Laura Kraut and Miss Independent Kick Off New Year with a win in
the $65,000 Green Cove Springs World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix

Green Cove Springs, FL- January 14, 2006-

On a cold and blustery night outside of Jacksonville, Florida, Olympian Laura Kraut and Miss Independent blistered around a jump-off course to capture the win in the $65,000 Green Cove Springs Grand Prix CSI-W, presented by Sleiman Enterprises.
The grand prix is also a member event of the American Grand Prix Association (AGA). Entering its twenty-eighth year, the AGA Grand Prix Series of Show Jumping is the world’s richest and longest running series of equestrian show jumping events. The AGA offers over $3 million dollars in prize money on a tour that encompasses thirty events and twenty different equestrian market locations across the United States. This grand prix is an important qualifying event for the 2006 FEI World Cup Jumping Final, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 26-30.

Laura Kraut and Miss Independent, winners of the $65,000 Green Cove Springs Grand Prix CSI-W
Photo: Flashpoint Photography

Although the temperatures dipped into the 40’s and the wind was howling, the stands were packed with fans who witnessed some of the most exciting show jumping ever to hit North Florida. The event is hosted during the Jacksonville International Horse Show by the North Florida Hunter Jumper Association. Kraut said, “This is a great show, and it’s really nice that they put this on for us. We appreciate Tony Weight doing this for us.”

