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VETERAN SCOTT STEWART AND PLAYBOOK ON TOP IN THE PLATINUM PERFORMANCE/USHJA GREEN HUNTER INCENTIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS

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The Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships returned to the Walnut Ring for the second phase of competition Wednesday, allowing horses and riders one further chance to ride to a top 30 overall score, thus earning a place in Thursday's finale. Entering the day, Scott Stewart and Playbook sat 9 points behind the day one leaders, Victoria Colvin and Flint, but the steady duo managed to surpass them with another top round over Patrick Rodes' hunter course to climb to the top of the overall leaderboard.

No stranger to the Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships as a two-time champion with titles in 2014 and 2016, Stewart once again proved his hunter prowess, this time aboard Fashion Farm's 7-year-old Playbook. With a score of 263.00 to conclude the first phase, the pair sat in the runner-up position behind Colvin and the grey Flint, but stayed consistent with a near identical score of 263.50, only half a point different from Tuesday, to propel themselves to the lead. Jumping at the 3' height, the pair masterfully jumped Rodes' 10-effort course early in the day, and while the rest of the field chased them down, none were able to accumulate enough points to eclipse them.

Though Stewart and Playbook performed consistently well both days to earn the best cumulative marks, they were not the highest-scoring round of the day. Katherine Newman and Dandelion, owned by Allwyn Court and Dandelion Group, navigated the course the most effectively to garner a score of 265.50, the highest of the two phases, second to Colvin and Flint's early 272.00 score. Runner-up in the over fences class was Sandy Ferrell in the irons aboard Stephanie Bulger's Hemingway with a score of 264.00. Stewart and Playbook took third position in the class.

With her stellar round Wednesday, Newman and Dandelion jumped from 14th position after the first day of competition all the way to second place overall to finish with a score of 520.50. Tracy Fenney and MTM Silver Alert, owned by MTM Farm, followed in third place overall with a score of 518.50. Stewart nabbed another top placing with Rivers Edge's Harvard Hall, just one point behind Fenney with their score of 517.50, to take fourth position. With cumulative marks of 516.50, Colvin and Antinori, owned by John & Stephanie Ingram, LLC, earned the fifth spot headed into the final portion of competition. These top five finishers as well as 25 other pairs will return Thursday to vie for the top spot on the leaderboard and the greatest percentage of the prize money. 

Although the competitors will return Thursday with a blank slate for the final phase of competition, statistically Stewart has the best odds of the field with three horses qualified for the finale. Colvin, Caroline Weeden and Patricia Griffith will each return with two mounts. 

The 2017 Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships will continue through Thursday evening, when the top 30 competitors will return to the ring for the third and final phase of competition with a blank slate to determine the 2017 Champion. Hunter action will continue at the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show throughout the week, with the USHJA International Derby taking place Friday and Saturday.

Photo by Shawn McMillen