Leslie Howard Wins $20,000 Absorbine Myoplast 1.50m Classic
WELLINGTON, FL, March 1 -
Leslie Howard of Westport, Conn., emerged victorious in a battle of the Olympians to win the $20,000 Absorbine Myoplast 1.50m Classic on Saturday at the 2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival, presented by Zimmerman Advertising, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
The CN Winter Equestrian Festival is now in week seven, the CSI3* Zada Enterprises Wellington Masters, presented by PowerIce. A total of 65 challengers attempted the speed track set by German course designer Christa Heibach of Germany with 18 passing the test to advance to the jump-off.
The lead changed several times through the class, with several Olympians rotating in and out of top spot. Howard had held the lead at one point with Lennox Lewis 2 until her time of 44.69 seconds was surpassed by her 1984 Gold Medal teammate, Joe Fargis, who stopped the clock at 42.36 seconds with Madison, owned by Alexa Weeks.
Two-time Canadian Olympian Jay Hayes then moved to the top of the leader board after delivering a clear jump-off performance in a time of 42.02 seconds riding Livarot, owned by Steve and Hilary Corbeil of Summerhill Farm. With only two horses left to go, Sydney Olympian Laura Kraut gave it her best effort and had the time, 41.76 seconds, but a fallen rail with Nocturnal put her out of contention.
Returning for the jump-off with her second horse, Howard was in the cat bird’s seat with the final entry of the day, Jeans Glove Varnel. The pair sliced and diced their way around the shortened jump-off track, leaving all the rails in place, including the problematic final double, to stop the clock at 40.32 seconds. Having saved the best for last, Howard claimed her first major win of the 2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival.
“She’s a really fast mare, she’s 7/8 American thoroughbred, so she’s naturally fast,” said Howard of Jeans Glove Varnel. “I’ve had this mare for three years now, and she suffered a very bad, almost career-ending injury over a year ago, and it has been a long process bringing her back. R.J. Brandes is a part-owner, and I really appreciate his patience.”
Of the course, Howard noted, “It was obviously a very fair 1.50m course. You could say it could have been a little bit harder, but I think it was just right. This class is for the second horses, and it’s not their fault that there are 70 in it.”
Like Howard, runner-up Hayes has also competed at two Olympic Games. While Howard made her appearances in Los Angeles in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996, Hayes contested the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Both Howard and Hayes are 51 years old.
“It’s been a few years for me, but with Leslie ahead of me and Joe behind me, I feel as good as ever,” joked Hayes. When asked if he thought his time would hold up with only two riders left to go, Hayes quickly responded, “No, Leslie was behind me! I knew she would beat my time, I was just hoping that she would have a rail.”
His mount, Livarot, has only been competing in the show jumping ring for the past two years. Bred by renowned horseman Roger Deslauriers of Bromont, Que., Livarot was doing low level dressage when Hayes discovered the now 11-year-old gelding in a clinic.
The CSI3*-W Zada Enterprises Wellington Masters, presented by Power Ice, concludes with Sunday’s $100,000 Zada Enterprises, LLC Masters Cup, which acts as a World Cup Qualifying event for the 2008 World Cup Final in Goteborg, Sweden. It is also the second U.S. Show Jumping Team Selection Trials for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Results of Class 1001 - $20,000 Absorbine Myoplast 1.50m Classic
1 - 2852 JEANS
GLOVE VARNEL LESLIE HOWARD 0.00 79.941 0.00 40.328 LESLIE HOWARD
The 2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival attracts the best horses and riders from around the world to Wellington and offers more than $5 million in prize money. For more information, visit www.equestriansport.com