Michael Morrissey and Scaraberas Scale Puissance for Victory at 2008 Washington International Horse Show
Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2008 - It was a very exciting night at Verizon Center when five horses and riders took center stage to tackle one of the most difficult classes in show jumping. 23-year-old Michael Morrissey of Bradenton, FL, on Scaraberas, owned by Eugene R. Mische, topped seven feet and a half inch to win the $25,000 Puissance class. Charlie Jayne of Elgin, IL, and Thomas Edison tied for second place with Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, FL, with Sleepy P Ranch's Presidente.
Although only five riders attempted the puissance wall, the big crowds were on the edge of their seats through five rounds of high-action jumping. In the first round, all five riders cleared five feet, seven inches over the solid wall with the green rolltop.
The second round progressed to six feet, one inch, and again all five riders were clear, to the thrill of the crowd. The wall was raised again to six feet, seven inches for the riders to attempt. This is where two horses were unable to go clear: Aaron Vale on Claudia Billups' Aristide 7 knocked the rolltop off. Angel Karolyi and Curioso Z, owned by Ron Krise, also had blocks fall off the wall during their attempt. However, it was a fantastic effort by both riders. This was Vale's horse's first puissance class, and it was 21-year-old Karolyi's first puissance as well. They ended up tied for fourth place, having cleared 6'1".
Minikus, Jayne, and Morrissey sailed over 6'7" to advance to a fourth round, where they built the imposing wall up to seven feet and a half inch. Minikus and Presidente were the first to go, and the big grey horse refused the wall. Minikus took a practice jump and stopped, not wanting to risk his horse's confidence by trying to jump the wall again.
Jayne and Thomas Edison made it to the wall and over the top, but blocks rained down when the bay American Thoroughbred could not quite clear the height, leaving the door open for a win for Morrissey.
This was Thomas Edison's first puissance class, but Jayne felt his horse was brave enough to try the wall. He explained, "He can jump a big jump, and I wanted to give it a shot - it is all about trusting your horse and I trust him, so I figured I would give it a shot and see how it went. There were only five in it, so it was a guaranteed check as long as you cleared the first course."
Morrissey and Scaraberas, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding that he has ridden for five years, were the final pair in the ring. The crowd fell silent as Morrissey approached the practice jump. He rounded the corner and came down to the trot, where he switched to the outside lead- the horse's more comfortable way of going. He then cantered easily down to the wall and slipped over the top, clearing over seven feet for the win.
As soon as Morrissey cleared the wall, every rider at the in-gate blocked his exit with their thumbs up, calling for an attempt at the North American record, which was set in 1983. The record was set at the WIHS by Anthony d'Ambrosio and Sweet N' Low at seven feet, seven and a half inches. Morrissey talked it over with his team at the in-gate and decided he would go for the record.
The wall was raised to a staggering height of seven feet, eight inches for Morrissey's record attempt. Hopes were dashed, however, when Scaraberas was unable to clear the top and came down awkwardly. He fell to one knee upon landing and Morrissey was unseated, but both horse and rider walked out of the ring unharmed. Although he did not set a new record, Morrissey was applauded for his efforts and still took home the blue ribbon and top prize money.
When asked why Morrissey went for the record, he said with a smile, "I wanted to get my name in the books. There was a lot of encouragement in the in-gate with the other riders, and I wanted to give it a try."
He went on to say of his last round, "When we were approaching that wall he had no hesitation whatsoever. I knew I was in trouble when I hit the top of the jump. I was only halfway over and he was already coming down. It was just hard to find a good spot to a jump that big. You have to be pretty spot on to even come close to getting over a jump that big, and I might have been a little too far off of it. It is certainly the highest that I have ever attempted, but my horse gave it an unbelievable effort."
Morrissey felt that his horse was ready and willing, no matter what the height of the wall. "I knew that he was going to try because he really, really seemed like he enjoyed doing it. Every time he would take the bit and really charge, so I knew he was going to try," he said. "I actually did think that I had a chance; I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think that I had a chance."
This was Morrissey's second puissance class with Scaraberas. At the Dublin Horse Show in Ireland, they cleared 6'11" but settled for second place when they could not clear 7'3" in pouring rain. Tonight's win over 7'1/2" is the highest he has ever jumped.
Although he did not set the record tonight, Morrissey said that if his horse feels good next year and he has the opportunity, he would love to give it a try again.
Winning such a historical and unique class like the puissance at the WIHS "means everything" to Morrissey. "It is great. It really feels good to win anything. As riders, I think we are all competitive and we want to win. Second place is the first loser, so everyone wants to go out there and win. It is great though. It has been awhile since I won a big class, so it feels good," he concluded.
Earlier in the day, the international open jumpers had a $25,000 Time First Jump-off class, which was another qualifier for tomorrow night's $100,000 President's Cup Grand Prix. Hillary Dobbs and Marengo notched another win this week when they were the fastest of nine in the jump-off. They were clear in 35.58 seconds to take the lead over Todd Minikus and Pavarotti, who finished in 37.02 seconds. Jill Henselwood (CAN) and Black Ice, last year's President's Cup Grand Prix winners, finished third in 39.27 seconds.
"We are trying to step this horse up a little bit, so this was a great jump-off course as opposed to a straight speed class for him," Dobbs mentioned. "He started off a little fresh and a little ready from last night. Then he started relaxing and jumping better and better as the course went on. For the jump-off, he was amazing. I am really happy with him being able to go win a speed class and then be versatile enough to come back and jump beautiful in the first round and win the jump-off."
Paige Johnson of The Plains, VA, took victory in the $10,000 Ambassador's Cup Classic for amateur-owner jumpers this afternoon. She piloted La Martinee to the win over Whitney Weeks and Subliem. Subliem was named the Amateur Jumper Champion while La Martinee was the reserve champion.
FINAL RESULTS: $25,000 OPEN JUMPER PUISSANCE
1 SCARABERAS MICHAEL MORRISSEY
2 THOMAS EDISON CHARLIE JAYNE
2 PRESIDENTE TODD MINIKUS
4 CURIOSO Z ANGEL KAROLYI
4 ARISTIDE 7 AARON VALE
FINAL RESULTS: $20,000 INTERNATIONAL OPEN JUMPER
1 MARENGO HILLARY DOBBS
2 PAVAROTTI TODD MINIKUS
3 BLACK ICE JILL HENSELWOOD
4 ROMANOV JONATHON MILLAR
5 THOMAS EDISON CHARLIE JAYNE
6 TARCO VAN TER MOUDE TRACY MAGNESS
7 ALLISON CALLAN SOLEM
8 GOLDIKA 559 McLAIN WARD
9 ST. LAURENT LAUREN HOUGH
10 STARLIGHT KIRSTEN COE
FINAL RESULTS: $10,000 AMATEUR-OWNER JUMPER CLASSIC
1 LA MARTINEE PAIGE JOHNSON
2 SUBLIEM WHITNEY WEEKS
3 U-2 MARLEY GOODMAN
4 IT'S MORADO ANNABEL SIMPSON
5 SEA COAST CANTONA Z DANIELLE TORANO
6 PIOLA WHITNEY WEEKS
7 CHIRON S PAIGE JOHNSON
8 LUCKY ONE LILY HAHN
9 RONJA MARLEY GOODMAN
10 RODENBURGH'S CALIFORNIA NATALIE JOHNSON
Photo Credit: Michael Morrissey and Scaraberas cleared seven feet and a half inch to win the $25,000 Puissance class at the 2008 Washington International Horse Show. Photo (C) 2008 Jennifer Wood/PMG. This photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release.
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