Lexington, Ky. – Oct. 30, 2019 – Wednesday morning at the 136th annual National Horse Show brought top hunter horse-and-rider combinations to the Alltech Arena of the Kentucky Horse Park. As the oldest indoor horse show in the United States, the National Horse Show has earned a permanent spot on the calendars of many elite professionals and amateurs who make the trip from far and wide to vie for the titles and perpetual trophies up for grabs each year. Following Tuesday’s start to the hunter divisions, the first round of championship honors were awarded for the 2019 National Horse Show on Wednesday. Of the contenders, it was Dr. Betsee Parker’s Lucador, piloted by Scott Stewart, who received the Grand Champion Professional Hunter title. Stewart also went on to claim the Leading Hunter Rider trophy for his 13th time, while Becky Gochman and Catch Me earned the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter trophy, walking away with the iconic black cooler embroidered with the National Horse Show historic emblem.
Stewart and Lucador have a long standing history of excellence together. After years of accumulating tricolor ribbons across the nation, the pair earned their final Grand Champion Professional Hunter title in their last show together. Stewart and the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding earned their points in the High Performance Hunter division, taking top three placings in all of the over fences classes and first in the under saddle class over the course of the two days, resulting in their championship honors in the division. Lucador’s name is already etched on the Grand Champion Hunter Trophy four times, adding his name once again to the coveted centerpiece in 2019 for the fifth time. The talented horse will go on to compete in the Junior 3’3” Hunters 15 and Under with Maddie Tosh, a transition that is bittersweet for Stewart as their successful partnership comes to a close.
During the awards ceremony, Stewart was once again invited back to the arena for the Meralex Farm Leading Hunter Rider Award for the Leading Hunter Rider Challenge Trophy. Phenomenally, this was Stewart’s thirteenth time placing his name on the Leading Hunter Rider Challenge Trophy, which was originally donated by Mr. and the late Mrs. Kenneth Wheeler. The well-known hunter rider accumulated his points towards the trophy with a whopping seven horses, including Everwonder, Cabrio, Critics’ Choice, Lucador, Private Life, Catch Me and Cameo.
Also returning competitors to the National Horse Show, Gochman and Catch Me, owned by Gochman Sport Horse LLC, clinched the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter title for the “Ruxton & Scot To Do” Challenge Trophy. The pair made a clean sweep in the Amateur Owner 3’6” Hunter 36+ division, winning every single class for a perfect 40 points. This is Gochman and the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding’s second year in a row securing the Ellen Van Dyke-donated trophy. With “Snoopy,” Gochman has found much success in the Amateur divisions across the country, most recently taking Grand Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter Champion at the Washington International Horse show.
The excitement will continue at the National Horse Show at 8:00 p.m. in the Alltech Arena with the debut of jumpers in the form of the $36,000 Free x Rein Open Jumper Welcome Speed class. The remainder of the week will showcase the $135,000 International Jumper Classic, $36,000 EquiJet Accumulator Class and National Horse Show $50,000 Hunter Classic, presented by Friends of the National Horse Show. The weekend’s feature events will be the $25,000 Hollow Brook Wealth Management Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur Owner/Junior Jumper Grand Prix, $225,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup ™ Lexington and the Maclay National Championship for the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship Class, presented by Chansonette Farm.
Scott Stewart – Grand Champion Professional Hunter & Meralex Farm Leading Hunter Rider Award winner
“He has been great every year sine Betsee [Parker] bought him as a pre-green horse. This is his last show with me so it was a great way to end with an awesome win. It is bittersweet that this is my last show with him, but I had probably one of my best rounds today so that was great. He might go Friday night – Betsee and I will talk about it – but it couldn’t get any better than going out champion. He has definitely been champion and grand champion everywhere.”
On Lucador’s progression:
“He has pretty much been the same horse since he was four years old. He can be really great but also show his not-so-good side sometimes but he actually behaved really well here. He has always been really confident about the jumps and a beautiful mover and jumper. It has been great. We haven’t really over-shown him – he has only really shown seven or eight times over the past few years so he has stayed pretty fresh.”
On the courses:
“I thought the courses were great both days. Really, for the first time in a while, we were able to gallop around a little which really suited a lot of horses. I think they were some of the best courses of the year; Bobby did a great job. The jumps were beautiful and he did an excellent job.”
On Catch Me:
“He went amazing yesterday. We had a little bit of bad luck today and he hit one that ended up coming out of the cups. He was so much fun though and he is just an amazing animal. [I skipped riding him at WIHS] because Becky [Gochman] got to show him first there and he was perfect. I figured I didn’t need to make him go around again knowing that he would need to go here. He can still be, on the odd day, a little bit spooky so when he was great there I figured I would do him here.”
