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Tampa Equestrian Festival Week 3 Wrap-up, April 1-6, 2008, Tournament of Champions

Tampa, FL - April 8, 2008 - After a nearly hour long break because of inclement weather, McLain Ward of Brewster, NY, and his veteran mount Sapphire returned to the ring to complete their first round course. Their clear trip in the first round and one time fault in the jump-off gave them the win in the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, CSI 3*, presented by The Tampa Tribune and Sweetbay Supermarket. Richard Spooner and Cristallo finished second, while Christine McCrea and Promised Land were third.

With rain and storms threatening and people nervously checking radar screens all evening, everyone's worst nightmare came true when the 23rd horse was on course at 9 p.m. Riding through the rain, McLain Ward (USA) and Sapphire jumped through the triple combination at fence 6 and were clear over fence 7 when the winds hit. Nearly simultaneously, almost every jump on course blew over. Ward and Sapphire did not bat an eye, but the tone sounded for him to stop. He exited the arena and the class was put on hold until 9:50.

Ward came back on course nearly an hour later. He said, "I was halfway done, so I had to take that into consideration. She had already made a great effort not to go back and try and complete it." He was allowed to use jump number 1 as practice, and then he resumed the course at jump 8. Sapphire jumped with ease in the rain and finished their first round course with no faults. Ward commented, "She was spectacular. The question that was asked when I had to come back in the first round was remarkably difficult."

Ward and Sapphire, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, were the last to go in the jump-off and had the luxury of only needing to produce a slow, clear round. That is exactly what Ward did. He made the outside turn to the one stride and continued through the rest with no jumping faults. His time of 47.21 seconds did give him one time fault, but it was enough for victory.

Ward believes that his horse was due a big win like tonight's class. "I've been close here a few times but come up short. I think it's nice for Sapphire. I think she's one of the best horses in the sport in this country. She's been second and third a lot in big classes and jumped a lot of clear rounds in Nations Cups. I'm very happy for her and for her owners that she gets the recognition for winning this class."

Proving they are one of the top hunter combinations in the country, Jennifer Alfano of Buffalo, NY, and Rock Star, owned by Bright Star 158 LLC and Jennifer Burger, won the $20,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby. The event was held on Sunday, April 6, at Jenny Sutton's Wrenwood Farms in Naples, FL. The High Performance Hunter class benefited the Naples Equestrian Challenge Therapeutic Center.

Rock Star and Alfano had a great first round and received a total score of 179. They were tied for first place in points, but were awarded third place in the first round by the tiebreaking score of the judges at position one.

The second round was a handy hunter round. Alfano picked up the gallop to the first jump and kept a consistent pace with good turns. Rock Star jumped every jump out of stride in perfect form. Alfano and Rock Star received unbelievable scores of 93 and 95 from the two judging positions. They received another 18 points for handiness for a second round score of 206. They won round two by 20 points. Their overall combined score for the two rounds was 385, which gave them the win in the event by ten points.

Alfano was thrilled to win another hunter derby with Rock Star, who she said loves showing and competing in these classes. "I think that he is truly a show horse," she remarked. "He can tell this is a big event. He loves to show and do different stuff. I'm still constantly amazed by what a great horse he is."

Jumper Highlights: Tuesday through Friday

Torano received first and second places in Tuesday's 1.30m Jumpers. He rode Lord Franco for Gigi Stetler of RV Sales of Broward to the win, and he rode SCNC Investments' Magic Cruise to second place. The course today was designed by Philip DeVita of Apopka, FL, and was a Time First Jump-off format. Six riders made it clear through the first round to continue to the jump-off. Torano and Lord Franco went fifth in the class and held on to the lead throughout the class.

Wednesday's $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Grand Prix, CSI was the final qualifying event for the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational. McLain Ward of Brewster, NY, and Phillipa took victory in a full jump-off field.

Although Ward knew that the jump-off would be fast, he had confidence in Phillipa, who has already competed in a number of jump-offs. "Funny enough, even though she's a big horse and a big jumper, she appears to be a little bit slow and she's not. She's quite quick in the jump-offs," he explained. "She turns really well. The jump-offs that she's been in, in the grand prix, she's been pretty successful."

As the times in the jump-off got faster and faster, it was Will Simpson of Thousand Oaks, CA, on El Campeon's Tosca that came away with victory in the 1.40m Jumper Classic on Friday.

Simpson bested a field of nine horses and riders in the jump-off. They were 11th to go in the first round and returned sixth in the jump-off. They were chasing the leading time with a clear round of 32.463 seconds set by McLain Ward on Quo Vadis.

Simpson and El Campeon's Tosca made very short, quick turns and the speedy chestnut mare crossed the finish line in 31.538 seconds for the win. Ward made another bid for the win on Goldika 559, but his time of31.857 seconds was just off the mark.

Simpson and "Tosca," a 12-year-old Belgian mare by Cash (who was ridden by European superstar Hugo Simon), were third in Wednesday's WEF Challenge Cup. They went first in the jump-off with a clear and fast ride, but it was not enough for the win. On Friday, Simpson wanted to secure first place. "I thought she had enough speed to win (the WEF Challenge Cup), and then I got third. I thought (today) that I had to kick it up a notch," he acknowledged. "I thought I went pretty good on the inside track and kept her moving. She's fast anyway. It worked out really well."

Hunter Highlights: Tuesday through Saturday

The Specialist lived up to his name on the first morning of competition at the Tournament of Champions, part of the Tampa Equestrian Festival, held at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center as he and rider Jennifer Alfano were presented with top honors in both Green Working Hunter over fences classes.

