Equestrian Festival Week 8 Wrap-Up, March 23 -27, 2005
Great Britains Michael and Ellen Whitaker Finish One-Two in $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa
In one of the most exciting jump-offs of the entire eight weeks on the 2005 Winter Equestrian Festival tour, Michael Whitaker of Great Britain raced past his niece, Ellen Whitaker to secure the win in the $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa CSI-W, presented by Kilkenny/ICH as the Tampa Bay Classic wrapped up on Sunday at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida.
Fifty-two starters went to the post in the 2pm featured event at the Covered Arena. Sundays pivotal and pressure packed Grand Prix of Tampa, arguably the most important on the entire tour, had qualifying implications for the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, April 2, the Budweiser World Cup in Las Vegas on April 20 -24, and for year end awards for the American Grand Prix Association (AGA).
The Course Designer for the main event was Canadas Michel Vailancourt. The course consisted of 14 numbered obstacles with seventeen jumping efforts. Scoring was under FEI Art. 238.1.2. Time First Jump Off. Those tied for other than first place remain tied. International Level.
Fourteen horse and rider combinations qualified for the timed jump-off by going fault free over the challenging first round course. Fifteen riders had four faults and would wind up in a fifteen way tie for fifteenth place.
Sundays Grand Prix of Tampa was the final money qualifying event for the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational.
With $75,000 in prize money at stake and a first place check of $22,500 on the line, the jump-off got underway with Callan Solem on the Quiet Winter and BJ Maghans Allsion. Solem put in a careful and clear performance as the first to return, crossing the finish line with no faults in 42.99 seconds.
Anne Kursinski, whose spot in the Invitational was well in hand, would need a good finish to make a move up on the World Cup points list. She returned with Scott Hakims Roxana 112 and set a pace that would hold up until the halfway point into the jump-off. Kursinski, disdaining an inside cut following fence eleven, elected instead to keep a fast gallop and crossed the finish line clean, in a hasty time of 39.81 seconds.
Beezie Madden and McLain Ward, all set with their invitations for Saturdays Budweiser American Invitational, rode fourth and fifth in the speed challenge. Unlike Ward, who sits second on the World Cup qualifying list, Madden was fighting for a spot on the Las Vegas roster. Aboard Authentic, Madden pulled an early rail in the jump off. She finished up with a speedy time of 39.54 seconds, but when the scores were tallied, the rail down today would be expensive.
Ward, riding Sapphire, owned by the Double H Farm, returned for their challenge next. Ward became the first to successfully negotiate the inside cut following fence eleven but a careful pace on the balance of the course moved Ward into second place behind Kursinski. Wards time was 40.57 seconds.
Todd Minikus was battling for a spot in both the Budweiser American Invitational and the World Cup as he entered with Harry R. Gills Flier. Electing not to take the inside cut, Minikus and Flier couldnt catch Kursinski, but knocked 0.23 seconds off of Wards time and took over second place. Minikus finished in 40.34 seconds.
Riding eighth in the encounter against the clock, Jeffery Welles became the new leader with Kimmel Yager Equines Armani. Welles strengthened his hold on a spot for the main event Saturday night at Raymond James by flying around the Vailancourt designed course and tripping the timers in 39.69 seconds, knocking 0.12 seconds off of Kursinskis top time. Welles finished in 39.69 to grab the lead.
Georgina Bloomberg, assured of an Invitational spot, came in tied for World Cup points with Beezie Madden. Bloomberg, riding the Gotham Enterprises Riviera, put in a fault free performance and crossed the finish line in 41.44 seconds.
Ellen Whitaker and her uncle, Michael Whitaker were the last two challengers.
Ellen Whitaker was up first on Mrs. J. Zillis AK Locarno 62. Whitaker, a relative newcomer to the international show jumping scene, has had a tremendous Florida tour and had already secured a spot in the Budweiser Invitational. She showed why shes been such a factor in almost every event in which shes competed. She handily made the inside cut following fence eleven and raced around the balance of the speed course fault free, taking over the top spot on the leader board with a new top time of 39.50 seconds, 0.19 seconds faster than Welles.
