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McLain Ward and Gentlemen Complete Winning Round in 1.40m Class at the Tampa Equestrian Festival

Tampa, FL -April 2, 2009 - It was a partly cloudy day for the third day of competition of the Tournament of Champions, the third week of the Tampa Equestrian Festival. Today riders had the opportunity to compete in the Covered Arena at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center, located on the Florida State Fairgrounds, in the 1.40m class. McLain Ward garnered the top prize with Gentlemen after his speedy jump-off round.

Ten riders advanced to the jump-off in today's 1.40m class, the first of which was Shane Sweetnam and Little Emir. The pair set a tough round to beat after going clear in a very fast time of 28.468, which held the lead for seven more jump-off rounds before earning the second place ribbon. Next in the ring was McLain Ward with his first mount, Cover Girl. After completing a clear first round the pair advanced to the jump-off, but had an unfortunate rail at fence eight, a tall vertical coming off of a sharp right turn. The duo stopped the timers at 29.624, which held up for sixth place honors.

Leslie Howard and Utah were the next to challenge Sweetnam's time but the pair found faults at fence eight as well as the last two fences, for a total of twelve faults to finish in the ninth place position. Following Howard was Beezie Madden with Prima. Madden spun Prima around a tight turn to fence ten, a vertical following a double combination, but her risky move cost her the fence and the pair accumulated four faults. They tripped the timers at 27.392 to have the fastest time of the class and earn the fourth place ribbon.

It was time for another clear jump-off effort so that's what Pablo Barrios and S & L Crew did when they entered the ring. The pair was the second horse and rider combination to complete a double clear, but after Madden's mistake at fence ten Barrios took his time and lost a few seconds to Sweetnam, stopping the clock in 34.528 seconds and taking home the third place prize. Darragh Kerins and Night Train were the next duo to compete in the jump-off but they had a refusal at fence ten, which led to four jumping faults and 24 time faults to land in the tenth place position.

Jimmy Torano and Morgan made an excellent effort during the jump-off. The crowd let out a collective groan when the pair took a rail at the very last fence, a wide oxer coming towards the gate. Their time of 27.453 was one of the fastest of the day and they were awarded the pink ribbon for their efforts.

Ward entered the ring next with his second mount, Gentlemen, and this time he knew what he had to do to win. The pair was quick and clean, and managed to leave all the fences standing despite a few rubs, and they raced through the finish line in 27.849 seconds to take over the lead.

Mario Deslauriers tried to challenge Ward with his mount Tigger, but they also received four faults at fence eight, and with a time of 31.231 seconds, were awarded eighth place honors. Sweetnam was the last to compete in the class with Triviant, and after he completed a clear first round, he made a bid to take back his lead during the jump-off. Unfortunately they could not escape faults at fence eight and took home the seventh place ribbon after tripping the timer in 30.182 seconds.

"This was Gentlemen's last class of the circuit, so I was happy that he went so well today," smiled Ward. " There were a couple of hard right turns, but this horse has experience and he felt very confident after the first round, so I thought I would take a try and it worked out in our favor. We had a little bit of a lucky rub at the last fence in the jump-off but you need a little luck in this sport." Gentlemen will now return home to rest after a long winter circuit.

Ward is the winner of last year's $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational and plans to compete again this year with the same mount, world-renowned Sapphire. "She has been in good form and that certainly allows you to be confident," noted Ward. "I'm just trying to stay focused on what my job is and take it one step at a time and hope that the luck is with us a little bit and that I don't make a mistake."

Tomorrow the Tournament of Champions will continue with the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers competing in the Covered Arena. The Tampa Equestrian Festival will conclude with the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, being held Saturday, April 4, at Raymond James Stadium beginning at 7 p.m. The $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational is a historical event featuring the world's top equestrian athlete's competing for one of the richest purses in show jumping.

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

Photo Credit: McLain Ward and Gentlemen took home the top award in today's 1.40m class at the Tampa Equestrian Festival. Photo Rebecca Walton/PMG. Photograph may be used only in relation to this PMG press release.


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