Wellington, FL – February 12, 2015 – Hunter competition moved into the spotlight during week six of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), sponsored by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, as braids and shadbellies took their turn in the International Arena at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).

As the week continues through February 15, hunter riders will set their sights on clinching a spot in the featured $100,000 USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Hunter Spectacular Saturday night. The event will be available worldwide via live stream. Tune in Saturday at 6:30pm ET: http://bit.ly/1Fwrqkr.

Live streaming continues throughout the week and includes Friday night’s $85,000 Salamander Hotels and Resorts Grand Prix CSI 3* at The Stadium. For a complete streaming schedule for events during WEF 6, click here: http://bit.ly/1CmvccN.

Scott Stewart captured the Equine Tack & Nutritionals First Year Green Hunter championship in the irons of David Gochman’s Remarkable to earn championship prizes, including the Music Row Perpetual Trophy, donated by Susan Stanley. Remarkable was first, third, and sixth over fences, along with a second in the under saddle.

Another one of Gochman’s horses, Catch Me, was named reserve champion in the Equine Tack & Nutritionals First Year Green Hunter. Catch Me was first and sixth over fences, combined with a win in the under saddle.

Scott Stewart and Remarkable

Scott Stewart and Remarkable

With the hunters taking center stage during WCHR week, Stewart commented on the change in atmosphere. “There is definitely a lot of pressure,” Stewart explained, “I think everyone brings their best horses and looks forward to peaking this week. Going out in the International Arena creates a whole different show environment, and it is something that requires extra preparation,” he said.

Continuing his winning ways, Stewart and Dr. Betsee Parker’s A Million Reasons swept the Wrenwood Farms High Performance Working Hunters to kick off Thursday’s competition by taking first in all classes and earning the Peterbilt Special Perpetual Trophy, donated by Leslie Clarke. No stranger to the winner’s circle, Stewart also piloted A Million Reasons to the championship prize in the High Performance Working Hunters during week two of WEF.

Stewart also finished the day as reserve champion with Fashion Farm’s Loyalty. Loyalty ended with two seconds and third over fences and fourth place in the under saddle.

Scott Stewart and A Million Reasons

Scott Stewart and A Million Reasons

Only half way through the day, Stewart was excited with how this week’s preparation at home had paid off in the show ring. “We set up a hard course at home to get ready. In our ring there are coops and other similar jumps to what is in the International Arena, so we have been able to have a little bit of a dress rehearsal,” Stewart noted.

Stewart’s domination of the hunter rings continued with champion honors in the Shapley’s Regular Conformation Hunter division aboard Dr. Betsee Parker’s seven-year old Oldenburg gelding Lucador. With a successful first half of the circuit already behind them, Stewart and Lucador have been champion each of the four weeks they have jumped together so far. Continuing their streak, the duo swept this week’s division winning the model, under saddle and all three over fences classes for champion. They were also presented with the Montoga Perpetual Trophy for their division victory.

“He’s been great – he was really good in the International Arena yesterday, so I wasn’t sure how impressed he would be today, but he really tried hard,” said Stewart of Lucador’s effort. “He’s naturally laid back, never spooks, and is pretty consistent everywhere. He doesn’t get bothered by a new ring.”

Stewart has piloted the gelding for Parker since the end of his pre-green year and has been blessed with success in all aspects of competition. “I don’t think he’s ever lost an under saddle,” said Stewart. “He couldn’t have been much better today.”

Scott Stewart and Lucador

Scott Stewart and Lucador

Reserve champion for the Regular Conformation Hunters was presented to Kelley Farmer and As Promised owned by Glefke, Farrington & Kensel, LLC. Farmer picked up fourth in the model, two thirds and a second over fences, and placed second to Stewart in the under saddle.

Brady Mitchell is hoping for his first-ever appearance in the $100,000 Hunter Spectacular this week and is well on his way after riding Cassanto to champion in the Equine Tack & Nutritionals Second Year Green division for owner Emily Perez. “If I get the opportunity, it would be like a dream come true,” said the young professional from Andre Dignelli’s Heritage Farm. “I’m a hunter lover, and I’ve always wanted to do it. It’s nice just to know that we are qualified.”

