Tampa, FL - April 4, 2012 -The second day of the Tournament of Champions commenced this morning with some of its most competitive jumper divisions getting underway. The Tournament of Champions sees some of the nation's most talented riders compete in the Open Jumper classes in preparation for the esteemed American Invitational, rapidly approaching this Saturday, April 7, at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. The leading team who emerged today was Michael Morrissey and Vorst, riding to the top of the leaderboard as the only double-clear effort of the1.30 Open Jumper class.
Jose Gamarra designed the course today, challenging the riders with many options for either accuracy or a speedy time. The course began over a single vertical, and then took riders down an oxer-to-oxer line. Throughout the first round, the pairs were confronted with a vertical-oxer double combination on the outside line as well as a bending line through the middle, and another oxer-vertical double combination.
Morrissey was the first to enter the ring, and he knew that he was going to take it at a strong pace, but not attempt the optional slices Gamarra's course left as options. "These horses are coming off of such a long circuit down in Wellington, that here I am just giving them a nice easy show and getting them riding well and comfortable. I used the class today more as a schooling for Vorst and went in with the mindset that we needed to have two clear rounds."
After completing the first round in 74.912 seconds, well within the time allowed, Morrissey prepared for the jump-off. The course was comprised of six obstacles, but it introduced a new element, the triple bar-to-vertical double combination. The short track began over a vertical leading to an oxer. From there riders pushed forward through the double combination and with a left inside turn took an oxer and finished over a green and white vertical. Although it looked imposing, Morrissey and Vorst left all rails in place, and stopped the clock in a timely 29.810 seconds. "The course was great today," Morrissey explained. "Jose has built great courses at some of the most prestigious events, and I think today's 1.30m Open Jumpers was spot on."
Morrissey wore a target on his back for his double-clear effort, with each consecutive rider attempting to mimic his success. Leslie Howard guided Perugina through a beautiful round; however, an unlucky rail and two time faults kept the duo out of the first place position. Although their time proved more conservative than previously desired by Howard, it earned the pair the second place prize as the only team to complete the short course with a four-fault jumping total.
Danielle Amico and Sir Charles exerted a great effort in the ring while trying to catch Morrissey, but it proved to no avail. Although they incurred no time faults-crossing the finish line in 73.436 seconds-they did accumulate eight faults for knocked down fences. They eventually took the third place honors.
Morrissey plans on showing Vorst in the $10,000 American Invitational Stake Class tomorrow evening, as well as continuing to improve many of his younger horses. He has already seen great success aboard several of his mounts in the Open Jumpers during his time in Tampa.
"It's certainly a lot less hustle bustle here in Tampa in comparison to Wellington. It is a great two weeks and I think everyone here is really enjoying it and having a good time. I have a lot of young and up-and-coming babies, four or five-year-olds, which I am showing and getting them experience. For many of the babies it is their first horse show and it is all about the experience and getting them in the ring," Morrissey concluded.
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: Michael Morrissey and Vorst mastered the first round course and short track this morning at the Tournament of Champions, completing quick rounds and leaving all rails intact. Morrissey earned the top honors as the only rider out of the field to post a double-clear effort. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.