Beezie Madden and Authentic Win $200,000 CN WorldWide Grand Prix
WELLINGTON, FL, March 16 -
In a dramatic jump-off featuring the best show jumping athletes in the world, Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, NY, and Authentic claimed victory in the $200,000 CN WorldWide Grand Prix during week nine, the CSI4*-W CN WorldWide, of the CN Winter Equestrian Festival, presented by Zimmerman Advertising, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
Featuring the largest Grand Prix purse on offer during the 12-week CN Winter Equestrian Festival, the $200,000 CN WorldWide Grand Prix attracted the best horses and riders from North America and around the world. The event also acted as qualifier for the World Cup Final to be held next month in Gothenburg, Sweden.
A total of 53 horses entered the International Arena on Sunday afternoon to tackle the demanding track set by course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela. Having designed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and being tapped for the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games, Palacios has a well-deserved reputation for being the best in the business. The 10 riders who jumped clear to advance to the jump-off would all agree, although heartbreak came for two riders, Hillary Dobbs aboard Quincy B and Canada’s Karen Cudmore riding Southern Pride, when they both jumped clear but exceeded the 90-second time allowed.
The jump-off proved to be a horse race with the times getting faster and faster as the crowd cheered louder and louder. Sydney Olympian Lauren Hough of Wellington, FL, threw down the gauntlet as the first rider into the ring, turning in a clear round in a time of 37.82 seconds riding Casadora. Jeffery Welles and Armani were next to challenge but had eight faults while James Benedetto and Kannan’s Gigi Z had four. Christine McCrea and Vegas also had eight faults before Canadian Olympian Mac Cone of King City, Ont., guided Ole to a clear round in a time of 39.73 seconds, but it was not fast enough to take over the lead.
Olympic Team Gold Medalist McLain Ward of Brewster, NY, gave it a shot with Sapphire and had the time of 35.86 seconds, but a fallen rail ended their chances of victory. Great Britain’s Peter Charles then raced around the shortened jump-off course with his handy little bay, Murkas Rubert R, leaving all the rails in place and stopping the clock at 36.85 seconds to take over top spot.
With that, the race was on. Kent Farrington of Wellington, FL, went hell bent for leather with the game chestnut gelding, Up Chiqui. The timers flashed 35.23 seconds, catapulting them to the top of the leaderboard.
With numerous accolades to their name, Madden and Authentic were next up and did not disappoint their legions of fans. Despite an awkward approach to the final fence, a vertical set beside the in-gate, they still shaved a full second off of Farrington’s seemingly unbeatable time, crossing the timers in 34.17 seconds.
Madden’s 2004 Olympic Gold Medal teammate, Chris Kappler of Pittstown, NJ, was the final challenger riding VDL Oranta. They, too, were fast, but not fast enough. Their time of 36.33 seconds left them in third place with $26,000 in prize money while Madden took home the lion’s share of $60,000 for owner Abigail Wexner. As the runner-up, Farrington collected $44,000 for his efforts.
“I had to go real fast,” said Madden of her strategy after seeing the round laid down by Farrington. Of her approach to the final fence, she explained, “I totally lost where I was for a second, I think he stumbled, and when I looked up, I was on the half-stride and I added. I don’t know how he did it, but he did.”
Madden, currently ranked number eight in the world, and Authentic were given a bye from the U.S. Equestrian Team’s Selection Trials for the Olympic Games, held the last two weeks at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Having also won Thursday’s $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round VIII, the pair is proving to be on track for the upcoming Olympic Games, the equestrian portion of which will take place in Hong Kong.
“He was a little more in the game today, I thought he jumped as well as he could,” said Madden. “I feel like I have an amazing horse. If I give it a go, he is going to give it a go. It feels fantastic.”
For Farrington, he knew if anyone was capable of catching his time, it was Madden and Authentic.
“I was really concerned with that one coming after me. Authentic is one of the best horses in the world with one of the best riders in the world,” said Farrington. “My horse is very fast too. At least we got a reward and won some serious money.”
The competitors had loyal sponsor CN to thank for the enormous purse awarded at the conclusion of the $200,000 CN WorldWide Grand Prix.
“We had a great competition,” said Hunter Harrison, CEO of CN. “With this type of competition with this type of prize money, the cream is going to rise to the top. We had that today with Beezie, Kent and Chris.
“I think people are starting to understand that these are the best riders in the world competing here in south Florida,” said Harrison regarding the increase in spectator turn-out. “I think the venue has come a long way. Mark Bellissimo and company have done a wonderful job in just three or four months of turning it around. The tournament has come a long way this year and if we keep stepping it up, this venue is going to be something everyone in the world can be proud of.”
In reference to CN’s unparalleled support of show jumping, Madden said, “On behalf of my peers, I would like to thank CN for everything they do for our sport. I think we have the best sponsor in the world.”
The $200,000 CN WorldWide Grand Prix concluded week nine, the CSI4*-W CN WorldWide, of competition in the CN Winter Equestrian Festival, presented by Zimmerman Advertising. Show jumping at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center begins again on Wednesday, March 19, with the CSI2* Suncast Corporation, presented by Equestrian Club by Tavern on the Green. Featured events include the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round IX as well as Sunday’s $75,000 Suncast Grand Prix CSI2*.
Results of 101 - $200,000 CN WorldWide Grand Prix CSI4*-W
1 - 2100 AUTHENTIC
BEEZIE MADDEN USA 0.00 84.30 0.00 34.17 ABIGAIL WEXNER
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