Cassanto also competes in the Junior Hunters with Perez. Mitchell was third under saddle and clinched two seconds and a first over fences for the title and the Pin Oak Farm Perpetual Trophy

“There’s no tricks to this one – he walked right into that [International] Arena yesterday and was all business,” said Mitchell of the eight-year old Holsteiner gelding. “He didn’t make any mistakes yesterday and jumped nice and sharp again today. He’s a very brave horse, but rarely touches a jump. I was a little nervous when I saw the ring after how impressive the International Arena was yesterday, but he stayed focused and had a nice day.”

Brady Mitchell and Cassanto

Brady Mitchell and Cassanto

Stewart claimed reserve champion with Cameo owned by Dr. Betsee Parker with a first, second and fifth over fences, and second under saddle.

Stephanie Danhakl’s First Light is recently destined for the 3’3” Amateur Hunters after she purchased him last week, but carried Scott Stewart to champion in the Shapley’s Green Conformation division on Thursday. The coming six-year-old Hanoverian stallion only left quarantine a month ago before shining in the hunter ring during WEF weeks four and five.

“I bought him off a video and didn’t know he was a stallion until it was too late,” laughed Stewart. “I thought he would be a pre-green horse, but he’s so brave I moved him into the 3’6”. He doesn’t really know exactly what he’s doing yet, but he does it so well.”

Stewart and First Light were fourth in the model, third under saddle, and earned two wins and a third over fences to claim the Wrenwood Farm Perpetual Trophy.

With wins in the model, under saddle and stake, Holly Orlando and Dominik, owned by Cathy Zicherman, claimed reserve champion for Green Conformation Hunters.

Scott Stewart and First Light

Scott Stewart and First Light

Highlighting additional champion presentations in the International Arena, Scott Stewart and Patricia Griffith were named champions in the CWD Saddlery Performance Working Hunter 3’6” with David Gochman’s Fredrick and Brooke Banks’ Brodeur, respectively. Christopher Payne and Maria Takacs’ Dominus split champion honors with Havens Schatt aboard Deborah Perkins’ High Time in the Amberway Equine Solutions Performance Hunter 3’3” division in the E.R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring.

WCHR competition will continue on Friday with championships for the Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunter divisions, the ECHO Junior Hunter 3’3” division, and the start of the Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunters and 3’6” junior hunter divisions.

Paige Johnson and Dakota Win $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 6

Competing in the sixth week of the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival, sponsored by her family’s Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Paige Johnson (USA) jumped to an exciting win in Thursday’s $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 6 riding Salamander Farm’s Dakota. Johnson and the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Calvados Ex Sable Rose x Cash) completed the fastest of 16 clear rounds out of 50 entries in the class over a speed track set by
Richard Jeffery (GBR).

With hunter action taking center stage on the main show grounds during WEF six, the jumpers are competing in the beautiful International Ring at The Stadium at PBIEC for their highlight classes this week. The day’s competition came down to the final three rounds with Johnson and Dakota 48th to go out of 50 competitors. The pair raced through the timers in 69.69 seconds for the win. They stole the lead from Harrie Smolders (NED) and Axel Verlooy’s Emerald, whose time of 70.02 seconds finished in second place. Brianne Goutal (USA) and Remarkable Farm LP’s Wirma placed third in 70.15 seconds.

Paige Johnson and Dakota

Paige Johnson and Dakota

Thursday’s win marked Johnson’s first victory in the competitive WEF Challenge Cup Series and a great moment in her partnership with Dakota.

“I have never won a WEF (Challenge Cup) here, so this is exciting,” Johnson smiled. “It is hard to win the WEF classes. It is hard to win in general down here. It is so competitive, and there are so many good riders. You have to ride well and have a little luck that day.”

“She has been really great lately,” Johnson said of Dakota. “I got her at the end of her nine-year-old year. She is 12 now. The lady I bought her from had her since was five, so they had a real bond and I think it took us a little time to get to know each other. Mares are very particular and she is a great horse, but I think we had to create a partnership. We seem to understand each other now. I know what buttons to push, and what buttons not to push, and she has been great this circuit. We have had several double clear rounds and lots of placings. I am really happy with her consistency and now this win is just icing on the cake.”

