Tampa, FL - It was another beautiful day as the second week of competition, the Tournament of Champions, got underway at the Tampa Equestrian Festival. Beezie Madden stole the show when she completed two double clear efforts with her top mounts Coral Reef Via Volo and Zhivago during the 1.40m and 1.30m jumper classes. The top riders in the country have come to the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds to compete during this final week of competition.
Today's classes were held in the Covered Arena with courses designed by Philip J De Vita. The first round of the 1.40m class featured 12 numbered obstacles with 14 efforts, including a liverpool and two double combinations. During the jump-off riders began over a single oxer before making a sharp left turn to a tall vertical. They then made another sharp left turn to a purple vertical before making their way through an oxer-to-vertical double combination. The course came to a close as riders made a right bending line to an oxer, and then made a left turn to gallop away from home over the final vertical.
Margie Engle and Hidden Creek's Lonesome Boy were the first to complete a fault-free attempt over the first round and advance to the short course. The pair easily made it over all the obstacles, leaving all the rails in their cups and stopping the clock at 36.509. Their excellent effort would hold up for the third place award. Next on course Mary Lisa Leffler with Gerona 92, who also qualified for the jump-off. They had an unfortunate rail at the first oxer to earn a four fault score in a time of 38.021 seconds and took home the fifth place prize.
Beezie Madden was the next rider to show over the first round course with Coral Reef Via Volo. The pair had an excellent round and easily advanced to the shortened second course. Madden pushed Coral Reef Via Volo into a fast gallop and they easily cleared the first fences. The duo then made a quick turn to the purple vertical, slicing the obstacle and making a sharp right turn to the double combination. They galloped through the timers in 33.416 seconds with zero faults, creating a lead no one else would be able to catch.
The next combination to attempt the jump-off round was Daniel Bluman with Fatilis Fatum. The pair also made a sharp turn to the purple vertical as they tried to catch Madden's time, but they crossed the finish line in 33.709 seconds to earn the second place award. Margie Engle and her second mount, Landini, were the final duo to qualify for today's short course. As they attempted to mimic the sharp turn to the purple vertical they pulled down the top rail. Their four fault score in a time of 37.367 seconds gave them the fourth pace prize and sealed Madden's victory.
"Via Volo is actually a new horse for me," noted Madden. "I was using this class to get her in the ring, but I also wanted to practice being competitive with her. It was a nice class to do this with because I put a real slice on number 14 in the jump-off. I've never done anything like that with her before, so it was good a good thing for me to try."
Tomorrow, Madden will show Coral Reef Via Volo in the $30,000 Grand Prix of Florida. After her stay in Tampa, the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood will travel to Europe as Madden's second horse, and then move up to be her number one horse at Spruce Meadows during the summer months.
Earlier in the day, Madden had her first blue ribbon ride aboard Zhivago during the 1.30m jumper class. The first round again featured two double combinations and a liverpool fence. For the jump-off, riders began over a large vertical before making a left turn to a single vertical. They then continued to a vertical-to-oxer double combination before making their way over a single vertical. Finally the riders had to make a bending line to a large oxer, and then turn to gallop away from home over a left lead vertical.
Three riders had double clear efforts over the short course, the first of which was Leslie Howard with Goedzo. The pair easily cleared all of the obstacles in each round and broke the beam at 37.906 seconds for the third place ribbon.
Madden was next to tackle the jump-off with Zhivago. The pair was fast and accurate, stopping the clock at 35.116 seconds with zero faults. Peter Leone tried to catch the pair's time with Pastis De Paliere, but their double clear effort in 36.074 seconds would earn the second place award while Madden took home the winning title.
"I was happy with him," smiled Madden after her victory. "We got him right before we came down to Florida this year. This is his first time indoors so I was happy to see that he was brave and pretty much the same as he is outside. We have high hopes for this horse."
This week's highlight event is the 2010 $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational presented by G & C Farm, being held on Saturday, April 10, at Raymond James Stadium. Madden will compete during this event with the 13-year-old Holsteiner mare Mademoiselle. "I love the Invitational," she expressed. "Although I don't know her very well I'm still pretty confident going into the Invitational because she's an easy ride and she knows her job."
Madden was paired with Mademoiselle just three weeks before the 2010 World Equestrian Games Selection Trials, and the pair have made it to the United States' Long List. "Walking into a stadium during the Invitational is unique and there is no other class like that anywhere in the world," she said. "For a horse that does it for the first time it can be a problem but I'm hoping that will not be the case for me. My horse has a lot of experience and I'm hoping it's not going to be a shock to her."
The Tournament of Champions will continue through April 10 at the Florida State Fairgrounds, before coming to a close during the American Invitational at 8 p.m. The top riders in the country will gather under the lights at Raymond James Stadium to compete for the crown jewel of show jumping.
For more information about the Tampa Equestrian Festival please visit www.stadiumjumping.com.
Photo Credit: Beezie Madden rode Coral Reef Via Volo to a double clear win in the 1.40m class during the first day of the Tournament of Champions. Photo By: Rebecca Walton/PMG