On being the Leading Hunter Rider:
“It feels great! It is something I always try to achieve but it is getting harder every year so I am really happy about it.”
On competing at the National Horse Show:
“It is awesome. It is a great way to wrap up the year and it is a fantastic horse show. My favorite part is riding in that ring, it makes it really fun!”
Dr. Betsee Parker – Owner of Lucador
On Lucador’s future:
“Lucador is now headed for Maddie Tosh, the expert rider of a 3’3” Junior Hunter who is 15 and under, for the last two years of his show career. Scott feels that she is ready to take the reins and Lucador has proven everything he can in this division, so we are really excited to see him in his new incarnation next year.”
On Scott Stewart:
“Scott and I have worked together and known each other a long time and every time I watch him I feel like I am watching a work of art in progress. When I watch him ride my horses I never feel like I ever could have done any better because, to me, he is the consummate rider I never could have been and never have been. I really am his biggest fan. Over all of these years, there are so many people that have appreciated him. He and I are like brother and sister, we are in contact every single day and I could never tell Scott how grateful I am for him.”
On Scott’s partnership with Lucador:
“I was looking at some of Scott’s results over the years and he has ridden an awful lot of horses for many years, but I think of all the champions he has had, he has had the most championships on him just because of the length of time he has been riding him.”
On being at the National Horse Show:
“We love the Kentucky Horse Park and everything they do here for the industry, and how they showcase the horses to the whole world. We just think that is wonderful, there is no place like this.”
Becky Gochman – Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter
On Catch Me’s courses on Wednesday:
“Today, he just went into the stake and he picked up a great rhythm. We had a very solid plan coming in on how to ride it and we kept with the plan. He never changed his pace once and again wanted to be such a good boy. He proved himself as an Amateur horse! He can do the High Performance, he can do the Amateurs, and he likes both divisions. He knows when he wins and he loves it. He is a true show horse and I feel lucky every day to have a horse of such caliber with a cute personality at the same time. The clean sweep does not happen very often and I feel really great about that! I did go in pretty relaxed today but I did have the clean sweep in the back of my mind – it was kind of my goal. I just allowed myself to relax and let everything happen so it was the icing on the cake! He is such a special horse and I think everything he gets, he deserves. To do a clean sweep just makes it more fantastic.”
On what is next for Catch Me:
“He has been great at all of indoors and was champion in every horse show we took him to! I think he will probably get a big rest now. There is no pressure to show very much at the Winter Equestrian Festival so our plan is always to take it easy and make sure he has a really nice life. He will get a lot of turnout in Florida – he loves to lay down in the sun when he gets there and eat grass while laying down! He will be excited to get to Florida where he will get a lot of good care and rest there. He is easy to get to the ring and he is easy on himself in every way, so we have made that a mantra for his life.”
On training with Scott Stewart:
“He tells me to not move up in the lines too much because Catch Me has a big stride. He tells me to look forward, to stay over after the jumps and to go a little slower around the turns in an indoor arena. He is relaxed about ‘Snoopy’ now so he doesn’t have to give me too many directions, but we do go over the course a few times, otherwise, I forget it! As easy as hunter courses are, I have to get them in my brain. My rides are a little bit easier when Scott takes him in first just because he is a bit of a spooky horse so we have to allow him to look at the fences a little bit and not freak out that he might do anything wrong. I know that is part of him and that is why his jump is so great, it is just how he likes to go. I think Scott has taught me to be respectful of Snoopy’s style and how to let him be him.”
On her partnership with Catch Me:
“‘Snoopy’ is the horse of a lifetime because he has all the movement in the world under saddle and the form over fences, which you don’t get very often. His mouth is as light as a feather so he goes in the lightest rubber bit there is. You never really have to tough the reins on him and he is highly intelligent. He knows what to do to win and he enjoys jumping correctly. [Snoopy] has so much talent and has been brought along correctly and slowly by Cookie Beck and Scott Stewart. He has had a lot of magic put into him which really equates to a lot of hard work. His talent makes him so special and I will never have another horse like him. Sambalino and Catch Me were both horses of a lifetime and I am thankful to be able to sit on horses like that. Sometimes I think about Sambalino when I am going around the ring and I feel like Sambalino still gives me a little power there. I feel like both of them have been incredible mounts.”
On competing at the National Horse Show:
“I would just like to thank the National Horse Show for having such beautiful courses and natural fences, and my competitors who are so fun to ride with, I appreciate all of them. My heart is filled with gratitude for my horses, the sport and my family.”