Winter Equestrian Festival Week 8 Wrap-Up, March 22-26, 2006,
Tampa Bay Classic, CSI-W

$75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa Title Goes To Leslie Howard and Youp at Winter Equestrian Festival

Leslie Howard of Westport, Connecticut, and her mount Youp connected for the third time this season, racing to an electrifying win in the $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa, presented by Kilkenny/ICH, CSI-W. Her win came as the second to last week of show jumping action at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) drew to a close at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center.

With today’s victory, Howard moved into second place on the Budweiser American Invitational qualifying list with $47,525 in prize money to her credit. Howard previously notched back to back wins during the first week of this year’s festival, taking the top prize in the $50,000 Farr XTN Grand Prix of Palm Beach and the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series Round One.

Leslie Howard and Youp win $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa.
Photo by Randi Muster.

Thirty starters lined up for today’s feature, the final East Coast World Cup Qualifying class, and one of only two qualifiers remaining for next Saturday night’s main event at Raymond James Stadium. Today’s scoring was FEI Table A mixed, Art. 238.2.2. Time First Jump-Off, and the challenging test was designed by Finland’s Aki Veikko Ylaenne.

Seven horse and rider combinations survived the first round and advanced to the encounter against the clock. That clock was the culprit however, in keeping three riders from moving on to round two as they scored clear rounds, but failed to get home in time and picked up a single time fault. Four riders had a single knockdown and six had two rails. Four riders had twelve or more, and the three riders that were eliminated were unseated, with two falls coming at the tall wall (#12) following the triple combination.

Laura Chapot and Little Big Man started out the race for the $22,500 top prize with a clean round and a great time of 39.79 seconds.

Callan Solem’s slow four fault ride on Allison in the tiebreaker was followed by McLain Ward’s tremendous try for the lead. A pole down cost him though, as he cruised home with the time, but with four faults as well. Ward tripped the timers in 38.75 seconds.

Candice King and Caliskan had a knockdown and following that, Margie Engle settled for a slow clear and a guaranteed top four finish.

It was then time for the ride of the day from Leslie Howard and her speedy partner Youp. Howard’s style is to never saddle up to come in second, and today was no exception for one of the best in the business against the clock. Howard knocked a whopping 2.39 seconds off of Chapot’s speedy time to grab the lead for the third time in a major event this season. She raced across the finish line in 37.40 seconds. When the last to go, Ian Millar of Canada, had two down, it was time for Howard to celebrate her third win of the 2006 WEF tour.

“I had a great feeling about today,” said a beaming Howard following her victory lap. “The course today suited him well. It was a scopey course but not ridiculous, and I knew if I didn’t blow it, I had a good chance to win it because the jump-off was just perfect for him.” She explained why. “He’s a really good turner, so from [fences] one to two to three, I knew I could just whip back on that oxer. He’s careful, so I knew I could fly to the in and out and spin back and fly to the skinny and then fly to the last jump.”

Howard says Youp continues to impress her. “I feel a lot of scope now. He’s always had heart and he’s always been careful and fast. But I have to admit, beginning with Syracuse last year and at Washington, and then this year in Florida, he’s been amazing.”

And what about Youp competing at Raymond James Stadium for this year’s Budweiser American Invitational? “He has to! He doesn’t have any choice,” she laughed. “If you had asked me four months ago before Palm Beach started, ‘Would you do the Invitational?’, I would have laughed at you and said there’s no way,” she revealed. “But I have to admit that today; he felt the best he’s ever felt in his whole life. Everything was easy for him today. I now think he’s come to the next level. Not that he’s an Olympic horse, but I think he can handle the next level. He grew up. He got stronger. He got fitter, and his confidence level grew. Everything got better about him in the last three months.”

It has been a long time since Howard has had this kind of season-long success on the Florida tour. “Probably since Pressurized way back in 1987,” Howard said.

