Leipzig, Germany - Beezie Madden kicked off the 2011 Rolex/FEI World Cup Final with a win for the U.S. Wednesday morning in the Opening Competition. Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo bested the field of 24 as the only combination to jump faultlessly in the first round.
Madden (Cazenovia, NY) was the first U.S. rider in the ring and set the tone immediately. The Belgian Warmblood mare owned by Coral Reef Ranch jumped carefully yet efficiently overFrank Rothenberger's 11-obstacle course.
"She felt good, fresh, but that's why I did this class. I knew that she would be fresh, and she jumped very well and everything went great," said Madden of her mare's winning effort.
In the jump-off held immediately after her initial round, Madden chose to jump a more conservative round, leaving all the poles in place but collecting four time faults. However, this would prove immaterial as no other combination was able to replicate their fault-free first round.
Madden will give Coral Reef Via Volo's stable mate, Danny Boy, a chance to jump in the 2011 Final tomorrow.
"I'm going to use Danny Boy the first day of the World Cup tomorrow, and then decide after that which horse to continue riding. We'll see how he goes tomorrow and then decide the rest, but I probably will be switching at some point."
Five trips after Madden, Ashlee Bond (Hidden Hills, CA) and Little Valley Farms' Chivas Z completed a powerful round. The Zangersheide gelding got strong down the vertical to oxer line at three and four, having a rail at both to finish with eight faults.
McLain Ward and Grant Road Partners' Antares F were the final combination for the U.S. Ward elected to jump a shortened course with the exciting grey gelding, retiring after the vertical at seven. The pair had jumped immaculately over the first part of the course, including jumping well-clear of the standards at the Rolex double, fence 6A and B.
All 10 American riders will compete in tomorrow's first leg of the World Cup Final, which is scheduled to begin at 3:15 p.m. CET in Hall One of the Leipzig Exhibition Center.
This afternoon the six American riders that contested the Opening Competition of the EY Cup proved the future of the sport in the U.S. shines brightly. With three of the top four placings being held by U.S. riders, the American contingent proved they were on a mission in Leipzig over Frank Rothenberger's tricky course.
Katie Dinan rode Grant Road Partners' Vancouver to a strong second-place finish, jumping clear and stopping the clock at 56.16 seconds. Dinan gave the New Zealand Thoroughbred cross gelding a tactful ride, executing direct and efficient lines throughout the course.
The New York City native could not have been more pleased with her first ride in Leipzig. "It was really great to have my first horse go so well and according to our plan. I was a little nervous to come, it's a lot of new stuff and my horse couldn't have been better. I think he knew it was important. Hopefully, he'll keep it up!"
Dinan returned to the ring with Grant Road Partners' Belle Dame D later in the class and nearly bested her first performance. The pair was poised to take over second place until they just rolled the front rail of the oxer at 7B.
Cayla Richards (Calabasas, CA) and her own Valentine were close on Dinan's heels in third place. They crossed the timers in 56.60 seconds after a very forward yet careful clear round. Richards was another member of the American squad to bring two horses to the EY Cup in order to gain international experience. Later in the class, Faustino collected eight faults after having rails at fences 5 and 6, but Richards was delighted with the mileage she is getting in Leipzig.
"I came here for the great experience, but to be in the ribbons was really incredibly exciting for me!" she said.
Caitlin Ziegler and Artisan Farms' VDL Groep Camara galloped to a strong finish to collect fourth-place honors. Ziegler's first ride of the day was on Valencia, also owned by Artisan Farms, with unlucky rails at the first and eighth fences. They finished on a score of eight faults. However, Ziegler was able to use this experience to guide VDL Groep Camara to a clear and efficient round.
The 16-year-old from Mequon, WI, is thrilled to be in Leipzig with the other American Young Riders. "Being here is so exciting. It's pressure in a way that drives you to do well, and it's really nice to be here with everyone from the U.S. Everyone rode really well," she said.
Audrey Coulter of San Francisco, CA, was the fastest of the four-fault riders and was in position to take over the top spot with Coppernicus Stables' Rodenburgh's California until a rail fell at the second to last. Coulter also collected four faults with the big striding grey mare Victory Da, after rolling the rail at fence eight.
Charlotte Jacobs (East Aurora, NY) led off the American effort, riding North Star's Umberto. Despite this being the pair's first competition together, they looked very much in sync. An unfortunate rail jumping out of the double at four blotted an otherwise classy round. Jacobs would return to the ring later with the veteran Promised Land, owned by Candy Tribble and Windsor Stables, collecting eight faults after just touching rails at 4B and 9.
Reed Kessler and her own Ligist cantered into the ring looking determined to lay down a quick trip for the U.S. An uncharacteristic 16 faults kept them from the top placings, but they look to rebound in tomorrow's EY Cup class.
The EY Cup is scheduled to continue tomorrow (Thursday) in Hall Three of the Leipzig Exhibition Center with the first horse in the ring at 5:45 p.m. CEST.
Watch live action from the Rolex/FEI World Cup Final on http://www.feitv.com/
For news, videos, photos, blogs and results please visit: http://usefnetwork.com/2011FEIWCFinals/
Details about the Finals are available here: http://www.engarde.de/events/index.php?eventID=65
Photos: Beezie Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo. Photo by Rebecca Walton/PMG. Katie Dinan and Vancouver. Photo by Alyson Sanderford/PMG.