CULPEPER, VA (September 30, 2001)--U.S. Sydney Olympic Team Member Margie Engle, 43, of Wellington, Florida, riding her Olympic mount Hidden Creek's Perin, beat a field of 26 entries that included eight Olympians, to win the $100,000 Cosequin® Invitational Grand Prix at the Cosequin U.S. Grand Prix League Invitational Finals in Culpeper, Virginia, today. Perin earned $30,000 for his owner, Hidden Creek Farm. "This was one of the strongest fields that I've shown against in a long time," said Engle. "There were a lot of the same people here that were at Spruce Meadows, which is the biggest Grand Prix in the world. Most people used their top horses." Dave Ballard of Ontario, Canada, who was the assistant course designer at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and 2000 Sydney Olympics, designed today's course. The $100,000 Cosequin® Invitational Grand Prix will be televised on the Outdoor Life Network on Tuesday, December 18 at 8pm and 11pm EST, and again on Wednesday, December 19 at 11am.
For Round One, Ballard built a 14-jump track that included a triple combination at Fence No. 5, and a double at Fence No. 13. Time Allowed was set at 90 seconds. Three riders voluntarily withdrew on course. Five riders had clear rounds and qualified for the Jump-Off. "The course Dave built was perfect," said Engle. "It was a very, very strong field and he built accordingly. It was an excellent course. It tested the horse's scope and carefulness. That last jump was extremely careful. It was a long course, so it tested their ride-ability. And it tested the rider too, which is what I like--when it tests a little of everything. He did a really good job." The last jump was a vertical--a white plank with three dark blue rails above it--and at 5'-2 ½" it was the tallest fence on course. It came down for nine riders, more than any other jump in Round One.
Ballard's seven-fence Jump-Off course included a double built from the last two elements of Round One's triple. Time Allowed was set at 43 seconds. First on course was 19-year-old Marilyn Little of Frederick, Maryland, on her Landman who blazed around the course fault-free in 35.040, setting the pace, but she ended up in second place, earning $22,000. Next to go was U.S. Atlanta Olympic Team Silver Medallist Anne Kursinski of Frenchtown, New Jersey, on her Olympic mount Eros, who had one rail down for four faults in 36.493, which put her in fourth place. Eros earned $8,000 for his owners, The Eros Group. Third to go was seven-time Canadian Olympic Team Member Ian Millar of Perth, Ontario, Canada, riding Aftershock owned by The Point & Millar Brooke Ltd. Millar put in a careful clear round in 39.929, but his time was only good enough for third place and $13,000. Engle went next and snatched the lead from Little with her clear round in 34.859 on Perin, which proved to be the winning time. Last to go was U.S. Sydney Olympic Team Alternate Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, Florida, riding his Olympic mount Oh Star, who lowered two fences in 35.065 for fifth place and $6,000.
Engle recognized that in the Jump-Off, it was one teenager against four Olympians. "Marilyn will probably get to the Olympics pretty soon," said Engle. "She's well on her way. Marilyn went great. She put in a fantastic ride. She's the only one I actually got to see in the Jump-Off. I really thought she had it. She was very fast everywhere. She was almost like 'junior jumper fast'. She really never took back anywhere. She put in a beautiful round, especially for going first." Engle beat Little by about a half a second and explained how she shaved time. "My horse is huge and he's got a huge step. He's comfortable leaving from far back. He's very scopey. So I thought possibly on the two long gallops I could cut time. I tried to be as fast as I could from one to two, and he turned back excellent and met the triple bar just how I wanted off the turn. I took a little bit of a shot because he got stopped so much in the two-stride. I thought I lost some time there because that two was so tight for him and I turned a little bit inside the track to the plank. I took a shot at the last jump-he just really galloped up and left out strides for me there and jumped it beautifully, especially off the long gallop."
