Tampa, FL - March 28, 2012 - The Tampa Equestrian Series began their two-week horse show this morning at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center with the Tampa Bay Classic, bringing in many of the top jumper riders to vie for the coveted championship honors. The competition was intense as competitors raced against the clock beneath the shade of the Covered Arena, attempting to prove themselves in the 1.30m Open Jumper class, but it was Leslie Howard aboard Goed Zo who posted a target time that proved resilient.
The course this afternoon was designed by Michel Vaillancourt of Canada, built to both challenging and technical for horse and rider alike. It featured a liverpool, a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination and a oxer-vertical double combination. Only five riders posted clear rounds, demanding a grueling jump-off where time was one of the biggest factors. The short course included a tight right rollback, the double combination, and the liverpool.
Michael Morrissey was the first in the ring with Vorst, completing the first course with ease and keeping all rails in place. He moved into the jump-off, once again concluding with a clear round and posting one of only three double-clear efforts. His time of 32.602 seconds stayed solid until Leslie Howard took her turn at the course with Goed Zo, owned by 73 West Group. Howard's quick pace through the short course and tight turns eventually earned the talented duo the blue ribbon ride.
"My client, Samantha Prusak, shows him in the Junior Jumpers and I was just giving him a nice school for her, but in the jump-off I decided to step it up, and he was super. He's a quick little horse for sure," Howard smiled. "We are so happy to be back here-the footing is super, the stabling is great, and it is so nice to be here."
Morrissey tried to regain the lead aboard Starbit Partners, LLC's Padie Blu Cardu, once again going clean and moving into the jump-off. Even though he beat his previous time by nearly one full second, the duo moved into the second place position behind Howard with their time of 31.999 seconds, and Morrissey also took the third place honors aboard his previous mount, Vorst.
"Both my rounds were more confident than anything today," Morrissey explained. "Padie Blu and Vorst both did great today, I was trying to feel them out in the ring, and they both moved up for the challenge, but Leslie was too fast. Vorst has done several big classes with me, and I wanted to get him in the ring to feel him out a bit before the weekend. The course was fantastic, it had its tricks but also rode straightforward, and the footing has the horses jumping great."
Nicholas Dello Joio posted the quickest four-fault time aboard his mount Jagger. His jump-off time proved faster than even Howard's, but an unlucky rail over the black and white oxer earned them the fourth place honors. Dello Joio also picked up the fifth place award for his second four-fault effort with Geledimar Z.
The first week of the Tampa Bay Classic holds numerous highlights for the jumpers. Tomorrow will begin with the 1.40m Open Jumpers division where top riders will continue in the hopes of earning the blue ribbon prize and championship honors. Also included this week is the $32,000 Tampa Bay Welcome Stake on Friday, March 30, and the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier CSI 2*-W Grand Prix of Tampa on Sunday, April 1-the final qualifying event for the 2012 World Cup Finals in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.
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: Leslie Howard and Goed Zo took the lead in the 1.30m Open Jumper class on the first day of the Tampa Bay Classic. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.