A first round course saw 27 horse and rider combinations over a track set by Canadian course designer Dave Ballard. Kraut mentioned, “The course was really nice. All of the riders who walked the course thought it was a nice test.” She added, “Most of these horses have been resting for a bit. It wasn’t too difficult, but it was technical enough. Nine clear out of 28 was a good number, I thought.” A tight time allowed in the first round accounted for time faults for eight riders, three of which would have gone into the jump-off if they had been fractions faster. At the end of the first round, there were nine clear rounds, three with one time fault, and five with just one rail.
The first clear in round one and the first to return for the shortened course was Robin Sweely and Acorn Hill Farm’s Discovery. They had a careful round that resulted in no faults and a time of 37.165.  The jump-off gave riders the opportunity to make two inside turns, which many took in an effort to shave precious time. Although she was three seconds faster than Sweely, Olympic gold medalist Leslie Howard and longtime partner Youp, owned by the S’Blieft Group, had an unfortunate mistake in the turn back to a skinny vertical and trouble in the one stride for 12 faults and a time of 34.189.  Following Howard was fellow Olympian Margie Engle, who recently won an unprecedented ninth AGA Rider of the Year title.  She and Hidden Creek’s Alibi were fast and on the bead for the lead until the oxer out of the one stride, which gave them four faults and a time of 34.323.
Next in was Eliza Shuford of Hickory, North Carolina and the Larentino Group LLC’s Larentino. She and the dark bay stallion made both tight inside turns and galloped home clean for the lead in a time of 33.752. “It’s my first really, really nice horse,” Shuford said of Larentino. “He’s a very nice stallion. I’ve had him for two years, but he was off for a year. It’s nice to finally click with him.”
Shuford could not rest easy, however, as she had five horses and three Olympians following her round. “Knowing who was coming behind me was hard,” she admitted. “You’ve got Margie, Laura, Kyle, and Mac. I was really worried about Laura because her horse has been jumping fabulous this whole weekend. I knew any of them could beat me at any second, so I knew it wouldn’t hold up. I’m happy that it held up to second!”
Kyle King came into the grand prix with a win last night in the $15,000 Welcome Class. His mount for tonight’s grand prix was Capone I, owned by Corrine Super. Although King made sharp turns and had the fastest time thus far in 33.132 seconds, a long distance into the one stride racked up four faults. David Jennings and Amy Lefferdink’s Costa Sur were the next to tackle the jump-off. Jennings and the flashy stallion were swift across the ground, but they had a heartbreaking rail at the last fence for four faults in a time of 34.735 seconds.
The next challenger in the ring was the formidable pair of Laura Kraut and Miss Independent. Kraut, of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and the dependable grey mare entered the ring for their first jump-off in four months, but Kraut was confident in the horse that helped the United States win the Samsung Super League this past summer.  Kraut edged around both inside turns and cut just over the top of the jumps. They flew home in a time of 32.659 seconds and into the lead.
“I didn’t get to see Eliza go, but Alison Firestone told me she was quite quick,” she confided. “I was worried. I thought that I had better do all of the inside turns and be as quick as I can, but double clear, and pick up some good World Cup points.” However, Kraut did not feel secure with two fast riders behind her. She said with a laugh, “Having Margie and Mac after you, it’s tough. I got lucky having them not beat me. Some days you’re just lucky!”  
Engle returned on her second mount in the jump-off, Wyndhurst Stables Inc.’s Quervo Gold. Engle took a safer route in one turn to keep all of the jumps up on her newer mount, crossing the timers clear in a time of 35.132 seconds. The last in the jump-off to challenge Kraut was Canadian Olympian Mac Cone and another exciting grey mare Melinda, owned by Southern Ways. While Cone and Melinda were quick and clean, it was not quite enough to catch Kraut, as they stopped the timers at 34.160 seconds.
Kraut said she was very pleased with her nine year old mare. “It’s a big deal, because it’s my first event after syndicating her with new owners,” Kraut admitted. “This was her first outing in exactly four months, since Spruce Meadows. I was worried that she would be rusty, and that I would feel rusty, but she’s just an incredible horse. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Although Miss Independent is just nine years old, Kraut has already formed a bond with the mare and feels that she is a top competitor. “What I love about her most is she’s just a trier,” she explained. “Every time she goes in the ring she gives everything she has and loves it. She thrives on it. I think she was bored in her time off!” Kraut also explained about her future plans, “World Cup is probably more of a thought for Anthem and hopefully the Trials and World Championships for Miss Independent.”
Shuford was pleased with her second place finish and has the goal of qualifying for the World Cup Finals this year. “It was really nice to come here and do well,” she said. “I have to keep doing this well in Palm Beach, because I’d like to go to Kuala Lumpur. I’ve been going to the World Cup qualifiers, but it’s just been unlucky. Hopefully this will set it in motion.”
The American Grand Prix Association tour resumes on February 12, 2006 in Wellington, Florida at the Kilkenny/ICH Internationale CSI-W.
Upcoming AGA Florida Events
Sat, January 14, 2006 (N)  $  65,000 Green Cove Springs Grand Prix CSI-W         Green Cove Springs, FL
Sun., February 12, 2006     $  60,000 Kilkenny/ICH Internationale Cup, CSI 3*                     Wellington, FL
Sun., February 19, 2006     $  75,000 Bainbridge Idle Dice Classic, CSI-W                            Wellington, FL
Sun., February 26, 2006     $100,000 Zada Enterprises LLC Masters Cup, CSI-W                 Wellington, FL
Sun., March 5, 2006          €150,000 Florida Open, presented by Cosequin CSI 5*               Wellington, FL
Sun., March 12, 2006        $150,000 US Open Jumper Championship *                                 Wellington, FL
                                                           presented by CN CSIO 5*
Sun., March 26, 2006        $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa, CSI-W                                               Tampa, FL
Sat., April 1, 2006 (N) (T) $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, CSI 3*                            Tampa, FL
Official Results: $65,000 Green Cove Springs Grand Prix CSI-W, presented by Sleiman Enterprises
1. Miss Independent, Laura Kraut, 0/0/32.659
2. Larentino, Eliza Shuford, 0/0/33.752
3. Melinda, Mac Cone, 0/0/34.160
4. Quervo Gold, Margie Engle, 0/035.132
5. Discovery, Robin Sweely, 0/0/37.165
6. Capone I, Kyle King, 0/4/33.132
7. Hidden Creek’s Alibi, Margie Engle, 0/4/34.323
8. Costa Sur, David Jennings, 0/4/34.735
9. Youp, Leslie Howard, 0/12/34.189
10. Turbo Van’t Gestelhof, Candice King, 1/81.398
11. Wild Cat, Pablo Barrios, 1/82.116
12. Furistos Treasure, Tricia O’Connor, 1/82.570


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