Michael Whitaker and Portofino 63, owned by the Beverly Hills Equestrian Partners, was the final entry remaining, the only one standing between Ellen Whitaker and her first major Florida victory. For Michael Whitaker, a spot in the Budweiser American Invitational hung in the balance. His performance had the standing room only crowd on their feet from the moment he crossed the starting line. When he easily made the inside cut at eleven, he was on equal pace with niece, Ellen, but with two fences to go, it was obvious that if he could leave those two jumps up, victory was his for the taking. The fences did stay up and when Whitaker flashed across the finish line the scoreboard showed the amazing winning time of 38.40 seconds, 1.1 seconds faster than Ellen.
The course suited me perfectly so I knew I had a chance, Whitaker said at the post event press conference. Ellen made it very difficult for me but as good as my horse was jumping today, I knew I had to have a go at it. She was magnificently good today. She had a very good first round so I knew she was on. She was really concentrating today, she was on top form, he said.
Whitaker said that the inside cut was the key to victory today. You had to make that cut to have any chance today. If you could pull off that cut, you were really set.
Course Designer, Michel Vailancourt, said the inside cut was not an easy one. Its a very, very difficult cut. Unless youve got a horse you know that really can do that cut well, youre better off to go around and keep the pace up. If you cant make the cut quick, if you have to slow down to do the cut, you end up just trading four quarters for a dollar and it doesnt really pay off, he chuckled. But Whitaker, and Ive seen him do it a hundred times, is so good at that. He can land and cut so fast without losing any momentum or speed, that I knew before he went that hed be making that cut and more importantly hed make it work. And that turn made the whole class.
It was a great class, Vailancourt continued. The jump off turned out fantastic because of the number involved. We, as course designers, sometimes dont want to get all those numbers clear, but, most of the time when we get a big jump off like we did today, it turns out to be a fantastic class. Todays was a great class!
Im pleased for a few reasons, really, Whitaker went on to say. Weve been here for three weeks and I havent done too well and to get into the Invitational, well, thats really handy. I thought I needed a few World Cup points as well, but as it turns out, I found out just before I rode that I made the cut for Las Vegas, revealed Whitaker. But, its nice to win anyway.
Ellen Whitaker was pleased with her inexperienced horse. Well, he was really, really good today. You know hes a bit inexperienced and I havent gone against quality much with him so I didnt know what to expect in a class of this caliber but he was really good today, she said.
Ellen said that she knew in advance that her uncle would lead todays victory gallop. Yeah, I absolutely knew he was going to win today, whether it was me for second place or not, she said. Hes been so hungry. Michaels been so unlucky these past three weeks here in Florida, we all knew that today was his day to finally come through and we just had to get out of his way, laughed Ellen.
Ellen sits twelfth on the Budweiser American Invitational money list following todays event. I really havent done that much, internationally, admitted Ellen. I went to Calgary last year, so I knew a bit of what to expect as far as the riders Id see here, but I could never have anticipated this kind of success before we arrived, Im so thrilled with the way things have gone.
Official Results - #100 - $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa CSI-W- FEI Art. 238.1.2 03-27-05 Covered Arena
63, Michael Whitaker 0-0/38.40
Jumper Highlights Wednesday through Saturday
The first week of the 2005 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa opened under stormy skies as a very large and slow moving weather front passed through the area in the early morning hours. The storm brought with it heavy rains, high winds and lightning,. The jumpers, however, competing under the covered arena, got underway at 8:30am as scheduled.
The Course Designer for this weeks Grand Prix ring action is Michel Vailancourt. The opening days featured event was the $7,500 1.45m Jumpers, scored under Table II, Sec 2 (b), Time First Jump-Off.
Canadian Mac Cone, aboard Southern Ways Cybella, emerged victorious on Wednesday with a very fast jump-off ride of 30.714 seconds. That hasty time was 1.358 seconds faster than that of second place finisher Kimberly Frey. Aboard Couletto K. James for the Overlook Farm, Frey crossed the finish line in 32.072 seconds.
