March 12, 2011 – Tonight was a gorgeous evening, where Team Purina USA performed a stunning quadrille under the lights at this year’s Challenge of the Americas. In its tenth year, the Challenge of the Americas is an annual fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and is sponsored by the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Team USA beat Team International and Team Can/America by earning the evening’s highest score of 93.95, marking their first ever win during the Challenge. It was not an easy fight, however, as Team International scored a very close 91.95. Throughout the performance, the teams were judged on impact on the audience, spacing and alignment, choreography interpretation, and harmony.
This year’s United States Team featured Betsy Steiner, aboard Domingo, owned by TAH Enterprises and Trisha Hessinger, George Williams riding Sandro Simian, owned by Mitzi Presnell and Holly Shook, Pamela Goodrich showing Karateka III owned by Judy Sprieser, Bill Warren with Romantic, owned by Team Romantic LLC, Jim Koford riding Liberty, owned by Barbara Marks, and John Zopatti aboard Fabio, owned by Christina Hewitt and sponsored by Blue Marlin Farms. Terry Ciotti-Gallo handled the team’s choreography, music and coaching.
The winning team completed passages, tempi changes, half passes and pirouettes, all in perfect harmony with one another. They performed to an original melody of music featuring the theme of New York, honoring the Twin Towers. The team opened with Two Yankees, followed by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’s New York and ended their performance with Frank Sintra’s New York ,New York.
"I am very happy and very excited. It is a new group of horses and the lights and the sound were a surprise for them in the beginning,” said Veteran Challenge of the America’s rider and Team USA Member Betsy Steiner. “The horses were great and we really had fun!”
Steiner continued, "This event is such a thrill for us. We always show in the ring alone, so this is one time when we all get to work together. It’s such a great cause, which makes it even better!"
Team International, The Seley Parker Group of Merrill Lynch, performed an incredible freestyle, complete with Save the TaTas written in pink letters on the back of the riders shadbelly jackets. The team danced to a myriad of international songs, including Shakira’s Waka Waka (Time for Africa), the theme song for the 2010 World Cup, along with Katie Perry’s Firework and Halo by Beyonce.
Team International The Seley Parker Group of Merrill Lynch was composed of Marco Bernal on Faston, owned by Angela Marie Calle, Juan Matute riding Neptune, owned by April and Somerville Harris, Yvonne Losos de Muniz riding Gorrion owned by Lily Zilo, Lou Denizard riding his Nalando, Heather Bender riding her Winwood and new rider to this year’s Challenge, Jessica McTaggart aboard her mount, Ray of Light. Team International was co-coached by Erin Swaney and Ruth Hogan Poulsen. Swaney also handled the choreography, while Hogan Poulsen of Freestyles from A to C handled the music.
SSG Gloves Team Can/Am kicked off the quadrille performances with a series of Lady Gaga hits including Alejandro, Born this Way, Poker Face and Let’s Dance. Team members all wore long, blond wigs on top of their helmets for added drama to their performance, which earned a score of 82.45 points.
Team Can/America, sponsored by SSG Gloves, was made up of Devon Kane riding Prins, owned by Diamante Farms, Liz Austin on Comtesso owned by Annabel Sattler, Jon Costin aboard Gettysburg, owned by Ester Geller, Tine Zinglerson riding her Neumunster, along with two new team members for this year JJ Tate riding Dolomit owned by Jackie Nixon-Fulton, and Susanne Dutt-Roth riding her Rheirattack. Karen Robinson from Applause Dressage designed the evening’s music for Team Can/America, while choreography and coaching was handled by Challenge of the Americas veteran Shannon Dueck.
New for this year was the four-on-four polo match, sponsored by Arenus, which kicked-off the 2011 event. Today’s winning team, Team Vanderbilt-Ingram, was made up of Marc Ganzi – Audi, Melissa Ganzi - Grand Champions, Victor Vargas - Lechuza Caracas and Bob Jornayvaz – Valiente. The talented riders and ponies won the four chuker match 4 goals to 2 over Team Play for P.I.N.K., which was John Muse – Lucchese, Scott Devon –Devon, Hutton Goodman/ Faraway and Francisco Escobar –Santa Clara.
“Tonight was a great event for the Polo Community,” noted Melissa Ganzi after playing on the evening’s winning team, Team Vanderbilt-Ingram. “When Georgette Escobar called us and said she was getting involved, we were all honored and excited to support her and her recovery from Breast Cancer. Throughout the year, we all play against each other so to come together for such a great cause, to support a friend and have a great time doing it was a no-brainer. It was a blast, and a beautiful evening.”
After the night's competition and awards ceremony guests proceeded across the beautiful Piaget Field to the new Nespresso Lodge for the elegant Challenge Gala to complete their evening with delicious dinner and dancing. The Gala featured a silent auction with items such as a stall for one horse during the circuit at the Winter Equestrian Festival and a Deep Sea Fishing Trip. This year's Gala offered a fun evening for all in attendance.
"I'm thrilled with the success of this year's Challenge, and delighted that this is the tenth year. The Challenge teams and polo patrons did a fabulous job and the crowd had a wonderful time," said Chairman Mary Ross. "Adding the polo was a great new thing for this year. It is just wonderful that so many people come together to help fight breast cancer and raise money for the research needed to fight it."
Other generous sponsors who helped put on this incredible event included USDF; Cunningham & Cunningham Livestock Insurance; MatchnRide.com, Back on Track, Wellington Classic Dressage, Palm Beach Equine Clinic, Red Barn Feed & Supply, The Tackeria, Ecogold, Bethesda Women’s Health Center, Dover Saddlery, King Ferry Winery, Jamaica Tent, Boca West Country Club, EQLS Landscaping and Sunbelt Rentals.
For more information on Challenge of the Americas, please visit www.challengeoftheamericas.com.