Tommy Feigel rode to the top of the ranks on the first day of the Tournament of Champions, capturing the 1.30m Open Jumper victory with Cliff II. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.
Tampa, FL – April 2, 2013 – The first day of the Tournament of Champions got underway at the Bob Equestrian Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds this morning. The day was welcoming with nothing but sunshine and clear skies as riders stepped forward to compete over the challenging jumper courses. It was Tommy Feigel who rode to the top of the leader board on the first day, piloting Jennifer Jones’ Cliff II to the victory in the 1.35m Open Jumper class.
Today’s classes were held in the Covered Arena with courses designed by Jose Gamarra. The first round of the 1.30m and 1.35m Open Jumper classes featured 12 numbered obstacles with 15 efforts, including a liverpool, double combination and triple combination with bending lines. During the jump-off riders were faced with a single oxer before making a right turn over a single skinny. They then made another left turn over a blue-and-white vertical, the third fence from the first course. A tight right turn took riders through the oxer-vertical double combination. The course came to a close as riders raced home over the final oxer.
Tommy Feigel and Cliff II were the only pair today to master the first round course, providing a clear effort well within the time allowed of 81 seconds. Feigel was the second to enter the ring, and having already navigated the track aboard Cliff II in the 1.30m Open Jumpers, he expertly guided the gelding over the first oxer, and continued through the course very carefully, leaving all fences intact. They crossed the finish line in a time of 76.663 seconds.
“Actually the first time I’ve ever ridden him was today,” Feigel explained with a tone of surprise. “He’s a new horse for me to ride so I did the 1.30m Jumpers first, and he was really good, and I did the 1.35m Jumpers. To be honest, I’m just getting to know him so it was actually kind of a surprise for him to win a class like that, but it’s always nice to win.”
Feigel continued, “The 1.35m was the same course as the 1.30m so I already knew where we were going, so I just kind of went in and went around the same. I thought he jumped even better than he did in the first class. He was the only clean, so I was a bit surprised actually.”
Going immediately into the jump-off, Feigel repeated his 1.30m effort, navigating the short track with an assertive approach as he raced against the timer. Cliff II rose to the occasion, clearing all the obstacles with ease and finishing in a speedy 33.421 seconds.
“He’s a real fast, careful horse, and those kind of classes really suit him. He was very fun to ride. He’s got a lot of blood, but he’s a real careful horse,” Feigel explained. “That’s my favorite type to ride. It’s not actually that much work, you just have to kind of go with him and be there to support him just because he is so careful, and he stays off the rails so that makes my job really easy.”
Aaron Vale rode to the second place honors with the fastest of the four-fault efforts aboard Red Lady, owned by Kelsey Bayley of Simsbury, CT. They had one unlucky rail during the first round, finishing in 74.146 seconds. The rails continued to fall for the other riders, with David Jennings and East Bound Down, owned by Hays Investment Corporation of Topeka, KS, taking the third place finish with four faults in 78.663 seconds. Jennings also collected the fourth place ribbon with Queen of Calla, owned by Full Circle Farm, with one rail down and a time of 79.010 seconds.
“I thought the courses were nice, especially coming for the first day of the horse show,” Feigel stated. “We have a little bit of a short week starting on a Tuesday, so it was nice to have a nice, flowing course to start the week with and build up the confidence of the horses so that was great.”
Feigel concluded, “Ocala was kind of slow with the quarantine and everything so our horses had a kind of easy circuit up in Ocala, so it was nice to come down to Tampa. I’ve been coming here for a lot of years now, and it’s a great place to kind of keep going and catch up a little bit on the weeks that we missed up north. I love the show grounds, and I think that the management does a great job running the classes. They really make it nice for the exhibitors to be here, and it’s really nice to feel so welcome at a horse show like this.”
It was Aaron Vale’s day to shine aboard two new mounts, first showcasing Cargano’s talents in the 1.30m Open Jumpers. Vale climbed to the top of the ranks first clearing the opening course in 76.156 seconds, and then speeding to victory in the jump-off. He had watched previous pathfinder David Jennings and Colina, owned by Lionsway Farm of Franklin, TN, who rode to a double-clear effort in 32.532 seconds. Vale had also studied Gamarra’s course, and saw the opportunity to shave off the seconds after the opening oxer of the jump-off. Upon landing, he made a sharp left rollback to the second oxer, setting a pace that no other riders could match. His blazing speed stopped the clock in an amazing 30.144 seconds.
“Cargano is a Low Amateur horse, and his owner is not here this week. She said to have fun with him, and I had a little fun there in the jump-off. We kind of made a real sharp inside turn that I don’t think anyone else made the rest of the day. So I followed orders – I had a little fun with him,” Vale laughed. “Because of that one turn, I didn’t really have to do anything crazy after that, and he won by two seconds.”
Vale wore a target on his back for his double-clear effort, with each consecutive rider attempting to mimic his success. Feigel posted a double-clear effort with Cliff II, but his time of 33.697 seconds would eventually earn the pair the third place, with Jennings collecting the third place award for his efforts.
Aboard Spirit of Alena, Vale turned in his second victory of the day in the last class, the 1.40m Open Jumpers. Vale had previously ridden Red Lady to a clean effort in the first round, but had earned eight faults toward the end of the short course. No other rider was able to master the first track, until he returned upon Spirit of Alena as the last pair to tackle the track. Vale guided Spirit of Alena to the only double-clear effort of the class, riding to a one-two finish in a time of 41.587 seconds. Although Maisie McSwain and Chanel laid down a beautiful first round course, the final rail fell to seal their third place finish with the fastest of the four-faulters.
“This is our first day showing Red Lady,” Vale explained. “She’s a little hard to warm up, but she’s pretty good in the ring. I did two classes with her, and I think she might have been a little tired by that point, but she went around the ring real solid in the 1.35m and the 1.40m. I was real, real happy with her.”
Vale continued, “By the time I was in there on Spirit, Red Lady was already the leader with two down in the jump-off so I wasn’t even worried about going clean necessarily, just keeping Spirit calm and relaxed. We’re pointing toward the $10,000 class on Friday so I didn’t want to buzz him up. He knows how to go quick, so it’s kind of a nice opportunity when you can win a class without having to use your horse too hard. You can keep training and work on their brain rather than just trying to win the prize money. It was a nice opportunity to give him a quiet relaxed jump-off, and hopefully he’ll be riding nice later in the week and not anticipating too much.”
This week’s highlight event is the 2012 $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational presented by G & C Farm, being held on Saturday, April 6, at Raymond James Stadium. The Tournament of Champions will continue through April 6 at the Florida State Fairgrounds, before coming to a close during the American Invitational beginning at 6:30 p.m. The top riders in the country will gather under the lights at Raymond James Stadium to compete for the crown jewel of show jumping.
For more information about the Tampa Equestrian Festival, please visit www.StadiumJumping.com.
Kendall Bierer for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International
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