Wellington, FL - After an exciting evening of competition at the International Polo Club Palm Beach on Saturday evening, Team International The Seley Parker Group of Merrill Lynch performed a beautiful quadrille for a score of 95.3 to take home top honors in the 2010 Challenge of the Americas. The Challenge, in its ninth consecutive year as an annual fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, was held under the lights on Piaget Field and was presented by International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).
The Challenge got underway at 5:30 p.m. with a special High Goal Polo Challenge where spectators had the opportunity to wager on four top polo players and win cash and prizes. The polo challenge was followed by a special four-bar show jumping competition, sponsored by MatchnRide.com, which featured top horses and junior riders competing over a series of jumps that increased in height to over five feet. The four-bar competition was managed by course designer Bobby Murphy with horses and riders trained by Ashland Farm's Ken and Emily Smith. The competitors included Spencer Smith, Jennifer Waxman, Alyssa Mansfield, and Christina Kelly, who was the final rider to complete the jump-off and won top honors.
The brand new figure skating dressage performance was up next, sponsored by Platinum Seamless, and held in memory of Ingred Lin, who passed away from breast cancer this year. The performance was an exciting addition to the challenge this year and featured a combination of dressage and figure skating unlike anything seen before. Four figure skaters performed their graceful moves on ice set on the Polo Club's main field, with horses and riders performing around them. Featured riders included Mary Ann Grant and Dr. Michael Kohl on their horses, along with figure skaters Julie Mulvey, Curtis Chornopyski, Jenna Dzierzanowski, and Vinny Dispenza from 'Incredible ICE' in Coral Springs, FL.
The feature performances of the night were the musical grand prix team quadrilles, which were some of the best that the Challenge has seen. Judges included Caroll Lavell, Anne Gribbons, Axel Steiner, Lorraine McDonald, and Fran Dearing, who each scored the performances individually to determine the overall winners.
Choreographed by Ruth Hogan Poulsen, Team International The Seley Parker Group of Merrill Lynch had a technically and artistically stunning quadrille that earned them the winning score of 95.3. The horses and riders performed to contemporary pop artists the Black Eyed Peas, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, and wore the trademark pink for breast cancer. Team International included Marco Bernal riding Farewell, his eight-year-old Westphalian stallion; Shannon Dueck riding Sentimiento I, a nine-year-old PRE stallion owned by Tamara Gerber; Yvonne Losos de Muniz riding Royal Affair, an eight-year-old Hannovarian owned by Marismas Sporthorses; Lou Denizard riding Karola I, his 15-year-old KWPN; Kelly Layne riding Raja, her 11-year-old Westphalian; and Heather Bender riding Winwood, her 14-year-old Hannovarian.
Another exceptional performance came from Purina Mill's Team USA, who performed an exciting Michael Jackson tribute complete with sparkly gloves, all choreographed by Terri Ciotti-Gallo. Team USA came in second place just behind the international riders with their score of 94. The team was made up of Betsy Steiner riding Solar HM, an 11-year-old Lusitano owned by Becky and Vern Thornton; Pamela Goodrich riding Tacoma M, a ten-year-old Dutch mare owned by Aurelia Tansey; John Zopatti riding Fabio, a 15-year-old Oldenburg owned by Christine Hewitt; James Koford riding Liberty, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood owned by Barbara Marks; Bill Warren riding Romantic, a 12-year-old Oldenburg owned by Team Romantic LLC; and Mary Ann Grant riding Tamaro, a 15-year-old Spanish bred PRE stallion, owned by Linda Cramer.
SSG Glove's Team Canada rode to top hits from Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Akon among others and dressed in green for the upcoming St. Patrick's Day. Tamara Williamson choreographed the quadrille that earned the team 91.5 for third place. Members included Stephanie Jensen riding Addiction, her ten-year-old Swedish Warmblood; Leah Wilson riding Amusant, her 15-year-old Hannovarian; Chris Von Gartzen riding Luberon, her 11-year-old Oldenburg stallion; Brittany Fraser riding Tolando, her ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood; Cheryl Meisner riding Lucky Strike, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood owned by John Risley; and Krystalann Shingler riding Camaron IX, a 15-year-old PRE stallion owned by HGF.
"I want to thank everyone who participated in this year's Challenge for making it a great success," said Challenge Founder and Chairman Mary Ross. "I am very grateful to these talented riders for donating their time and efforts to help the Challenge raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and I have to thank the owners of the horses, the quadrille coaches, choreographers, and soundtrack creators who provided outstanding productions. All of the teams were wonderful and I grateful to all of the people that it took to make this event so special."
For more information, please visit www.challengeoftheamericas.com.
Photo Credit: Team International The Seley Parker Group of Merrill Lynch won the 2010 Challenge of the Americas Grand Prix Quadrille competition. Photo © 2010 Susan J. Stickle.