Jumper Highlights: Wednesday through Saturday

While the World Equestrian Games Selection Trials continue in Wellington, the Tampa leg of the 2006 Winter Equestrian Festival lifted off on Wednesday morning with the Tampa Bay Classic at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center. With twenty-five of the nation’s top show jumping riders in a heated battle, vying for a coveted spot on the team for the World Championships in Aachen, Germany in late August, early morning jumper attendance at the Covered Arena in Tampa was down at the start on

McLain Ward and Galant are victorious on opening day at WEF in Tampa.
Photo by Randi Muster

Wednesday.

Nine competitors went to the 9 a.m. post for the 1.45m Jumpers, including McLain Ward, who along with Beezie Madden, received one of two byes for the USEF Selection Trials. “I’ve never been so relaxed during a selection trial,” joked Ward. “I must really be maturing.”

Ward’s first victory on Wednesday came aboard the Double H Farm’s Oasis. Ward produced a jump-off clear in 39.983 seconds to claim the first jumper blue ribbon of the Tampa tour. Second place went to Canada’s Ian Millar and Redefin, 3.62 seconds off the pace, tripping the timers in 43.604 seconds. Marke Leone and Argento finished third with four faults in 45.638 seconds.

Twenty nine starters lined up for the second event on the Wednesday schedule, the 1.40m Jumpers, also scored as a Table II, Sec 2 (b) Time First Jump-Off class. Nine competitors went clear and five of those went on to post a jump off clear as well.

Ward made it two in a row with the win in the 1.40m as he edged out Katie Prudent for the victory. Ward’s winning time of 46.358 seconds on his own mount Galant was 1.6 seconds faster than Prudent, who finished in second place on Zeidler FM Canada’s Pioneer. Meghan Moran galloped home for third place prize on her Quarnak De Longpre. Moran was through the timers in 48.259 seconds.

Aaron Vale and his mount Artur outraced a jump-off field of ten on Thursday night to capture the top prize in the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup. With the win, Vale took a giant step toward securing one of those coveted spots in the line up for the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, under the lights at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, April 1st, 2006.

Thirty-five starters went to the post for the 7 p.m. main event. Of the thirty-five, eleven competitors qualified for the timed jump-off with an initial clear round. One rider was clear with a single time fault, another six riders had four faults, and eight duos had two knockdowns on the course. Nine had more than eight faults, or were eliminated.

Aaron Vale and Artur win the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series, Round Eight at Tampa.
Photo by Randi Muster
.

Vale, who rode third in the original order, lead the way back in the jump-off on Serval, the first of his two clean rides in the first round. He pulled two rails for eight faults, and slipped across the finish line in 40.32 seconds. Immediately following Vale, Kate Levy set the pace with a fault free speed ride on Vent du Nord. Levy cruised home in 42.77 seconds.

One horse later, VDL Oranta and Chris Kappler grabbed the lead away from Levy, knocking 1.28 seconds off of her time. Kappler flashed through the finish line in 41.49 seconds to move to the top of the leader board.

Three horses later, Vale returned with Artur, and sealed the deal on Round Eight of the WEF Challenge Cup Series. With incredible turns and a hasty pace, Vale clocked in clean in 39.66 seconds, 1.83 seconds faster than Kappler.

Two horses later, Canada’s Ian Miller and Promise Me challenged, but couldn’t quite catch Kappler’s time, breaking the beams in 42.33 seconds for the third place finish.

The first place check of $7,500 tonight might be just enough to get Vale a spot in the order of go at Raymond James Stadium, a week from Saturday. “I haven’t been in the American Invitational in three years, and I really wanted to get back,” he said. “It was a short opportunity for me to qualify here in Tampa, so it’s really nice to get the win here tonight, and almost be assured of a ride next Saturday night.”

For second place finisher Kappler, tonight was another step forward for his new partnership with VDL Oranta. “She’s a young horse. I haven’t decided whether I’ll take her Saturday night (at the Invitational) or not. One way or the other, the Invitational and Charlotte are both wonderful competitions, but I lack a horse to be able do both, so I have to use her sparingly and carefully. I’ll show her here on Sunday in the Grand Prix of Tampa, see how she goes in the World Cup Qualifier, and then make up my mind.”