Third place finisher, Clare Bronfman, on Slate River Farms Equinox, was only .041 seconds behind Frey. Bronfman finished in 32.488 seconds. Fourth place honors went to Promise Me and Ian Millar of Canada. Owned by Bakers Dozen, Promised Me tripped the timers in 32.611 seconds. Fifth place went to Corafina 4 and Aimee Aron, riding for the Kinloch Enterprises. Aron broke the beams in 33.790 seconds. Rounding out the top six was Mac Cones second ride on Melinda, also owned by Southern Ways. Melindas time was 34.219 seconds.
Cone didnt let out his breath until the final horse crossed the finish line. Im never confident till the last one goes, laughed Cone. Ian (Millar) gave me a good run and then when Clare (Bronfman) went last, I thought she was going to be the one to catch me, but, we were lucky and held on.
Its been a good eight weeks so far for Cone. Its been a real good circuit for me. Ive got a good group of horses here that have done real well, Cone said. Im thrilled with my number one horse, Melinda. Shes eleven now and has made the big step up to the real deal. She had sort of a learning year last year, but this year I asked her to step up and shes done real well.
The icing on the cake would be a starting spot in this years grand finale, the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational. The top riders, based on prize money won, qualify. Im in, but Im a little too close to the bottom of that money list for my liking, admitted Cone. So, Ive got to have a real good week this week to make the show at the stadium.
It was déjà vu all over again on Thursday as Georgina Bloomberg edged out Beezie Madden for the second time in three weeks in the WEF Challenge Cup.
Seventy five entries went to the post in the 1pm main event. The $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Class was scored under FEI article 238.2.2, Time First Jump-Off. Bloomberg and Madden were two of only seven riders that mastered the first round course. The tremendously challenging course of 14 numbered obstacles and seventeen jumping efforts saw one rider come home with a single time fault, fifteen riders score four faults for a single knockdown and seventeen riders rack up eight faults. Twenty eight competitors had nine or more faults.
The course saw knockdowns at every obstacle but the tail end of the course, from the triple combination at ten through the final fence at fourteen, produced a total of 110 knockdowns. Fifty of those came at the triple combination, 25 at the third element.
Todays class was one of the final two qualifying classes for the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational.
Lauren Hough and Clasiko, owned by the Clasiko Group, was the first to master the course, riding out of the fourth spot in the jumping order. Riding ninth, Paige Johnson on Salamander Farms Kadena R, produced the second fault free performance of the afternoon. Twenty one competitors later, it was Alison Firestone on Sansierra, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone, adding her name to the jump-off roster. The fourth clear of the afternoon came five horses later when the Full Cry Farms Naomi, piloted by Molly Ashe went clean. Then it was a stretch of thirty five horses before Gregoire Oberson of Switzerland, aboard Jean Lanoires Cartoflex Gazelle de Beauval, became the fifth to master the Vailancourt designed course. Rounding out the field for the upcoming tiebreaker were the eventual first and second place finishers, Georgina Bloomberg on Nadia from the Gotham Enterprises, in the eightieth spot, and Beezie Madden and Judgement from the Iron Spring Farm, riding eighty-third.
In the jump-off, the course was shortened to a quick eight jumping efforts beginning with fences 1 and 2 and finishing with a right turn that took the riders over the treacherous final part of the original course utilizing fences 10a, 10b, 11, 12, 12 and 14.
Lauren Hough and Clasiko returned first for the encounter against the clock. Hough had a knockdown at fence 12, the big oxer in the center of the ring and came home with 4 faults in 37.70 seconds. Paige Johnson and Kadena R faded fast, finishing with 12 faults and a jump-off time of 39.40 seconds.
Sansierra and Alison Firestone were the third challengers back and produced the first clear jumping effort in the jump-off, however, Firestones careful pace cost her a time penalty. She took over the early lead with 1 fault in a time of 40.47 seconds. Firestone would eventually sink to fifth place as the final four riders to return would all produce clear rounds.
