few issues with the mare this year as she got hurt in the stall but when Brittany hits the gate she puts everything she has into it no matter what the situation. As one instructor said, she went in and executed the workout. That’s what she does, executes.


“The best thing about Brittany is she is the same whether she wins or loses. I’m not telling you she enjoys losing, but she accepts what is given to her, and if she loses she comes back and works even harder. That’s the sign of a champion. She also has an outstanding support system with her family.”


Also showing great consistency, Jacqueline Beck repeated as the reserve national champion. Beck has the benefit of instruction from both Zubrod Stables and Rancho Del Mar.


Jacqueline Beck (center) with Cindy Boel

and her mother, Melissa Beck


Cape Cod was home for third place finisher Sara Jane Smith. World’s champion of champions Ali Judah was next for Premier Stables and she was followed by Emily Abbott, Jessica Moctezuma, Kyle Gagnon, Ellen Medley Wright, Alexandria Simpson and Lindsay Haupt.


Kathy Boggs (l) and Erin Richey (r) were proud

of Sara Jane Smith on her third place finish

in the NHS Good Hands Finals.


The Open Five-Gaited class had plenty of firepower as Michael Richardson rode Kate Grom’s reserve world’s champion Whimsicality to the spotlight victory pass. Darlene Trento Wright and the ground covering Cameo Appearance were crowned reserve champions for Jodie Goff. Last year’s grand champion The Big Storm was third with Mike Spencer up again for Minna Hankin Mintz.


Mike Richardson and Whimsicality

represented Revelation Farm.


The crowd at Harrisburg loved Carson Kressley and they applauded his every pass. He didn’t disappoint them in the Amateur Five-Gaited Championship that he won with Enchanting Memories. The beautiful bay mare and the longtime exhibitor/celebrity also took command of the amateur qualifier. Hard riding Jean Heiney was twice reserve aboard Harlem For President.


A great supporter of both Devon and the Penn National, Mike Spencer was present with Minna Hankin Mintz’s stock, one of those entries being The New Kid, winner of the Junior/Novice Five-Gaited class for the second straight year. Gary Guz and Beautiful Stranger OCF were second. Jan Lukens and Perfectly Designed had the ring to themselves in the UPHA Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited Classic.


Brittany McGinnis added to her young, but storied career by winning the Three-Gaited Grand Championship with Ostentatiously. With white legs pumping, Ostentatiously also won the open class with the NHS Good Hands National Champion rider. Steve Demjen rode the always-competitive CH Caramac’s Norma Rae to reserve in both walk-trot classes for Stacey Bare.


It was a great week for Dr. Geraldine Meanor who debuted with the recently crowned reserve world’s champion of champions CH Steel In Love. Under the direction of Nealia McCracken, Dr. Meanor and CH Steel In Love were right on target with their performance in the four-horse Amateur Three-Gaited Championship. It was a tricolor victory pass back to Northwind Stables. Margo Coleman and the athletic Sir Andrew commanded reserve grand champion honors just ahead of Page Six and Diana Kressley Billig. In the qualifying round Margot Harwood and CH SJ Like A Champ made the trip down victory lane ahead of CH Steel In Love and two others.


CH Steel In Love and Dr. Geraldine Meanor


Warming up for the three-gaited pony division at the American Royal, Hunter Chancellor and World’s Champion The Attaché Orchid swept the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Championship and qualifier. The DeLovely team was followed by the talented reserve grand champions CH Absolutely Exquisite and Tara Grom.


Hunter Chancellor


Fresh from the Amateur Three-Gaited Championship at Octoberfest, Annika Bruggeworth and Sue Me entertained the Penn National audience as the Junior/Novice Three-Gaited Champions.


There was an abundance of talent in the park division, by far the deepest of the show. In her final rides before turning the reins over to her daughter, Allie Percoco, Paula Percoco and the leg-waving CH Cagin Martini won the Open Three-Gaited Park class before finishing the weekend, making the last pass as the Three-Gaited Park Grand Champions. No stranger to top prizes, Perfect Vengeance was a show horse every step of the way to take home two reserves for Tara Grom. Carson Kressley was in the mix with a good third place finish in the championship.


John Champagne owned the fine harness division. Having gained quite a fan club since their reserve world’s grand champion performance back in August, Seaforth’s Bonnie Lass paraded as the open and grand champion going uncontested for Champagne and owner Margo Harwood. Champagne also sent Sheri Wechsler and Kiri to the winner’s circle as they made both victory passes in the amateur division. Charlie Jones drove Hawkwing to reserve for Margaret Biggs.


The lone pony classes offered were the Open Road Pony and its championship. Both times the Jim and Jenny Taylor-trained It’s Go Time and Becky Brayton, came away with the top prize. Reserve to the champions in both rounds were Regal’s Memory Maker LF and Michael Richardson.


Becky Brayton and her sister

and trainer, Jenny Taylor


Results were the same in both gaited pleasure classes with Meg Ryan and CH Rastafarian on top for the Gary Guz Stables. Northwind Stables claimed reserve honors with Jessica Moctezuma riding Bare Assets.


With her newest mount, Sultan’s Zorba, Annika Bruggeworth had the thrill of a Penn National victory pass in the Adult Show Pleasure Championship while riding under the Jan Lukens banner. They got to practice that victory pass when they won the Three-Gaited Show Pleasure class to qualify. Adult qualifying winners Cocktail Ring and Joellen Fisher Blount finished with the reserve championship.


Revelation Farm was home for Junior Exhibitor Show Pleasure Grand Champion Stonehedge Supreme Contender. It was the second victory pass of the week for Tara Grom and Supreme Contender. Moving up a notch, Taylor Bisanzio and The Talk Of Savannah went home as reserve grand champions.


Tara Grom and Stonehedge Supreme Contender


Coming back with a much better performance, CH Stella De Oro was crowned the Show Pleasure Driving Grand Champion with Babs Patterson in the cart for Barbara Billingsley. Having already collected the blue prize in the qualifier Tangled Dreams and Laurie Behr had to settle for the reserve grand championship.


Rockin The Blues was rockin’ the house as the Adult Country Pleasure Grand Champions. They had to be sharp as Adult Country Pleasure Champion CH Titleist Commander was back with another good performance to take reserve grand champion honors for Traci Massaro.


Jean Heiney was victorious with Rockin The Blues

in the Adult Country Pleasure Championship.


Uwharrie’s Patriot Sage and El Patron were one-two in both the Junior Exhibitor Country Pleasure qualifier and championship. Tara Grom and Penny Stuart were the respective riders.


It was also a sweep for Mahvalous Guy and Jayne Romano who had swept the country pleasure driving division at Octoberfest just a few weeks ago. They earned the same titles at Harrisburg to join daughter Paula Percoco and Cagin Martini in celebration. Megan Adams put Genius Poetic Genius in the right spots for the reserve grand championship.


Northwind Stables locked down the Country Western Pleasure titles as Pat Johnson and Pachelbel’s Canon wore the tricolor streamers from the ring ahead of stablemate CH A Magic Surprise who is owned by Johnson and was winner of the open class.


That wrapped up the competition from the 62nd Pennsylvania National. Hopefully trainers and exhibitors will once again have the opportunity to showcase the American Saddlebred for the hundreds of daily spectators that make their way to the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Arena. Full results can be seen and searched by clicking here.

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