Tampa, FL - Today marked the first day of competition during the Tampa Bay Classic, being held at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds. It was a beautiful, sunny day as the jumpers competed during the 1.35m and 1.40m classes in the Covered Arena.
Today's top prize went to Leslie Howard and Lennox Lewis II after they completed a double clear effort during the 1.40m class. Earlier in the day, Penny Brennan and Troubador, owned by DC Sales, were awarded a blue ribbon for their fault-free effort in the 1.35m class.
Michel Vaillancourt designed the courses in the Covered Arena today, and set excellent routes that were a good opening test for the horses and riders. Today's 1.40m and 1.35m classes each featured a double combination, a triple combination, and vertical liverpool. Many riders found faults riding from a large oxer to the triple combination in four strides.
During the 1.40m class there were six rounds before Margie Engle and Candilio, owned by Wyndhurst, Griese, and Engle, completed the first clear effort. Today's class was scored under Table II, 2(b), so riders that were fault-free immediately advanced to the jump-off round. Engle and Candilio accrued four-faults during the short course after pulling a rail going into the double combination. The pair tripped the timers in 34.730 seconds, which held up for the fourth place award.
Pablo Barrios was the next to advance to the jump-off aboard G&C Sinatra, owned by Pablo Barrios/Gustavo and Carolina Mirabal. The duo produced an excellent fault-free round to take the lead with a time of 34.872 seconds. Daniel Bluman and Fatalis Fatum were next to complete a clear round and show over the short course. They were almost home with another clear round, but the pair had an unlucky rail at the final fence for a four-fault score in a time of 33.458 to earn the third place ribbon.
Leslie Howard and Lennox Lewis II were next on course and they successfully completed the first round to advance to the jump-off. The duo easily cleared each obstacle and raced through the finish line in a time of 33.060, winning today's class and beating Barrios by just 4/10ths of a second.
Norman Dello Joio was the final rider to compete in the jump-off aboard Anthony Weight's Scarface. They also pulled a rail at the oxer in the double combination for a four fault score. The pair's time of 37.476 would earn them the fifth place honors.
Howard was proud of her mounts performance today, and is looking forward to competing during tomorrow's $30,000 Tampa Bay Welcome Stake, CSI 2* with Lennox Lewis II. "This was a warm-up for the grand prix class tomorrow," she commented. "I was just trying to get him in there, give him a nice ride, and let him get comfortable. As it turned out he ended up winning, but it wasn't like I came in there thinking this is one I have win. "
"I though today worked out well," continued Howard. "He had a nice confident day, he feels good, and so he should do nicely tomorrow."
Lennox Lewis II is a 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding that Howard has been riding for six years. "We know each other very well," she explained. "It's a very easy ride for me; you just have to be very light on him and pretty much stay out of his way."
Howard has been attending the Tampa Equestrian Festival for many years and always enjoys returning. "Tampa is a great town with great restaurants," she said. "Everything is very convenient here at the horse show, the stabling and the ring is just a 3 minute walk, so it works well."
Earlier in the day, the 1.35m class was held in the Covered Arena with six riders advancing to the jump-off. Pablo Barrios and G&C Quickstar, owned by Pablo Barrios/Gustavo and Carolina Mirabal, were the first pair to complete a double clear effort, but their time of 32.677 would only hold up for the third place ribbon.
Hugh Graham and Airbone, owned by Julie Firestone, also completed the short course without any faults, stopping the clock at 31.127, but their lead was short lived. Brennan and Troubador advanced to the jump-off after a clear first round. The pair wanted the win and zipped around the course without any errors in a time of 29.217 to take home the blue ribbon. Norman Dello Joio qualified three mounts of the jump-off, Antares 110, Notre Star De La Nutria, and Navare D'Oriolles, but he would place fourth, fifth, and sixth after bringing down the top rail at the liverpool with each horse.
The competition at the Tampa Equestrian Festival will continue for the next two weeks at the Florida State Fairgrounds, and will conclude with the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational presented by G&C Farm, on Saturday, April 10 at the Raymond James Stadium. Tomorrow's highlight event will be the $30,000 Tampa Bay Welcome Stake, CSI 2* where the best horses and riders in country will compete for top honors.
For more information about the Tampa Equestrian Festival please visit www.stadiumjumping.com.
Photo Credit: Leslie Howard rode Lennox Lewis II to a double clear victory in the 1.40m class during the first day of the Tampa Equestrian Festival. Photo © Rebecca Walton/Phelps Media Group.