Tampa, FL - Sunday, April 1, 2012 - It was the concluding day of the Tampa Bay Classic today at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center, and competition was fierce as the nation's top competitors strived to pave their way to the 2012 World Cup Finals in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. The $50,000 Grand Prix of Tampa CSI 2*-W was the last opportunity for riders to qualify for the impending World Cup Finals, and the battle came down to two as Beezie Madden and Margie Engle fought to the finish. Madden and Mademoiselle emerged the victors, beating Engle's jump-off time by only six-tenths of a second.
This afternoon, riders gathered beneath the Covered Arena to compete over courses designed by Michel Vaillancourt of Canada. The first round featured an imposing opening oxer-vertical line, followed by an oxer leading to another vertical-oxer line. Riders were also challenged by a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination, an oxer-vertical double combination and a daunting grey wall. The course tested horse and rider alike, with combinations finding fault in multiple places, including the triple combination, double combination and the final oxer.
Only two riders were able to complete the first round without fault and advance to the short track. The course began with a single vertical bending to an oxer, after landing riders had the choice of making a wide turn around the fourth obstacle and moving onto an oxer or slicing the turn and saving some seconds. The oxer required an immediate right rollback leading to the last vertical of the triple combination, and then riders made a hard left over the oxer-vertical double combination. Finally, riders were faced with the grey wall, and galloped over the final oxer.
Engle was the first to master the first round aboard Pauly Du Bruel, and therefore entered the ring first as the jump-off commenced. The pair began with a speedy pace, moving forward through the course with ease. The duo knocked down a rail after taking the vertical from the rollback, a sigh resounded from the audience as it became clear that Engle may have sealed her fate. They finished with a four-fault total keeping all remaining rails in their cups, and tripping the timer at 42.66 seconds.
When Beezie Madden entered the ring with her mount, the 15-year-old Mademoiselle, she knew that all she had to do was complete a clear round to go to the top of the leader board. The pair opted to still slice turns; however, they began with a slower pace than Engle, trying to be conservative and yet efficient as they expertly navigated the course. At the double combination, Madden's plan suddenly changed, conservative turned into a need for speed as the pair had an unlucky rail. She knew that it would need to make a faster time than Engle to earn the top spot and the chance to go to the World Cup Finals. They crossed the finish line with a time of 42.01 seconds.
"I think Margie was a little faster in the beginning. My plan was to keep myself in contention if I had a rail down in the beginning, but I was already a little bit into the jump-off by the time I had the rail, it was a good thing I had the end of the ring. "
Engle described the scene as she watched Madden jump the double combination, "I saw when Beezie hit the fence in the combination that she suddenly was flying after that. Her turn after the combination to the wall definitely sliced some time off and allowed her to move in front of me. It was a great class and a lot of fun, I knew it was going to be difficult to beat Beezie going in, but more than anything I was pleased with how well my horse did."
Madden also was thrilled with her mount. The duo has been working together since the beginning of 2010 and has begun to grow an extensive resume. "She has been a super horse to have," Madden elaborated. "She is sweet just like her face looks-big eyes, big ears and she's sweet like that. She kind of does what ever I ask of her. We didn't do any prep classes here, we just sort of came from Palm Beach and has been here hacking around, but that is her personality, with very little preparation and adjustment she went in the ring today and won."
At the beginning of the fall circuit, Madden had wanted to give herself the option of having the World Cup Finals, but it was not until after the Olympic Trials that she decided her heart was set on it. "I made it a priority to come here for this class, I didn't even show last night in the huge class they had at the Winter Equestrian Festival, because I was actually going to show this horse in it. I decided that I needed to qualify for the World Cup more than anything-it took precedence. In hindsight, I could have probably still qualified without the class, but I couldn't risk somebody moving up over me."
It is a good thing Madden did not skip the class this afternoon, because even though Engle was right on her tail, Charlie Jayne and Uraya also proved to be a possible threat. He piloted his mount to the fastest four-fault time, claiming the third place honors. Nick Dello Joio rode Geledimar Z and Notre Star de la Nutria to the fourth and fifth place positions, respectively. Friday night's Welcome Stake winner Molly Ashe-Cawley and Carissimo snatched the sixth place position with her four-fault round and speedy time.
Engle commented on the difficulty the riders seemed to find through Vaillancourt's course, "We have all been outside in big, big rings. I think that everything came up really quickly. The triple rode difficult enough, it wasn't huge but it was a little wide. I think everything came up very quickly. The horses can feel a little claustrophobic and that's where errors can come in to play."
Engle continued, "I think this was great preparation for the World Cup. We have had so many classes in big fields, and riding in the Covered Arena allowed for us to have to think quickly. This was great practice, and I plan on attending the World Cup, but more than anything I wanted to come out and support Stadium Jumping. I think they make a really big effort to do a great job. It was nice to get to a new venue, the footing is great, it is nice not to have the rat race. I love coming to Tampa, it is a nice area and I want to be supportive of Stadium Jumping, they are the ones that basically started our Winter Circuit."
The Tampa Equestrian Series' first week, the Tampa Bay Classic concluded today with the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier CSI 2*-W Grand Prix of Tampa-the final qualifying event for the 2012 World Cup Finals in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. The 40th Annual $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational, presented by G&C Farm, will be the highlight event on the final day of the series, the Tournament of Champions CSI, to be held April 7, 2012, at the Raymond James Stadium. The world's top horses and riders will gather to compete under the lights during one of the premier show jumping events in the United States.
For more information on Stadium Jumping, Inc. and the 2012 Tampa Equestrian Series please call (941) 744-5465. To download a copy of the prize list, please visit www.stadiumjumping.com.
Photo Credit: Beezie Madden and Mademoiselle were the winners of the $50,000 Grand Prix of Tampa CSI 2*-W after completing a jump-off round with blazing fast speed, beating Margie Engle by only a fraction of a second. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.