Andrew Welles and Maestro win two in a row at WEF in Tampa.
Photo by Randi Muster

Andrew Welles and his new equine partner Maestro are becoming the perfect match, after only a month together. On Friday Welles posted his second win in as many days, topping a field of twelve in the High Amateur-Owner Jumpers, Power and Speed. He won the jump-off class on Thursday.

Welles cruised home clean in 47.644 seconds for the victory. Amy Lefferdink and Costa Sur were 2.84 seconds off the pace in second place, with a finish time of 50.484 seconds. Samantha Tuerk and Loraine picked up the yellow ribbon, just a fraction behind Lefferdink, crossing under the wire in 50.521 seconds.

Laura Chapot and Sprite are well on their way to their third Winter Equestrian Festival Circuit Championship in the Acorn Hill Speed Series. But unlike past years when they were almost unbeatable week in and week out, this year has been a season of second place finishes. In today’s Acorn Hill Speed Challenge, there was no exception to that rule, as the duo finished with the red ribbon for the eighth time this season.

Friday’s class was the eighth in the nine week long series of Acorn Hill 1.40m Speed Challenge classes. Twenty-six starters went to the post to test the course offered by Aki Veikko Ylaenne. Ten of the twenty-six entries went clear in the highly competitive dash for the cash, with McLain Ward and Galant emerging victorious for the second time this week.

Chapot and Sprite bumped Chris Kappler and Pele from the lead with a time of 65.666 seconds, and that held up until Ward and Galant raced home in an incredible 64.124 seconds, a second and a half faster than Chapot and Sprite.

Chapot had one more shot at Ward with Three Coins, but fell short of the mark, sliding into the third spot. Lauren Bass (Naleida) and Brianne Goutal (Onira) finished fourth and fifth.

Brianne Goutal and Onira win $20,000 1.50m Classic at WEF in Tampa.
Photo by Randi Muster

New York City’s Brianne Goutal and her mount Onira edged out Alison Firestone and La Supra by 8/10ths of a second to take the top prize in the $20,000 1.50m Classic on Saturday.

Goutal, the youngest rider in the starting field at seventeen, qualified both of her mounts for the timed tiebreaker. Returning first on Casar, Goutal went fault free for the second time around, cruising home in a handy 39.160 seconds.

Alison Firestone, with a speedy round, managed to slice 3/10ths of a second off of Goutal’s time and grabbed the lead with La Supra. Firestone came home in 38.857 seconds.

With Olympic Gold Medalist McLain Ward still waiting in the wings to follow her, Goutal followed Firestone into the arena to try and reclaim the lead.

Up on Onira this time, Goutal quickened her pace and tightened her turns just enough to move back on top with a sparkling time of 38.011 seconds. When Ward and his mount Harriett ran into problems on a quick cut trying to catch her, the victory for Goutal was assured.

“Onira has really surprised us. He went from a Low Junior Jumper to a High Junior Jumper to a 1.50m horse to the greatest horse I have. I just hope he keeps surprising us,” smiled Goutal.

Earlier in the day, Alison Leone and Galliano topped a field of sixteen to win the $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur Jumper Classic. Leone, clocking in at 40.562 seconds, beat Charlie Jayne and Urbanus by 1.16 seconds.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Leone following her win. “My three young boys keep me busy and from showing as much as I’d like, and I didn’t get a chance to show at all in Palm Beach. So, coming here to Tampa and winning the Classic the first week out is fantastic.”

Hunter Highlights: Thursday through Sunday

Three hunter divisions had classes on Wednesday and Thursday, and they rode for tricolor ribbons.

Lavari and Havens Schatt, First Year Green Hunter champions at Winter Equestrian Festival in Tampa.
Photo by Randi Muster.

In the First Year Green Working Hunter division, Havens Schatt piloted Lavari for owner Tracy Scheriff to the championship. The elegant bay gelding earned fifth and sixth over fences and third under saddle on Wednesday. They returned today for a first and third over fences. “He was a little fresh yesterday after a week off, but today he came back ready to go,” Schatt said. Reserve champion in the division was Cosmo, ridden by Ken Smith for Susan Stanley.