The Regular Working Hunters had a big change at the top. Clarity and Kelley Farmer had been sweeping this division for two weeks but decided to pass on the division this week. Today saw the blue ribbon in the first over fences class go to Rock Star ridden by Jennifer Alfano and the blue in the second over fences class also go to Alfano aboard her second horse Jersey Boy.

Kelley Farmer did garner top honors aboard Guess Again in the Green Conformation division's first class over fences, held this morning. First place in the second class went to Alfano with Sting. Second place in both classes was Russian Gold and Amanda Steege.

Standout performers during the previous two weeks at the Tampa Equestrian Festival, Amazing T and Ann Louise Powers and Unmistakable with Mary Eufemia each won a class in the Pre-Green Hunter division for three and four year old horses.

In this third and final week of competition at the Tampa Equestrian Festival the Green Conformation Hunter Champion was Guess Again with Kelley Farmer riding for owner Larry Glefke, winning both over fences classes. Reserve Champion in the division was Russian Gold with Amanda Steege in the irons for owner Dr. John McGuire.

The Green Working Hunter division was a shoot out between The Specialist, Tuesday's top place winner and Meant For Me who was Wednesday's first and second place finisher. By a narrow point margin, Meant For Me and Mary Lisa Leffler were named Champion in the division with Reserve Champion going to The Specialist with Jennifer Alfano.

Winning four out of five classes in the Regular Working Hunter division, Jersey Boy, owed by SBS Farms, and Jennifer Alfano were named Champion. Second place in every over fences class, Sam Adams and Mary Lisa Leffler, riding for owner Ashley Foster, were Reserve Champion.

The babies jumped around the final classes of their division, Pre Green Hunters 3 & 4 year olds. Champion in the division was Unmistakable ridden by Mary Eufemia for owner Dr. Paula Pell. Reserve Champion in the division went to Amazing T and Ann Louise Powers for owner Susan McGarry.

Next to finish up their competition and decide the point leaders were the numerous Pre-Green Working Hunters. Chance Encounter, owned by Holly Evans, and rider Mickie Sage walked away wearing the Champion tri-color ribbon. Reserve Champion in the division went to Kid Rock and Jennifer Alfano for owner Bright Star 158 LLC.

The Ariat Adult Medal class was held before Judge Ronnie Beard, and the riders all tried to impress him with their riding skills. The first round consisted of eight jumping elements including a rollback from the first to the second fence. The top four riders returned for a test of their horsemanship, having to trot fence 1, canter fences 2 and 3 then halt and stand and leave the ring at a walk. Joan Ehrhart of Ocala, FL, was the top point earner going into the test with a first round score of 83. Her test aboard Tigris was executed flawlessly and clinched the win.

Amber Henter and Atlantic D were victorious in both the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship and the Pessoa USEF Hunt Seat Medal classes putting them well on their way towards qualifying for the Finals held at the end of the year. These classes were contested in the covered jumper ring this week as opposed to the main hunter ring where they have been for the past two weeks. Henter, 16, trains with Bob Braswell and Christina Schlusemeyer at their Quiet Hill Farm in Ocala, FL.

Amateur Owner Hunters finished their division with Larkspur and Ashley Kennedy Whitner taking the Champion award with 30 ½ points garnered in the five classes of the division, as they placed third and first in their two efforts today. Bling Bling and Jennifer Farri had to settle for Reserve Champion again, this week by a ½ point. Because of their three Reserve Championships in the three weeks of competition in this division at the Tampa Equestrian Festival, Bling Bling and Farri have the most overall points and are Circuit Champions in the Amateur Owner division.

Shawn Casady had a big day in the pony hunter ring, picking up awards in every class he contested with his string of outstanding mounts. He walked away from the ring with four Championship titles, one for each of the divisions he competed in. Casady began his day with the Children's Hunter Pony division, where he and Farnmore Silk Stockings, owned by Lionsway Farm, won both of the classes over fences and clinched the division title.

He returned to the ring with three mounts in the Large Pony Hunters and walked away with first, second and sixth place in the first over fences class and first, third and sixth in the second class. He was awarded to Championship title for this division with Liseter Clever Star, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker. Elizabeth Butterworth aboard Winston was not able to best Casady in the point total and was named Reserve Champion.

Piloting Sunny in the Medium Pony Hunters for owner Bill Schaub, Casady won yet another division title. With 38 points in the five classes Sunny was named Champion. Reserve Champion with 26 points was Halo and Ashley Lecroy.

Casady went in the ring in the Green Pony Hunter division with two mounts and emerged with both the Champion and Reserve Champion titles. Sunny repeated his winning performances in the Medium Pony division with another Championship title in the Green Pony Hunters. Reserve was Ghiradelli, whom Casady rode for owner Ashley Foster.

Small Pony Hunter Champion was Picante with Ashton Alexander in the irons for owner Elizabeth Benchoff. The pair won three classes over fences and were second place in the under saddle and the final jumping class to claim the point lead. Reserve Champion was Imagination, Alexander's second ride in the class.

Samantha Schaefer and Lazy Sunday jumped around Saturday's courses in spectacular form to take top honors in the Large Junior Hunter division. The striking grey, owned by Keli Colby, earned 32 points over the two days of competition to win the Championship in the division. Reserve Champion with 18 points over fences was Eastwood and owner/rider Hasbrouck Donovan.

Sara Green and Lissabon were awarded the Championship in the Small Junior Hunter division, turning in another winning effort over fences and placing second in both the under saddle and the second over fences class. Combined with their two wins in yesterday's competition they were the top point earners in their division. The Reserve Champion ribbon went to Pacino and rider Lauren Hogan.

 

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