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Charlotte Jumper Classic, CSI 5* Wrap-Up, April 11-13, 2008

Charlotte, NC - April 14, 2008 - In some of the most exciting show jumping action that the United States has seen, it was Laura Kraut of Wellington, FL, and Anthem who stayed clear through three rounds to win the $500,000 Grand Prix of Charlotte, CSI 5* for the Charlotte Bobcats Cup. Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa and Rufus finished second, while Chris Kappler of New Jersey was third on VDL Oranta. Ben Maher of Great Britain with Rolette rounded out the group that competed in the jump-off and finished in fourth place.

The courses were designed by Steve Stephens of Palmetto, FL. In the first round of 38 entries, it took 15 trips until the great crowd at the Time Warner Cable Arena saw a clear trip. Earlier, Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Hickstead were clear, but they accrued one time fault. Pessoa and Rufus, owned by Double H Farm, were the first completely clear round. Nine other riders would join Pessoa to come back for the second round. In the first round, there were nine riders with just four faults. In the second round, four were clear to advance to the jump-off.

Pessoa had the difficult task of being the first back for the jump-off as well. He and Rufus were great to the first and second jumps, and when he landed easily from the oxer, Pessoa made a split second decision to go inside the pillars that were set approximately six feet away from the jump he had just landed from. Rufus made the turn and had only a few strides to get to the next vertical. He made it clear through the one stride and made the right hand rollback to the next oxer, then continued through the long run down the ring to the final oxer. Rufus finished with no faults in a time of 36.74 seconds to start the jump-off with a bang.

2000 Olympic rider Kraut and Anthem, a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, followed Pessoa. Kraut did not make the same difficult turn after the second jump, but instead went around the pillars quickly. They stayed to the right of the oxer on their way to the one stride, and after the fifth jump, Anthem dug in through the turn as Kraut pulled through the short rollback. Kraut positively galloped flat out to the final oxer and left long to the last jump. Anthem soared over the final oxer and to the screams of the crowd, stopped the timers in 34.83 seconds to take the lead.

Afterward, Kraut pointed out, "I'm just lucky because he's fast. He has so much experience that he's helpful in the jump-off."

2004 Olympic team gold medalist Chris Kappler and VDL Oranta were quick and neat through the turns of the jump-off, and the grey mare jumped brilliantly throughout. Kappler took a more controlled pace to the final fence and finished in 36.84 seconds with a third clean round, and he finished in third place.

The final one in was Maher and Rolette. Their turns looked to be a bit slower, but they finished in a speedy time of 35.48 seconds. The time was not enough to win however, because they had a rail at jump 5 and finished with four faults.

This was a new experience for Rufus, who has only been showing at the grand prix level for a year. It was old hat for Pessoa, who was the 2004 Olympic individual gold medalist. "It's always difficult to go first. You try to put (in) a good time," he said. "Laura was really good today, and her horse jumped amazing. She deserved to win. I'm really happy with the performance of my horse. I'm really pleased with how he jumped today with three rounds, and our team is really happy with second place today."

About her win, Kraut remarked, "I'm a bit in shock right now. I was just happy to make the top ten. I figured I'd come away with a little bit of money and a nice weekend here. I'm quite surprised and happy."

Kraut was elated to have done well in tonight's $500,000 Grand Prix of Charlotte and noted that this event sets an incredible precedent in the sport of show jumping. "It's tremendous for us anywhere in the world to have this kind of prize money," Kraut said. "This very weekend, they were jumping in Doha, Qatar for 300,000 euros. It's really showing how the sport is growing when there are two events like this in one weekend. Hopefully, that trend will continue. I think what Bob Johnson is doing and what others around the world are doing is really hopefully going to put the sport on the worldwide map."

Additional Class Highlights: Friday through Sunday

It was a very exciting opening class for the 2008 Charlotte Jumper Classic, which was held at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Uptown Charlotte. Canada's Eric Lamaze and Hickstead raced to Friday night's $50,000 Charlotte Welcome Stake, CSI victory over Pavarotti and Todd Minikus and Chris Kappler with VDL Oranta.

It was a great welcoming class for the top show jumpers in North America. Lamaze was very happy with his victory, especially considering that he and Hickstead have not shown indoors for "a very long time." Lamaze originally planned to compete with a different horse, but since Hickstead did not end up showing at the American Invitational in Florida last week, he decided to bring his best horse to Charlotte. He went on to say, "The event is great, and we love coming to Charlotte. You have great riders and great horses (here).The level of competition this year is very high."

The opening class of the night was the $15,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper speed class. There were 30 in the class, and the winner was the very first rider on course. Catie Boone of Kentucky and her horse Naleida were very fast and clear in 47.46 seconds to take the win.

The 2008 Charlotte Jumper Classic hosted three exciting classes on Saturday at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Uptown Charlotte. The winner of the evening session's highlight class, the $25,000 International Accumulator, CSI, was William Simpson of Thousand Oaks, CA, on El Campeon's Tosca.

The accumulator classes are a fun addition to the riders' competition. The class has 10 jumps of increasing difficulty and points are awarded for each jump that they clear; one point for jump one, two points for jump two, and so on. At the end of the course, riders can choose to jump the "joker" fence, which can add or subtract 20 points to their total and is often the largest jump on course.

This was Simpson's first time competing in Charlotte, and he regrets that he can't stay longer in the city. "The town is fantastic. I've been getting up in the morning and jogging around town. I only have a few nights here, but I wish I had more," he remarked.

In addition to the great surroundings, he really likes the venue of the competition. "To me, this is show jumping. This is what I wanted when I started at 13 years old. This is the venue we need to put on a show for the sport," he said.

The winner of the $15,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Accumulator class was Carolyn Kelly on her 13-year-old grey mare Rulanda. Her horse "took a little getting used to" the arena in Charlotte, but tonight she was all business. "Tonight, she just felt lovely. My goal was to be as smooth as possible, make the turns, and not take back," Kelly said.

The winner earlier in the day of the $25,000 Inernational Competition, CSI speed class was Charlie Jayne on the 8-year-old Hungarian Warmblood, Gangsta. Not only was this Gangsta's first class in Charlotte, it was his first time showing indoors with Jayne. "This is my first show competing indoors with him, but he's naturally fast across the ground. He's quick and he's very good at turning," Jayne explained. "I figured that indoors should be no problem for him."

The winner of Sunday's $50,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic was Subliem and Whitney Weeks. This was Weeks' biggest win, although she has also had big victories in Syracuse and a couple weeks ago in Wellington. She credited her sister Alexa, who won this class two years ago, along with her trainer Joe Fargis and her barn manager Carol Ferrera. Weeks said that at Charlotte she and Ferrera took care of her two horses together. "Showing like this, you don't get to do that as much. You kind of forget, and it was really fun to do it," she said.

Winning at Charlotte means a lot to Weeks and she enjoyed competing in the jumper classic. "This has probably been my favorite show I've ever been to. I was thinking this whole week, even though I wasn't winning, that I love this show," she confided.

 

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