Johnson’s trainer of three years, Kent Farrington, was the winner of this class last year and was there watching from the sidelines as his student galloped to victory.

“I didn’t get to see Harrie go. I was already on, but I have a great trainer and he just told me what the plan was and I tried to execute it,” Johnson said of her round. “The plan was just to be really smooth. We didn’t do any leave outs. Everyone did the same numbers basically, so it was just being as neat as possible and keeping an even pace throughout the course.”

“What I have learned from Kent is the focus,” Johnson said of her trainer. “He is super focused and I always have been, but when you have a trainer that is that way too, you seem to pick up on those habits even more. When he sets his mind to a plan, he goes for it. He believes that he can win every class. I think that is a great mentality to have, and I am learning that.”

“Sometimes you might go in and think it is not your horse’s course and you want to go for a double clean and be neat because you don’t know if you can win it,” Johnson continued. “Kent tells me, ‘No, you can win this, and you need to go in there and believe that you can win it.’ I am learning that part of it. Don’t sell yourself short. You are capable of it, and your horses are capable of it, so you need to do it.”

Johnson explained that she has spent some time building up her string of horses and is happy to see the hard work coming to fruition.

“We have a good string of horses. I have had a couple of years where I was trying to build up the string again, so it takes a lot of patience,” she said. “It is a tough sport and there are a lot of ups and downs, so you just have to be persistent and stick with it. You put in the hard work and hope that it pays off, and it is paying off. I have a great team of people around me. I am putting the time in, and they are putting their time into me, and it is working out nicely so far.”

Paige Johnson and Dakota in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia and father Bob Johnson

Paige Johnson and Dakota in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia and father Bob Johnson

WEF 6 continues on Friday featuring the $85,000 Salamander Hotels & Resorts Grand Prix CSI 3* in the International Ring at The Stadium at 7 p.m. In the International Arena on the main show grounds, the Shamrock Ventures Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3″ 18-35, FarmVet Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3″ Over 35, and ECHO Junior Hunter 3’3″ divisions will award championship honors. For full results and more information, please visit www.pbiec.com.

Final Results: $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 6

1. DAKOTA: 2003 Belgian Warmblood mare by Calvados Ex Sable Rose x Cash
PAIGE JOHNSON (USA), Salamander Farm: 0/69.69

2. EMERALD: 2004 Belgian Warmblood stallion by Diamant de Semilly x Carthago
HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED), Euro Horse Bvba Axel Verlooy: 0/70.02

3. WIRMA: 2003 KWPN mare by Hors La Loi III x Lux
BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/70.15

4. CASPER: 2006 Oldenburg gelding by Contender x Baloubet du Rouet
ANDREW BOURNS (IRL), Andrew Bourns: 0/70.37

5. VALINSKI S: 2002 KWPN gelding by Nikinski x Julius
BEN MAHER (GBR), Wyndmont: 0/70.92

6. WAYFARER: 2006 gelding by Languster x Unknown
PETER LEONE (USA), Lionshare Farm: 0/72.00

7. MAKAVOY: 2003 KWPN gelding by Hors La Loi II x Ahorn
BEN ASSELIN (CAN), Attache Stables: 0/72.11

8. PUMPED UP KICKS: 2003 Brandenburg gelding by Levisto x San Juan
LILLIE KEENAN (USA), Chansonette Farm LLC: 0/72.31

9. VENTURO 9: 2005 Belgian Sport Horse stallion by Canturo x Nabab de Reve
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 0/72.53

10. FOR FREEDOM Z: 2005 Zangersheide gelding by For Pleasure x Baloubet du Rouet
KEEAN WHITE (CAN), Angelstone Partners: 0/72.86

11. ABUNOLA: 2005 KWPN mare by Numero Uno x Voltaire
LUIS PEDRO BIRABEN (ARG), Luis Pedro Biraben: 0/72.87

12. ZZ TOP VH SCHAARBROEK Z: 2001 Zangersheide gelding by Zandor Z x Latus I
EMANUEL ANDRADE (VEN), Emanuel Andrade: 0/73.23

Photo Credit: Photos © Sportfot, An Official Photographer of the Winter Equestrian Festival, us.sportfot.com. These photos may be used only in relation to this press release and must include photo credit.