This is the fourth annual Cosequin® U.S. Grand Prix League Finals to be held at Commonwealth Park. In addition to the Olympians in the Jump-Off, the class included Olympians Norman Dello Joio, Nona Garson, Leslie Howard, and Lauren Hough, as well as a host of USET members that have represented the U.S. internationally--Molly Ashe, Kim Frey, Mark Leone, Patricia Stovel, Aaron Vale, and McLain Ward. Engle explained why the League is important to the sport of show jumping. "Whenever you have an Invitational and you bring the cream of the crop into the class, it makes it more important. I like the idea of qualifying for it and going in reverse order. They put a tremendous amount of prize money in, which is a big, big draw for the owners. It's an expensive sport, especially with the economy going up and down. The bottom line is, it helps the owners pay their bills. Owners enjoy watching their horses and get great pleasure from that, but prize money definitely helps."
Engle, Minikus and Millar signed autographs for fans for more than 30 minutes after the victory lap. Engle said she is in favor of horse show management promoting that type of contact with spectators. "I think that's great. That's what's going to help build our sport. The spectators have to feel a little bit of a rapport with the riders." Engle added that she also enjoyed the crowds in the grand stand today. "I really think it helps most of the riders, and the horses even to some extent, to have a little more atmosphere and to have more spectators out there."
Course Designer Dave Ballard said he built today's course bearing in mind that it was a series Final. "For a final the course had to be substantial, but not a career-ending experience. You set a test. Some people should pass the test and some people should fail the test. I factored in scope and technicality. I'm known as a rider's course designer, because I build in rider problems rather than just horse problems. I tried to incorporate all those things into the course, which in the end seemed to work out the way I wanted it to. It's always nice to see that the top-rated people are the ones that come back for the Jump-Off, and certainly Margie, Todd Minikus, Anne Kursinski, and Ian Millar are the cream. On the other hand you had a young rider like Marilyn Little who rode great, and actually set the tone for the class. Until she went clean in the first round I think a lot of people had questions about certain parts of the course, about the Time Allowed, and she dispelled a lot of the mental problems about the Time Allowed. The class improved after Marilyn went. Today was a good day for me as a course designer."
Ballard also agreed that the Cosequin® U.S. Grand Prix League is important to the sport of show jumping. "To be in a League puts us in the same category as other professional sports. We have to think of ourselves more in those terms. The riders need to personally promote their own League. They need to deal with the public more. We have to lose the stigma that the equestrian sport has a little bit of elitism. We have to make this sport more appealing to spectators. We have to generate personalities, and to do that we have to have a League and a Final and superstars just like in soccer and baseball. People want to see their League be the winner rather than just an individual thing every week. And it's good for the promoters and horse show management to know that their League is the best and that they can attract the type of field that we had today. I was very happy to be here."
$100,000 Cosequin® Invitational Grand Prix, September 30, 2001
HITS Culpeper VI, Cosequin® USGPL Finals, Culpeper, Virginia
Course Designer: Dave Ballard
Pl#/Horse/Rider/Owner/Prize Money/Rd 1 Faults/J-O Faults-Time
1/Hidden Creek's Perin/Margie Engle/Hidden Creek Farm/$30,000/0/0-34.859
2/Landman/Marilyn Little/Raylyn Farm & Marilyn Little/$22,000/0/0-35.040
3/Aftershock/Ian Millar/The Point & Millar Brooke Ltd/$13,000/0/0-39.929
4/Eros/Anne Kursinski/The Eros Group/$8,000/0/4/36.493
5/Oh Star/Todd Minikus/Todd Minikus/$6,000/0/8/35.065
6/Lancier 4/Jimmy Torano/Sir Ruly Inc./$5,000/ ¼ /NA
7/Toyz R Us/Jill Henselwood/Juniper Farms Ltd/$4,000/4/NA 8/Graf Rossini S/Mary-Lisa Leffler/Mr & Mrs Bruce Chovnick/$3,000/4/NA
9/Rio/McLain Ward/McLain Ward/$3,0004/NA
10/Glasgow/Norman Dello Joio/Glasgow Group/$2,0004/NA
11/Conwara/Kimberly Frey/Katherine Miracle 7 Overlook Farm/$2,0004/NA
12/Nonix Le Parc/Aaron Vale/Millstream/$2,000/4/NA
Number of horses who competed in this class: 29
Class Prize Money: $100,000