Molly Ashe and Naomi followed Firestone into the ring and were clear and took over the top spot, crossing the finish line in 36.70 seconds. Gregoire Oberson and Cartofelx Gazelle de Beauval were clean, but their finish time of 38.36 seconds, fell short of the pace set by Ashe.
It was down to a battle of the top two finishers of Round Seven of the WEF Challenge Cup series, the final Challenge Cup in Wellington, Florida on March 10. In that class, Georgina Bloomberg topped Beezie Madden by one and a half seconds for the victory.
Today, the city was Tampa, Florida and the margin of victory was only 7/10ths of a second but the finish order remained the same.
Bloomberg and Nadia turned in a electrifying performance as she whipped around the tiebreaker in 35.21 seconds. Madden had the cat bird seat as the last to go, but again fell short of the mark, cruising home with Judgement in a time of 36.00 seconds.
Bloomberg described her winning effort. It was not the kind of jump off course where there were a lot of places to gallop or make up time like were used to coming from Palm Beach, she said. You had to be a little bit quicker on the turns and take a bigger shot at the jumps than usual, so I tried to do that every place I could, at the same time not risking too much. And today, I got away with it.
Madden admitted that she knew she was too slow. I was alright from one to two and then I didnt catch a forward stride to the double. Then, after the double, those six strides were just too slow for me because he has such a big stride. And then again, I didnt catch a great stride to the oxer in the center of the ring. And then finally, to the last fence I was fast, Madden laughed. But, that was a little too late to catch Georgina.
It was a pretty difficult course, admitted Bloomberg. I think a lot of horses had trouble with this ring. I know Nadia, last year, hated this ring. You never know how the horses are going to react to it. Its just a very different setting than were used to, she said. Im just really lucky that Nadia has grown up a lot. She really adapted to the ring very well and it rode very easy for her today.
Madden agreed with Bloombergs assessment. There wasnt any one particular spot, other than the triple, where any one had real problems, the faults were spread out. It was just a difficult course to jump clean. It took an experienced horse to do it today; one thats been showing and especially one thats in a groove, she said.
Bloomberg said the course today, especially the triple combination that produced so many faults, was perfect for Nadia. That was perfect. Thats the type of combination that if it doesnt suit your horse youre going to get in trouble there and theres not much you can do about it, she explained So, I was lucky that it suited Nadia perfectly. Shes a very careful jumper but shes also got the scope to handle a situation like that.
Madden said she was well prepared for the triple combination, as well. You know we practice that with him a lot because he is so big and has such a big stride, she said. We use a lot of gymnastics with him to quicken him up and make him more clever. Hes really pretty good at the triple combinations.
Coming in to todays class, Bloomberg was already one of the top qualifiers for the Budweiser American Invitational. Yeah, that was great. Knowing we were going to make the cut for the Invitational, we came in much more relaxed. Even Jimmy (Doyle, her trainer) came in today relaxed, and thats saying a lot, Bloomberg laughed. We were ok with whatever happened today, so to get the win was great.
Bloomberg and Madden are tied for eighth spot on the World Cup Qualifying list. Seven riders plus one wild card rider get to make the trip to Vegas. What do these two have planned for Sunday? Ill use Authentic, and see what happens, stated Madden. Ill use Riviera, countered Bloomberg. Hes a bit more experienced than Nadia, and its time for Riviera to step up to the plate.
Laura Chapot and Sprite are rapidly marching towards their second Winter Equestrian Festival Circuit Championship in as many years in the Acorn Hill Farm Speed Challenge Series. The Acorn Hill was the featured event on Friday afternoon.
Laura Kraut, this years hottest rider on the tour, showed no sign of letting up as she handily gathered in the early lead with her ride aboard Joyous, owned by the Summit Partners. Kraut blazed the trail in 52.022 seconds. Bob Kraut, Lauras husband, came next and moved into the second spot on the leader board, cruising across the finish line in 54.520 seconds. He was aboard the Summit Show Stables Optimum Positano.
