Tampa, FL - Friday, March 30, 2012 -The crowd was alive with anticipation as 10 riders moved into the Tampa Bay Welcome Stake jump-off this evening. The nation's top riders joined the series tonight, attempting to garner the championship prize in the $32,000 Tampa Bay Welcome Stake CSI 2* at the Tampa Equestrian Series.
Molly Ashe-Cawley and Carissimo were the top finishers, leading the way as only one of three double-clear efforts. Today marked the third day of competition during the Tampa Bay Classic, held at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, FL, and riders are only beginning to gear up as the intensity of the competition progresses.
A field of 18 riders showed in the Covered Arena over Michel Vaillancourt's first round course. It began with a large oxer to a vertical and a sharp right turn to a triple bar leading to a vertical, followed by an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination. Riders then bended over the oxer-liverpool before making another right turn to the inside vertical-oxer line and continuing over a skinny vertical set on the outside. The course came to a close after a vertical to a vertical-oxer double combination, followed by a large final oxer.
Riders found faults throughout the course, but the most difficult fences proved to be in the triple combination and the skinny vertical. Leslie Howard and Utah, owned by The Utah Group of Darien, CT, were the first to master the track with a fault-free round. Ten horses in total continued on to the jump-off, adding pressure as the riders attempted to break the beam and keep all the fences intact.
"I think we all definitely felt the pressure of having such a large jump-off," Ashe-Cawley described. "I noticed that many of the people who went in the ring first were pushing to get that fast time, and unfortunately with pressure comes mistakes. The jump-off was designed to be challenging, and it definitely tested both horse and rider alike."
The jump-off course began with the first round's opening oxer, followed by an extremely tight right turn to the vertical. Riders then had the option to make a difficult inside turn to the second vertical of the triple combination before continuing over the oxer-liverpool. In order to stay timely, riders followed an inside turn to a vertical on the diagonal, made a left rollback over the double combination, and finished over the final oxer.
Howard and Utah were the first to compete over the final test, and with a large number of top riders coming behind them, the duo knew they needed to provide a challenge. Howard picked up a quick pace to the first fence, but a sharp turn to the second obstacle caused an unlucky rail eventually earning the pair the fifth place for their four-fault round and time of 34.85 seconds. Margie Engle and Pauly Du Bruel of Wellington, FL, entered the ring with speed on their mind. Engle knew she needed to take the inside options to avoid the risk of another rider beating her time, but similar to that of Howard, the pair lowered the liverpool. Easily clearing the rest of the fences, the seasoned pair stopped the clock in 36.24 seconds to take the sixth place prize.
Vaillancourt's short course soon became the story as faults consistently knocked the teams out of the top rankings. It wasn't until Angela Covert-Lawrence and Utan, owned by the Eastwood Group of Canada, took a go that riders began to see the light. Covert-Lawrence was the first to pilot her mount through the intertwining obstacles, using a different method to succeed-conservancy. The duo stayed controlled and clean stopping the clock at a moderate 41.19 seconds, still staying within the time allowed of 45 seconds. Their time did not stick as Ashe-Cawley entered the ring right behind, determined to master both the time and the course in tandem.
Ashe-Cawley and Carissimo followed a similar route to Covert-Lawrence, being both conservative and yet mindful of the ever-racing timer. They took the first three obstacles carefully, making wider turns in the beginning to ensure accuracy, but after landing from the liverpool, Ashe-Cawley took the opportunity to open Carissimo's stride and start the race against the clock. Leaving all rails in their cups, the pair crossed the finish at 35.21 seconds.
Nicholas Dello Joio and Notre Star de la Nutria, owned by La Nutria of Wellington, FL, saw the opportunity to use their speed to their advantage, and the duo proved the fastest overall. The crowd held its breath, as horse and rider made their way swiftly through the challenging track. The pair had the time and clear round on their side until the opening of the double combination coming off of the tight left turn. The lowered height put them at the fastest four-fault total with a time of 34.58 seconds, earning the fourth place award for their efforts.
The final rider to take his turn at the short course was Jonathan McCrea and Twisther. The pair just came of a win in yesterday's 1.30 Open Jumper class, and McCrea had faith that they could do it again. Although they were able to leave all rails in place, their time of 36.37 seconds was only good enough for the second place, rounding out the Welcome Stake and naming Ashe-Cawley as the new winner.
"It's funny actually, my wife asked me what my plan was going in as the last pair," McCrea smiled. "I told her that my only plan was to win. We tried to go for the time, but going clean ended up being more important. I am lucky enough to be able to ride Twisther, he's a great horse and we really had nothing to lose out there."
When Ashe-Cawley saw McCrea and Twisther were laying down a speedy round, she began to get nervous. "I saw him going for it and I thought he was going to beat me," she admitted. "I knew that I didn't give it my full with the time, opting to try and go clear rather than fast, but I was hoping that Jonathan wouldn't beat me out."
"My horse has a huge stride, but I wasn't going to outrun anybody," Ashe-Cawley stated. "For the first time in a long time, it was my day. He is a great horse. He came over in the middle of December and we have been trying to get to know each other but I feel like we are really learning how to speak the same language. In a few more months I think we will definitely be a force to be reckoned with."
Ashe-Cawley continued, "I have been coming here for years, and I have to say that Tampa has always been good to me. I haven't had very many horses to show for a few years, it's been about four years since I have shown here, but I am thrilled to be back. I haven't had very many horses in the Grand Prix for about the same time, it has been a grueling process of sitting on the sidelines, but it is so nice to get back in there and start really participating again."
RESULTS - Class 100, $32,000 Welcome Stake
Order Horse Name Rider Name JF1 TF1 AF1 Time 1 JF2 TF2 AF2 Time 2
1 CARISSIMO MOLLY ASHE-CRAWLEY 0 0 0 69.57 0 0 0 35.21
2 TWISTHER JONATHAN MCCREA 0 0 0 70.81 0 0 0 36.37
3 UTAN ANGELA COVERT-LAWRENCE 0 0 0 71.06 0 0 0 41.19
4 NOTRE STAR DE LA NUTRIA NICK DELLO JOIO 0 0 0 70.34 4 0 4 34.58
5 UTAH LESLIE HOWARD 0 0 0 68.41 4 0 4 34.850
6 PAULY DU BRUEL 0 0 0 69.12 4 0 4 36.24
7 CADENCE MEGAN EDRICK 0 0 0 72.28 4 0 4 37.34
8 HONEYLAND'S DUGLASON 0 0 0 70.82 8 0 8 34.88
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: Photo Credit: Molly Ashe-Cawley raced across the finish line with Carissimo after scoring the quickest of only three double-clear rounds during the $32,000 Tampa Bay Welcome Stake. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.