Wellington, Fla. - National Championship competition came to a close this evening at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival grounds in the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions presented by The Dutta Corp. In The Dutta Corp./USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship, Christina Vinios and Folkestone OLD maintained their position atop the leaderboard, placing second in tonight's Freestyle and capturing their second National Championship title of 2015.
A field of eight Small Tour combinations began the quest for National honors on Wednesday in the FEI Prix St. Georges Test, which contributed 40% towards their final scores. Vinios (Wellington, Fla.) and her own Folkestone OLD took an early lead, winning the class with a score of 70.632%. The following day the competitors performed the FEI Intermediate I Test for an additional 45% of their overall scores. Jane Karol (Concord, Mass.) and her own Sunshine Tour performed brilliantly to win the class on a score of 69.105%. Vinios finished closely behind Karol on day two and maintained her division lead heading into today's Freestyle.
With mere fractions of a point separating the combinations at the top of the leaderboard, this evening's Freestyle tests were eagerly anticipated as they accounted for the final 15% of the championship scores. A relative newcomer to the sport, Vinios and Folkestone OLD performed their pop medley Freestyle this evening for only the second time, scoring 71.000%, enough to secure the National Championship title by .200 of a point.
"It was really fun and I am so happy. I had a lot of fun with my horse this year and to end it like this is really special," said Vinios. "It was intense, but really fun. I loved it." The pair has proven to be a force to reckon with, as it adds its second National Championship title of 2015 to their resume, having won the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship in August. The pair also swept the CDI Small Tour classes at Dressage at Devon in September.
Shelly Francis (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and her newest partner, Patricia Stempel's Rubinio, put the pressure on their fellow competitors all week. Placing second in the FEI Prix. St. Georges Test on a score of 69.868% and third in the FEI Intermediaite I Test with 67.763%, the pair was wonderfully consistent in the quality of gaits presented. Showcasing great poise, the pair performed its Freestyle to music from "The Man from Snowy River," impressing the judges to take a commanding win in the class on a score of 74.350%, moving them up one on the leaderboard to take Reserve National Champion honors.
"Rubinio felt much more with me [tonight]," explained Francis. "He really put out in the Freestyle - he tried really hard. It went well so I was happy and it was fun. He was excited about it and proud of himself."
Finishing in third overall was Karol and Sunshine Tour. Karol rode a very determined test this evening, taking several risks that unfortunately did not pay off, scoring 64.825%.
All championship competition will be available on-demand on USEFNetwork.com.