Another one of this years most successful speed performers, Ellen Whitaker of Great Britain, grabbed the lead from Kraut with a seemingly unbeatable time of 50.492 seconds. Whitaker was aboard her speed specialist, AK Kanseiier, owned by Amaro/Whitaker Sporthorses. They knocked 1.53 seconds off of Krauts time.
Kraut had three more chances in todays event. Returning on Antigua RG, owned by the Pasmore Stables, Kraut moved Antigua in second place, falling just 0.652 seconds short of the target set by Whitaker, breaking the beams in 51.144 seconds.
Before Kraut could appear on her final ride of the day, it was time for Laura Chapot and Sprite. Theres no horse and rider combination more successful in speed classes at the Winter Equestrian Festival than Chapot and her gray mare, Sprite. Coming into todays Acorn Hill, the duo had recorded an amazing thirty one victories together in only two years of competition in Florida. Today was the day that they would notch number thirty-two.
Letting out all the stops, Chapot and Sprite flat out flew around Valancourts speed course, leaving out strides everywhere. When they flashed across the finish line the scoreboard lit up the arena with a new top time of an amazing 49.970 seconds, 0.522 seconds faster than Whitaker.
Krauts final ride on Eltonn, owned by Tracy Topping, was fast, but the finish time of 53.739 seconds would wind up in fifth place. Kraut would have a nice payday, finishing third, fourth and fifth in todays Acorn Hill Speed Challenge. The first place check, however, went to a smiling Laura Chapot. It never gets boring with her; shes a wonderful horse.
Chapot had a chance to check out her competition. I saw Ellen go. She has a very, very fast horse. It doesnt look like shes going that fast, conceded Chapot. She doesnt even have to leave out the strides to be faster than almost everybody in the class. I knew there were a few places on the course where I could leave out those strides and I did, and I think that was the key to winning it today.
Whats the key to Sprites amazing string of successes in Florida? There are no tricks with her. Shes just a great horse and she loves to do it. Shes very careful, she knows the game and she wants to win, beamed Chapot. I dont work her before the class. My Dad rides her on Monday and Tuesday, on the days off, but shes the kind of horse that you just have to let her do her thing. My Dad is a genius with those kinds of things, he knows exactly what to do with her and he does a wonderful job.
Sprite and Chapot won the Acorn Hill Farm Circuit Championship Trophy as the seasons best last year and are on a pace to make it two in a row in 2005.
Laura Kraut continues to be unstoppable at this years Winter Equestrian Festival. With over $100,000 in total prize money already won this tour, Kraut posted her latest win on Saturday afternoon in the $20,000 1.50m Classic.
Niall Grimes and Mr. President were the first to challenge the jump-off course. Grimes held the lead only until Aaron Vale, the next in, crossed the finish line. Vale, aboard Andrea Kings Sea Cloud put on a fantastic performance, knocking a whopping 4.04 seconds off of Grimes time. Vale tripped the timers in 33.767 seconds to take over the lead.
Aimee Aron, riding Ostara for the Kinloch Enterprises, toured the jump off course without penalty and finished with a time of 37.328 to move ahead of Grimes and behind Vale for second place.
Then it was time for Miss Independent, owned by the Pasmore Stables, and ridden by the red hot Laura Kraut. Enjoying one of the most dominating seasons ever recorded on the Winter Equestrian Festival tour, Kraut would add another win to the record books today.
Kraut found every perfect spot and never let up on the gas pedal from the start of the speed course until she crossed the finish line. When the flashy gray mare broke the beams at the finish line, the timers read 32.571 seconds. Kraut had knocked 1.19 seconds off of Vales previous top time.
My horses are amazing. Miss Independent is a phenomenon. I trust her and she believes in me and when you have that going, its all just much simpler, said a smiling Kraut.
Second place finisher Vale was satisfied with the days result. I knew that Id left the door open a bit to get beaten. Laura found a really good distance coming forward to that vertical and I knew I was cooked when I saw that.
Hunters Highlights Wednesday through Sunday
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