Although the Green Conformation Hunter division was light on entries this week, it was still full of talent. Topping the list was Compliment, ridden by Scott Stewart and owned by Molly Ohrstrom. The flashy gelding won two over fences classes and was second and third in the remaining classes over jumps. Compliment also won the model class and was fourth under saddle. The reserve championship went to Cachet and Hunt Tosh, who rode for owner Lee Cesery.

The final championship awarded on Thursday was in the Second Year Green Hunters. Walking in for the presentation was a horse that has become quite accustomed to wearing fluttering ribbons on his bridle. Rio Renoir and Holly Orlando received three first place ribbons and a fifth over fences, as well as a sixth place under saddle. Reserve champion in the division was Music Street with Scott Stewart for Alexa Weisman.

The Pre-Green Hunters also wrapped up competition for the week. Champion in the Pre-Green 3’ Hunters was West Point, ridden and owned by Scott Stewart. Reserve champion was Tamara, ridden by Kate Conover for Andrea Van Sheltinga. In the Pre-Green 3’3” division, the championship went to Kiny and Ken Smith, who rode for Adeline Negre. The reserve champions were Secrets and Hunt Tosh. Tosh piloted Secrets for owner Bill Schaub.

In the Regular Working Hunters, MVP and Nora Frederickson came away with the championship for owner Amelia McArdle. They were first and second over fences on Thursday, were second under saddle, and won both over fences classes today.

Jeanine Zuckerman and Stockbridge receive their blue ribbon and medal from Bob Drennan after winning the Ariat Adult Medal at Winter Equestrian Festival in Tampa.
Photo by Jennifer Wood/PhelpsSports.com

Reserve champion in the division was Grand Stand, ridden by Mary Beth McGee for Linda Shea.

This week was the first time that MVP has shown over four feet in the Regular Working Hunter division. Originally purchased for another client by Frederickson’s husband, Morgan Thomas, MVP showed in the First Year Green Hunters with Thomas. McArdle and trainer Katie Kappler purchased him a year later to compete in the Small Junior Hunters.

The Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunters and the Adult Amateur 18-35 and 36-50 Hunters began their competition today. For the Adult Hunters, there was an opportunity for many to show in the ring in the Ariat Adult Medal before their division.

One rider who took advantage of this opportunity was Jeanine Zuckerman. She explained, “It gets me into the ring, gives me a feel for the course, and I can see where the jumps are.” She and Stockbridge executed smooth rollbacks and an even pace to finish with a top score of 85 in the first round. The top four scores were asked to return for a work-off. Three elected to return, with Zuckerman showing last over the shortened course. Going into the work-off, Zuckerman said that she thought to herself, “I hope I don’t mess it up!” In the work-off, riders were asked multiple questions, including trotting a jump, halting, and backing up their horses. “The trot jump was probably the most difficult part of the test,” Zuckerman acknowledged. “I’ve never done a trot jump in the show ring with him before, so I practiced right before I went in.” Zuckerman held off the two other riders to capture first place in the Medal class.

In Disguise and Ellen Toon, Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Champions at Winter Equestrian Festival in Tampa.
Photo by Jennifer Wood/PhelpsSports.com

In the Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunters, Ellen Toon had a very successful week. On her two incredible horses, Toon captured the championship on In Disguise and the reserve championship on Attache. In Disguise, nicknamed Odie, and Attache, who is fondly called Donald, were first and second in all four over fences classes. Each won two classes, so it came down to the under saddle class for the championship. In Disguise was third in the hack, while Attache finished fourth.

It will be a fight to the finish in the Adult Amateur 36-50 Hunter division for the circuit championship. Leaping their way up the charts are Eye Remember Rio and Victoria Watters LeBlond. They won all three over fences classes this week for the championship, which puts them near the top of the rankings. Leading the division going into this week was the reserve champion, Romanze, and owner/rider Carolyn Anderson.

LeBlond has nothing but superlatives for her Canadian Sporthorse, Eye Remember Rio. “Rio is a gift from God. He is the best horse that I’ve ever ridden. He’s the most forgiving horse. All you have to do is squeeze and point, and you’ve got it. He’s absolutely incredible.”

