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Lauren Hough and Preziosos S Win Tampa Bay Classic Opening Day 1.40m Class

Tampa, FL - March 25, 2009 - It was a beautiful sunny day to mark the beginning of the Tampa Bay Classic at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center located on the Florida State Fairgrounds. The Tampa Bay Classic is the second week of the Tampa Equestrian Festival and features the $35,000 Welcome Stake and the $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa. The $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa will be held on Sunday and is the final FEI World Cup Qualifier CSI-W. Today riders competed in the Covered Arena in the 1.40m and 1.35 classes.

Today's top riders were Lauren Hough and McLain Ward. Hough won today's 1.40m class aboard 13-year-old Prziosos S, while Ward took home the first and second place honors in the 1.35m class with Cover Girl and Gentleman.

Today's courses, designed by Pierre Jolicouer, winded around and had twelve obstacles featuring many bending lines, a double combination, and a triple combination. During today's 1.40m class eight horse and riders combinations completed the first course without any jumping penalties, but because of time penalties did not advance to the jump-off.

Mario Deslauriers was the first to compete over the course with Vicomte D and the pair managed to perform a clear effort, but Deslauriers chose to withdraw from the jump-off and save Vicomte D's efforts for another day which would earn him the fourth place award. Christine McCrea and Romantovich Take One were the next to advance to the short course after a clear first round. The pair was quick and clean, slipping through the timers at 29.394, earning the third place ribbons and setting the pace for the jump-off.

Lauren Hough and Preziosos S were the next horse and rider combination to complete a clear first round. Hough cut the turns and Preziosos S left all the jumps standing. The duo raced through the timers in 28.128, passing McCrea to take over the lead and win the class. Mario Deslauriers would attempt to challenge Hough's time with his second mount Tigger, but their time of 28.313 seconds was only fast enough to earn them second place honors. James Benedetto would be the last to qualify for the jump-off with Kannan S Gigi Z but he also chose to withdraw and save his horse's efforts, tying for fourth place.

"It's always good to win," smiled Hough. "He's a really good horse and he's won a lot at this level. He has a lot of experience so he was able to go in and be competitive on the first day. This is a big change in venue after being at WEF for so long but he can accommodate to whatever is in front of him."

Hough is very exited to be competing at the Tampa Equestrian Festival. "I would like to try and compete in the American Invitational, and the last World Cup Qualifier is this week so there are a lot of important things going on," explained Hough. "I'm always happy to come and support Stadium Jumping. I plan to compete with Naomi in the Tampa Bay Grand Prix this week so hopefully that will go well."

The 1.35m competed earlier in the day where Ward garnered the top two ribbons. Margie Engle set the jump-off pace after being the first rider to go double clear with her mount Hidden Creek's Campella. The pair managed to leave all the jumps standing and tripped the timers at 28.377, which held up for the third place prize. Ward and Gentleman entered the ring next and also advanced to the jump-off. The pair breezed past Engle's time, stopping the clock at 25.857 seconds and capturing the second place award. Ward and Cover Girl were the next combination to go clear and Ward managed to top his own time by a fraction of a second, flying across the finish line in 25.707 seconds and winning the class. James Benedetto had the last ride of the class with Alsvid and the duo managed to go double clear as well, but their time of 28.798 was the slowest of the top finishers and earned them forth place honors.

The last class of the day was the 1.45m where Andres Rodriguez and Secret captured the top spot after a double clear effort in a time of 28.556 seconds.

This week during the Tampa Bay Classic riders will have the opportunity to compete in tomorrow's $35,000 Welcome Stake, which will be held at 1 p.m. in the Covered Arena. The $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa will be held this Sunday at noon following the Parade of Champions. Next week in the third week of the Tampa Equestrian Festival, the Tournament of Champions, which will conclude with the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, held at Raymond James Stadium, Saturday, April 4, beginning at 6 p.m. The $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational will feature the world's top show jumpers competing for on the of the nation's richest purses and is one of the most anticipated events of the year.

For more information please visit http://www.stadiumjumping.com.

Photo Credit: Lauren Hough and Preziosos S were the fastest of three double clear rounds for the win in the 1.40m class at the Tampa Equestrian Festival. Photo Rebecca Walton/Phelps Media Group. Photograph may be used only in relation to this PMG press release.


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