Tampa, FL - March 31, 2009- It was a beautiful day to kick-off the third week of competition at the Tampa Equestrian Festival, the Tournament of Champions. Today riders had the opportunity to compete for top prizes in hunter and jumper divisions at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center located on the Florida State Fairgrounds. In the Covered Arena today's top prize was awarded to Mario Deslauriers after his wire-to-wire victory aboard Tigger in the 1.40m class.
Deslauriers and Tigger were the first to enter the ring for today's 1.40m class and the pair were able to successfully complete a fault-free first round. They then moved on to the short course where they were also fault-free in a very quick 33.745 seconds. That time would hold up through eight more jump-off rounds to be the fastest of the day and win the class.
"Tigger has been in good form the last two weeks here," noted Deslauriers. "The plan is always to try to go as fast as we can leaving the jumps up. He jumped great today; there were a few difficult turns out there and he did them very well. I was very pleased with him; first one in and first place, so that was great."
Leslie Howard and Utah were the next horse and rider combination to leave all the fences standing during the short course, and their time of 36.850 earned them the fourth place ribbon. The jump-off became a battle of the clock as Kent Farrington and Uceko were the third pair to go clear, stopping the clock in 39.239 seconds and taking home the sixth place honors. Shane Sweetnam and Amartto D'Arco were next in the ring and also left all the poles in their cups during the short course with a time of 38.313 to earn the pink ribbon.
Beezie Madden qualified for the jump-off with her second mount, Comtess III, and after having already ridden the course once earlier with Exclusive, the eighth place finisher, she would give Deslauriers the closest run for his money. The duo raced across the finish line in 33.886 seconds, just fractions away from Deslauriers' time, to earn the second place prize. McLain Ward and Cover Girl were the last pair to go double clear during today's 1.40m class and they tripped the timers in 35.266 seconds to take over the third place position and sealing Deslauriers' win.
"I knew I put the pressure on, the pace was good and when I hit everything with Tigger he's usually pretty quick," smiled Deslauriers. "I knew he was going to be a little demanding; the other rider would have to go to catch my time, so I was happy with it."
Next to compete in the Covered Arena was the 1.45m class where Yvonne Bryan and Palm Sunday emerged victorious after being only one of two riders to advance to the jump-off. "I wanted to have a nice solid round," explained Bryan. " During the jump-off I just wanted go slow and give the horse confidence because he's pretty young; he hasn't done a lot of this size jumping. So that was the plan, just nice and steady and slow and even to give him confidence."
Bryan plans to compete with Palm Sunday tomorrow during the $35,000 Grand Prix of Florida, the last qualifier for the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational. Bryan is very excited to be competing at this year's Tampa Equestrian Festival. It’s a really nice venue," she said. "The people are really nice and we love the city of Tampa. It's a really beautiful showgrounds and we enjoy it here."
Tomorrow the $35,000 Grand Prix of Florida will be held in the Covered Arena beginning at 1 p.m.. As the final qualifier for the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational this will prove to be a hotly contested event. The $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational is the grand finale of the Tampa Equestrian Festival and will be held Saturday, April 4, at Raymond James Stadium, beginning at 7 p.m. This invitation-only event will feature 35 of the world's most elite equestrian athletes competing for one of show jumping's richest purses.
For more information please visit www.stadiumjumping.com.