The third division championship awarded today went to Winter Castle and Jeanine Zuckerman, who rode for Vanessa Redfern in the Adult Amateur 18-35 Hunters. Reserve champion was Unlisted, owned and ridden by Annie Connelly.

In the Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunter division, Prove It and Krista Weisman earned the championship ribbon. Prove It won both over fences classes on Saturday, was fourth in the under saddle, and was fifth in both over fences classes on Sunday. Reserve champion in the division was Gray Slipper, ridden and owned by Bridget Hallman.

The Winning Edge, ridden by 16 year old Emily Gardner and owned by Starwyn Farms LLC, lived up to his name this weekend by capturing the tricolor in the Large Junior 15 & Under Hunters. The Winning Edge took home two blues and a second place over fences this weekend. Reserve champion in the division was Saloon, ridden by Jennifer Waxman for Whitney Roper.

Gardner started riding The Winning Edge in January at the Jacksonville horse shows with trainer Don Stewart Jr. and moved on to the Ocala Winter Circuit. The duo won championships at both venues. Since Gardner’s own horse had to take time off, they decided to lease the veteran bay gelding. “He’s a little older, but he’s a really cool horse,” Gardner commented. “His experience helps me in the show ring. He knows his job. I always just relax on him, and the jumps always come up nicely on him.”

Lyle and Megan Massaro, Small Junior 16-17 Hunter champions at WEF in Tampa.
Photo by Randi Muster.

Another Don Stewart Jr. trained entry, Megan Massaro, has also only had the ride on Lyle, owned by Mrs. Randolph Rinehart, since January. However, the pair have been champion every week but one. This week was no different, as they walked in the ring for the tricolor presentation in the Small Junior 16-17 Hunters. Lyle jumped to two blues, a second, and a fifth over fences. Reserve champion in the division was Lavoisier, ridden by Lauren Hutchens for Christy Hutchens.

“They don’t want him to retire yet, so I get to ride him around!” Massaro reported with a smile. About Lyle, she said, “You get a little gallop and let him do what he does. He’s perfect. He’s so sensible and relaxed.”

While returning to the hunter ring was not originally in the plans this year for equitation and jumper star Brianne Goutal, it was a decision that led to great success this winter. Trainer Tom Wright asked Goutal to ride Priceless in the junior hunters for owner Clara Lindner, and it was a match that has led to several championships and the current lead for the WEF Circuit Championship.

The striking bay gelding was third over fences on Saturday and returned on Sunday for a first and second over fences and the win under saddle. Reserve champion was North Country, ridden by Maria Schaub and owned by Laura King Kaplan.

Young Jennifer Waxman had more than her fair share of championship ribbons. In addition to the reserve tricolor on Saloon, Waxman swept the championship ribbons in the Small Junior 15 & Under Hunters on Christy Russo’s High Cotton and her own horse, The Frog Prince.

Waxman also rode Navigator for Amanda Cohen to the championship in the Large Pony Hunter division and her own pony, Harry Winston, to the tricolor in the Medium Pony Hunters.

Reserve champion in the Large Ponies was Hint of Blue, ridden by Megan Massaro and owned by Katie Hogan. Kiss the Rain and Schaefer Raposa, who rode for Anne Gardner, were reserve champions in the Medium Ponies.

Another Katie Hogan-owned entry, Magic Rose, again ridden by Schaefer Raposa, won the tricolor in the Small Pony Hunter division. Reserve champion was Hillcrest Blue Snip, ridden and owned by Ashley Foster.

Two WEF circuit championships were sealed with results from this weekend. In the Adult Amateur 3’3” Hunter division, Forget Paris and Wendy Lewis have decidedly left the competition behind after their tricolor performance. Lewis also picked up the reserve championship on Patriotism.

In the Adult Amateur 51 & Over division, Harmony Bay and Carol Cone won yet another championship to add to their impressive list at WEF so far. Reserve champion in the division was Pommegranate and Joan Ehrhart.

The last week of WEF in Tampa begins on Tuesday, March 28, and ends on Saturday, April 1. On Saturday, the circuit champions will participate in the ultimate Parade of Champions in front of thousands before the Budweiser American Invitational at Raymond James Stadium in downtown Tampa.

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