Photo By: Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.
Tampa, FL – March 27, 2013 – The gates to the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center opened this morning to welcome in the top riders in the nation to the two-week Tampa Equestrian Series. Commencing with the Tampa Bay Classic, jumper riders gathered in the brisk morning to vie for the coveted championship honors. The competition was heated in the Covered Arena as competitors raced against the clock, attempting to prove themselves in the $5,000 1.40m Open Jumper class, but it was Michael Morrissey aboard Padie Blu Cardu who blazed the way, posting a target time that proved resilient.
The course this afternoon was designed by Michel Vaillancourt of Canada, built to be both challenging and technical for horse and rider alike. It featured a liverpool, bending lines, a tight vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination, and a vertical-oxer double combination. During the 1.40m Jumpers only four riders posted clear rounds, demanding a grueling jump-off where time and accuracy worked hand-in-hand to make or break the teams’ efforts. The short course included a tight right rollback, a demanding bending line to the liverpool, and a daunting final oxer.
Derek Petersen was the first rider to complete the course with ease, while keeping all rails intact aboard Cosino B, owned by Jenna Friedman. He moved into the jump-off, once again concluding with a clear round and posting one of only three double-clear efforts. His time of 34.460 seconds stayed solid until Michael Morrissey and Padie Blu Cardu, owned by Starbit Partners, LLC, rose to the challenge. Morrissey’s quick pace through the short course, as well as his tight turns, eventually earned them the blue ribbon ride. Morrissey covered the ground in 32.571 seconds, as the other riders attempted to catch the pace he had set.
Sulu Rose-Reed and Envy were the next to tackle the track and make their way into the jump-off. Reed completed the short course in 35.835 seconds, falling more than three seconds behind Morrissey’s unmatchable pace. Aaron Vale tried to take over the lead aboard Spirit of Athena, owned by Campos & Miranda Investments; however, an unfortunate rail sealed their fate in the fourth place position.
“I am fortunate enough to have the privilege to ride him and get him ready for his owner for next week. I just tried to be real accurate and not take any chances in the first round, but he felt great right from the start,” Morrissey stated. “He’s a really good horse. He knows his job, and he gets in there and tries to do his best each time. He felt so good in the first round, and he felt comfortable as if he’d been showing here for the last few weeks that I decided to just go in [the second round] and take a shot.”
“For me this is like coming home,” Morrissey continued. “I grew up in this area, and I’ve been showing here at the fairgrounds since I was a kid. It’s always nice to come back and do this horse show, and change it up from the winter. Whether you’re in Ocala or you’re in Wellington, you get stuck there for so long. It’s a breath of fresh air to come here and compete over new jumps and nice courses.”
The 1.35m Open Jumpers was high with anticipation as riders took their turn on the track. Morrissey was the first to post a double-clear effort, avoiding time faults while keeping all rails in their cups. He guided RMW Malva LS La Silla, owned by Imperial Show Stables, to a speedy jump-off round, crossing the finish in 35.500 seconds. It seemed as though his time would stand the test, until Vale returned to the ring aboard Palm Sunday, owned by Amen Corner Farm, LLC. Vale blazed toward fence one with the first place finish clearly in his sights. He sliced the rollback from one to two with ease, and moved forward with a strong pace that could not be matched. Vale broke the beam in a mere 33.634 seconds. Morrissey’s time held strong enough for the second place award, while Beth Goodwin and Baldato rounded out the top three.
“He’s a horse that I do in Grand Prix, and this is a different ring, so we just jumped the 1.35m to get him in the ring,” Vale explained. “He’s pretty educated, so it was pretty easy to slip around the jump-off in the time that he went. We got him used to the ring, and now we’ll be pointing toward Friday night for the Welcome Stake.”
Vale continued his winning ways earlier in the day during the 1.30m Open Jumpers. Vale surpassed 20 entrants to take the first place prize aboard Zadermus, owned by Dasilva Investments, posting a double-clear effort in 31.948 seconds. Only David Jennings and East Bound Down, owned by Hays Investment Corporation, came close to Vale’s efforts, but being 3/100ths of a second behind the dominating pair proved only good enough for second place. Christopher di Carlo and No Autographs Please, owned by Dakota Schramer, claimed the third place ribbon with their jump-off time of 32.273 seconds.
“He’s very quick and wins a lot of classes for me. This is the first time we’ve had him indoors, and it didn’t seem to faze him a bit,” Vale explained. “He jumped right around, and he’s a very, very fast horse. I actually thought on one of my other horses that I’d ridden a faster round, but I was about a second and a half slower. He’s quite quick, so he wins a lot of classes when he’s clean. I want him to be competitive, but I don’t want him crazy by the time his real rider, his owner Lizzie Van der Walde, gets here, so I wasn’t trying to be lightning quick or anything and then he was still fast.”
“The Tampa Bay Equestrian Series is close to us, and after a long winter circuit showing in the same venue for nine weeks, it’s a refreshing change of pace for us. It’s a fun town. You get to come eat at some different restaurants for a couple of weeks, change the venue a bit, get some fresh air. We just enjoy it here,” Vale concluded.
The first week of the Tampa Bay Classic holds numerous highlights for the jumpers. Tomorrow will begin with the 1.40m Open Jumpers division where top riders will continue in the hopes of earning the blue ribbon prize and championship honors. Also included this week is the $32,000 Tampa Bay Welcome Stake on Friday, March 29, and the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper classes where competitors will contend for the East Coast Championship points.
For more information about the 2012 Tampa Equestrian Series, please visit www.StadiumJumping.com.
Kendall Bierer for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International