Syracuse, NY - Friday marked the first night of the evening performances in the International open jumper division here at the 8th annual Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament.
The first class of the night was the Syracuse Corporate Challenge with riders vying for $37,500 in prize money. Twenty-eight riders were divided into six corporate sponsor Teams: The Oncenter; Swift Glass; Steele Associates; CNY Fertility Center; LaBarge companies and YNN . The course demanded accuracy as well as speed for the chance at winning a share of the prize money and team points, as well as point toward qualifying for Sunday's Sporthorse Cup. The Corporate Challenge had spectators on the edge of their seats as rails hit the ground for all but nine riders and two riders parted ways with their horses in the quest for the quickest route. In the end, it was Saer Coulter on Springtime winning in blazing time of 53.660, while hometown favorite Beezie Madden on Coral Reef Via Volo finished a close second in 54.97 seconds.
The final class of the night is always a crowd favorite - the Gambler's Choice Costume. Grooms dress their horses and riders don costumes but the class is an opportunity to collect needed points to qualify for the Sporthorse Cup. Riders design their own courses in an attempt to accumulate the most points in the time allowed. Once the time allowed is up and the buzzer sounds, the rider has the option to jump the "joker" fence. Keeping the rails in the cups will earn them a bonus 200 points, but if the rails tumble they lose 200 points from their total. The field of 23 riders, dressed as everything from Superman to the Pope, gave it their all. "Killer Bee" Beezie Madden riding Mademoiselle briefly grabbed the lead by earning 1190 points in 57.55 seconds, but "Santa" Kent Farrington took the lead immediately after Madden' s amazing ride, by garnering 1190 in points and besting her speed with a 54.44-second finish. It did not seem as if another rider could break Farrington's lead, but when Cara "Grease Lightening" Raether entered the ring on her stallion Ublesco she had her game face on. Raether rode accurately and fast, earning 1080 points by the time the buzzer sounded. Bravely she took on the Joker fence - clearing it easily to bring her score to 1280 and finish with the high score of the class. None of the ten remaining riders were able to outdo Raether so she took home the win of the $30,000 Gambler's Choice, presented by Double H Farm.
With half of the qualifying competitions completed for the riders trying to secure a berth in Sunday's Syracuse Sporthorse Cup the race looks to be close. The top ten riders (and their points) going into the final day of qualifying for Sunday are:
1. Beezie Madden USA 147
2. Hillary Dobbs USA 146
3. Kate Levy USA 137
4. Margie Engle USA 133
5. Jonathon McCrea IRE 132
6. Darragh Kenny IRE 130
7. Cara Raether USA 128
8. Harrie Smolders NED 128
9. Mario Deslauriers USA 126
10. Leslie Howard USA 122
Earlier in the afternoon Hillary Dobbs and Marengo won the $5,000 1.40 International Time First Round presented by Hyaluronex, besting 35 other riders.
In the Junior/Amateur owner classes we had day two of their three days of competition in their division. Molly Newsome and her Touch and Go won the Low Jr/A-O by having the fastest round in the jump-off - a speedy 36.04. Laura Pfeiffer and Thorstin won the Medium JR-A/O with a winning jump off time of 37.824. Meg O'Mara and her horse Sinatra IV had the winning time of 38.309 in the competitive High JR/AO division.
For more information on the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament, please visit www.syracuseinvitational.com.
Photo Credit: Saer Coulter was victorious in the $37,500 Corporate Team Challenge with Springtime at the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament. Photo Credit: Alyson Sanderford/PMG.