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Press Release


Claire Azar and Lucky Times

Sophie Gochman and World Time

Mimi Gochman and Romance

Claire Azar and Playboy

Vivian Yowan and Character

Martha Ingram and Absolut

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Photographs may be used free of charge only in relation to the PMG press releases they pertain to.

Junior Riders Show Supersized Talent in the Hunter Ring During Week Two of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival

Written by: Elaine Wessel
Client: Morrissey Management Group (MMG)
Release Date: 2015-07-10

Traverse City, MI – July 10, 2015 – The third day of competition served as the first day of showing for the Junior Hunters at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, and although they may be young, a number of select riders proved to have talent beyond their years. Horses and riders still have to return to the ring tomorrow to earn a champion title, but the Gochman sisters, Claire Azar, Vivian Yowan and Martha Ingram all solidified their claims as formidable contenders with strong performances resulting in top placings today in their respective divisions.

It took the Gochman family approximately 18 hours to make the trek from their home base in New York City to the northern sector of Michigan, but judging by the two young girls’ strong placings today, it seems the trip was worthwhile. Sisters Sophie and Mimi Gochman, ages 12 and 10 respectively, dominated the Junior Hunters at the 3’3” height this afternoon, riding their way to the first through fourth positions in the first class of the division, as well as three of the top four spots in the second, much to the chagrin of the 11 other entrants in the division.

Five horses were split between the two girls, with World Time and Romance ultimately earning the largest share of the points for the young riders. Sophie navigated World Time to the first and third place finishes, closely followed by Mimi and Romance in the points after a second and fourth ranking by the judges. The girls’ affection for their horses, both owned by father David Gochman, was apparent as they praised the geldings following their impressive rides.

“Romance can get a bit spicy sometimes, especially when you jog him, but he is a dream to ride,” Mimi noted of her mount. Mimi’s younger sister proclaimed her horse, World Time, to be a lover of candies and kisses, both of which he will surely receive plenty of after his top placings with Sophie today.

The girls have been riding horses since the ripe age of 18 months, following in their mother’s footsteps as lovers of the equestrian sport. Although the girls’ father doesn’t ride, he has his own stake as the patriarch of such an involved equine family, as well as generously sponsoring the four weeks of the Traverse City-based horse show.

“We love this show, and have been here the past three years, but came a few times before that too,” mimed the sisters. “It’s a really long drive, but it’s worth it.”

In the same division with the fences raised to a height of 3’6”, a collection of riders for the 15 and under age group took to the ring hoping to earn the advantage headed into tomorrow’s competition. Last week, Claire Azar’s grey gelding Lucky Times earned the title of champion with fellow rider Emma Wujek aboard, but this time it was the owner in the saddle. Azar and her mount navigated the over fences and handy rounds to the tune of the first and fifth places to take the early lead in the division.

“Lucky is so sweet and gentle. I love that about him. He is great to ride if you are patient and he can jump out of any distance, which gives me a lot of confidence,” the leader commented of her horse. “I liked the course a lot today too, and it played well to our strengths. There were lots of rollbacks and a trot jump in the handy, but it wasn’t a problem for us.”

The high school freshman, out of Indianapolis, Indiana, only recently acquired Lucky Times at the end of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, but has accumulated a number of wins with him in that short time. The pair is coming off a strong performance last month at the Showplace Spring Spectacular in Wayne, Illinois, and they are hoping to qualify for the ASPCA Maclay Finals in the fall. Azar also owns Playboy, who she rode to a blue ribbon in the show ring today as well, but chose to only enter him in one of the day’s classes. Described as sassy by his rider-owner, Playboy is a relatively new addition to Azar’s horses, having been purchased last fall, and is her main mount in the equitation ring. She and “Hef,” as he is known in the barn, also hope to compete in the equitation indoor finals later this year.

The young rider was just recently listed as one of five Junior riders to keep an eye on according to the equestrian blog “Meg At…” based out of Wellington, Fla.

“I remember seeing the article and thinking it would be cool and interesting to read, but I didn’t expect to be in it! I saw it and thought ‘Oh my gosh that’s me!’ ” Azar reflected with a smile.

The pair will look to retain their lead tomorrow for the conclusion of their portion of the division and defend Lucky’s title for another week.

The eldest age section of the Junior Hunters, the 16- and 17-year-olds, was next to showcase themselves in the hunter ring, and it looked to be a three-horse race between Boggs Hill Farm’s Anytime, Belhaven Stables LLC’s Character, and the Ingram Family’s Absolut. Vivian Yowan had the rides aboard Anytime and Character, while Martha Ingram was in the irons on mount Absolut. The two riders proved why they consistently top the judges’ cards, as they were the only two competitors to successfully compete an inside option rollback turn to the final birch oxer during the handy round. All other pairs either took the longer approach around another obstacle, or risked the tighter turn and ended up with a run-out.

The points are very close after today’s exhibition, which should prove for an exciting finale as it will come down to tomorrow’s performances to determine the overall winner. Character currently sits atop the leaderboard with a first and second place finish, but is trailed closely by Anytime with the first and third place ribbons. Absolut trails by only a few points with the second and third place finishes ahead of the rest of the pack. Both horse and rider pairs earned a tricolor last week in the division, with Yowan and Character just edging out Ingram and her ride.

The Junior Hunters will conclude tomorrow, as well as the Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions, but riders will have a chance to compete one more time at the end of the day in the two-phase $2,500 Junior/Amateur-Owner 3’3” Classic. Sunday will present riders with an opportunity to take home a stake of the prize money in the $5,000 USHJA National Derby, sponsored by Camping World, and the $10,000 Great Lakes 3’6” Hunter Classic.

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