Tampa, FL - April 6, 2012 - The competition grew fierce as the penultimate day of the Tampa Equestrian Series arrived. Riders from across the nation have joined the ranks to go neck to neck for the top spot in the Amateur-Owner and Adult Amateur Jumper divisions. The young Claudia Billups once again made her mark this morning, riding Sensation 21 to the first place position in the Low Amateur-Owner Jumpers. Heather Villemaire rode Ca Va to the top of the leaderboard in the Adult Amateur Jumpers, raising the bar with their flawless round and time of 28.520 seconds.
The course designed by Jose Gamarra was built to challenge horse and rider alike with hard rollbacks and tight turns. The first round course also featured a bending line to a vertical-oxer double combination, an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination and several large oxers. Should the riders master the first round course, then they continued into the short course which began over a single vertical at the far side of the ring and moved onto a green-and-white oxer. After landing from the second obstacle, they then moved forward into a tight right rollback and over a skinny vertical not featured in the first course. A left rollback then took riders over an oxer bending to the vertical-oxer double combination. With a left turn, the teams then finished over the final oxer to break the beam.
Heather Villemaire aboard Livius was the first to attempt the course. She carefully guided the gelding through in a time of 64.455 seconds. As she began the jump-off, she picked up a quick pace, although she posted the fastest time overall, she eventually earned the fifth place prize due to an unfortunate rail over the final oxer. Olivia Rathgeb soon took over the lead with her double-clear ride. She piloted her own Polydor through the six obstacles to trip the timer at 33.848 seconds.
Alexandra Slacter immediately attempted to best Rathgeb with YZ Wellie 65. The young horse exemplified speed and accuracy through the first course, but over the short track, their time fell shy of the target time, crossing the finish line with a time of 35.990 seconds, riding to the third place finish. Rathgeb's time held solid until Villemaire entered the ring aboard her second mount, Ca Va. "I didn't even realize how much faster I went," Villemaire laughed. "I can pretty much go fast and just make sure that he knows where he is heading. If he knows where he is headed, then I can just stay off of his mouth and his back and he just does a great job taking care of me."
The pair put forth their best effort in both rounds, crossing the finish line in a blazing fast time of 28.520 seconds, beating Rathgeb's time by over five seconds and leaving all rails in their cups to take the top spot. Although Lynn Seithel was able to post the final of four double-clear efforts, her time of 36.374 seconds proved only good enough for the fourth place finish. "It's funny actually," Villemaire elaborated. "Even though we have won the Adult Amateur Jumpers both weeks, I keep making the same mistake in the triple combination. I thought the course was great but I have taken two strides in the opening of the triple, which is a huge no-no, but he just takes care of me."
Located in Sarasota, FL, Villemaire uses the proximity to her advantage when it comes to showing in Tampa. "He is at a stable in Bradenton, so he went home between the shows and got some time to relax. I flatted him a few times during the week, and I don't really like to ride him in warm-up classes. I usually save him for the main classes like the Adult Amateur Jumpers and the Power and Speed, and then I will also ride him in the Classic tomorrow."
Villemaire continued, "If I ever rode the Winnie the Pooh character Tigger, that would be Ca Va. He is very up and down, very bouncy, very enthusiastic and excited to do his job. Everything has been so wonderful here at Tampa," Villemaire concluded. "It has everything you need-great footing, great courses and is an all-around great show."
Earlier in the morning, Claudia Billups once again rose to the top of the Low Amateur-Owner Jumpers aboard her mount Sensation 21. The duo came in the second place position yesterday; however, they left nothing to chance this morning taking the first round with a careful technique and a conservative time of 67.533 seconds.
Similar to yesterday, Billups faced Joy Slater and Silvester in the jump-off, veterans to the fanfare of show jumping, Slater had posted a time of 32.779 seconds midway through the class and each consecutive rider attempted to best the pair. Billups continued into the short course with an unwavering confidence, picking up a strong pace and taking the course with ease aboard the bay gelding. Although Billups had a tough slice when landing from the third obstacle and moving toward the consecutive oxer, she and Sensation 21 recovered nicely and resumed their speedy pace. With all rails in their cups, she crossed the finish line in 29.869 seconds, eventually earning the first place prize.
Slater and Silvester took the second place honors for the Low Amateur-Owner Jumpers, with Landrie Folsom and Santa Teresita Fantasma, owned by Don Stewart of Ocala, FL, taking the third place position as the fastest four-fault effort. Billups also secured the fourth place prize aboard Queeny for their four jumping faults over the short course.
This week's highlight event is the 2012 $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational presented by G & C Farm, being held on Saturday, April 7, at Raymond James Stadium. The Tournament of Champions will continue through April 7 at the Florida State Fairgrounds, before coming to a close during the American Invitational beginning at 6:30 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 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: Heather Villemaire and Ca Va stopped the clock at 28.520 seconds, posting the fastest double-clear effort of the Adult Amateur Jumpers, taking the blue ribbon prize. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.