Saratoga Classic Kicks Off With Stellar Competition for Week One

Saratoga Classic Horse Shows awards 10 grand champion awards sponsored by Ride Every Stride each week and presents stunning perpetual trophies to the winners. Photo by Jess Windhurst Photography

Stillwater, NY – The Saratoga Classic I Horse Show began with a full schedule of hunter and jumper classes on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at White Hollow Farm in Stillwater, NY. With two horses brand new to the hunter ring, John French of Wellington, FL, walked away with five blue ribbons. The show continues through Sunday, June 16, and is near full capacity of entries for the week.

After a successful series in May, horse show management showcased new jumps and welcomed both new and familiar faces to the main hunter ring for a week of World Champion Hunter Rider competition. French competed for the first time at Saratoga Horse Shows in 2023, and that experience brought him back this year.

“It’s a nice setting here in upstate New York, and it’s a good place to bring some young horses that haven’t really shown before,” said French. “I like the rings here, and it’s a good place to start them.”

Kaiden GPH made the switch to the hunter ring successful in his first outing with John French. Photo by Jess Windhurst Photography

Two of his mounts just joined the barn last month. Kaiden GPH, a nine-year-old KWPN stallion (Chaman x Crawford) owned by Little Brook LLC, won all three classes in the Green Hunter 3’3” division.

French was alerted to Kaiden when the horse was competing in the 1.35m Jumpers in California. He flew out to try him and knew right away that Kaiden was destined for the hunter ring. “I didn’t want anybody to see me trying him. I left the show and didn’t say hi to anybody!” he laughed. “I wanted to get in and out before somebody saw me.

“As soon as I got him, he was really light in the mouth – which I like – and has a great canter,” he continued. “After today I think we should take him to the [USHJA Green Hunter] Incentive Championships.”

While Kaiden made the switch in disciplines, French’s horse in the Green Hunter 3’ division was bought specifically to be a hunter by Olympic show jumper Kent Farrington, with whom French is a business partner. Cygnet stayed at Farrington’s jumper barn in Wellington this past winter and did not compete. When French moved his base of operation for the summer to Bedminster, NJ, Cygnet joined him.

Six-year-old Cygnet competed in his first horse show on Wednesday, taking home two blue ribbons with French. Photo by Jess Windhurst Photography

“He was never to be a jumper; Kent bought him because he’s so pretty and moves well,” said French of the six-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Greco Sitte. “We had him for a couple weeks after the winter circuit ended and before we came up here. I had only ridden him three or four times. I’m happy that both my horses that have never shown before were superstars.”

Despite a long and storied career in the hunter ring, French still gets excited by finding undiscovered horses and guiding them to success.

“That is the most fun for me, finding horses that I think have the talent and they haven’t done it or gotten a ‘name,’” he affirmed. “I like bringing them along and starting them from the beginning, like I did with Babylon and Paradigm, who had never done hunters before. The thrill comes from bringing them along rather than going out and buying the winner; I like making the winner.”

French will aim to continue his winning ways on Thursday when the professional hunter divisions finish and champions are awarded. Kaiden will also compete with owner Lauren Little in the Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunters.

Laena Romond and Forsini are using the Saratoga Classic to prepare for the 2024 USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships. Photo by Jess Windhurst Photography

When horse shows opened back up in 2020 due to the pandemic, Heritage Farm made the choice to attend Saratoga Horse Shows for the first time. It was their first horse show back, and trainers and clients alike loved the experience.

“We love the town, and we love the management,” said trainer Laena Romond. “Showing hunters in Saratoga is really nice because the ring is big, and they always have new, different, and interesting jumps. For us it’s a very user-friendly show. We add more dates in Saratoga every year and now we’re regulars.”

Romond used the hunter ring as preparation for the group of green equitation horses that arrived at Heritage Farm following the winter circuit. In addition, she competed with Lexi Maounis’s Forsini in the Performance Hunters, a division they won during the Saratoga Spring II Horse Show.

The plan for Forsini is to target the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships in August. “For him in particular, it was nice to come back after the May show and feel like we were walking into a new ring,” remarked Romond. “The main hunter ring has nice atmosphere here. When we get to a bigger event with a greener horse, they’re not overwhelmed by atmosphere after being here. Returning this week was another new experience for the horse, and it’s been really helpful for him.”

Forsini will return to compete on Friday and Saturday in the Amateur-Owner Hunter division with Maounis.

Saratoga Classic Horse Shows awards 10 grand champion awards sponsored by Ride Every Stride each week and presents stunning perpetual trophies to the winners. Photo by Jess Windhurst Photography

Saratoga Classic I Horse Show Highlights

Thursday, June 13

$5,000 1.35m Welcome

Professional Hunter Champions and Grand Hunter Champion award

Friday, June 14

$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby

Saturday, June 15

$25,000 Saratoga Grand Prix

$10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby

Sunday, June 16

$1,000 Non-Pro Hunter Derby and Grand Hunter Champion awards

For more information on the Saratoga Horse Shows, visit www.saratogahorseshows.com.


About Saratoga Horse Shows

Now in its 26th year, Saratoga Horse Shows will offer nine USEF-rated competitions on the 2024 show calendar, along with an additional seven schooling show dates. Managed by Southbound Saratoga Management Group and held at White Hollow Farm in Stillwater, New York, Saratoga Horse Shows is situated on more than 100 acres and located eight miles from downtown Saratoga Springs. With eight large arenas featuring state-of-the-art drainage and all-weather performance footing, permanent and tented stabling, and turnout paddocks, it is the ideal place to show during the spring and summer months. Visit www.saratogahorseshows.com to learn more.