Articles: Press Release
Alison Firestone and Intrepide Du Valon Fly to Victory in $30,000 Ariat WEF Challenge Cup Series Final at Winter Equestrian Festival in Tampa
PHOTO CREDIT: Intrepide Du Valon with Alison Firestone. Photo by Randi
Mason Phelps, Jr. of Phelps Media Group, Inc. at (561)
753-3389 or at email@example.com
Tampa, Fl - March 30 - The old saying goes "timing is everything." Today, Alison Firestone made good on the old saying with a debut win with her new mare, Intrepide Du Valon, in the $30,000 Ariat WEF Challenge Cup Series Final at the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida. The Tournament of Champions is the final week of the nine week long Winter Equestrian Festival, the nation's largest and longest running equestrian showcase. The grand finale of the nine week long competition is the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night at 7pm.
Today's $30,000 Ariat WEF Challenge Cup Series Final, the final East Coast World Cup qualifying event, was scored under FEI Art. 238.1.2. Time First Jump-off. USEF International Level. The course designer was Luc Mussette of Belgium.
Forty eight starters took the field for the main event. Ten riders completed the first round course fault free to qualify for the jump-off. Fifteen competitors, all tied for eleventh place, had one knockdown each. Seven competitors had eight faults, while seventeen competitors had eleven faults or more.
With four of the eight available spots for the Budweiser World Cup in Las Vegas still at stake going into today's event, the pressure was on throughout the class and the tension could be felt in every corner and all across the arena.
Debbie Stephens and Centennial Farm's Cosequin's CEO got the jump-off underway with two knockdowns and a time of 39.07 seconds. Ian Millar of Canada followed on Promise Me, owned by Bakers Dozen. Millar too had eight faults but eclipsed Stephen's time, crossing the finish line in 37.97 seconds.
A World Cup spot was on the line for Beezie Madden and Authentic. Sitting tenth coming in, Madden needed an excellent finish today to make the cut. Authentic clipped one rail in the tiebreaker, but Madden took the early lead with four faults in 35.21 seconds.
McLain Ward, already atop the World Cup leader board, grabbed the lead in the class with the first jump-off clear on his mount, Neuville. Ward galloped across the finish line in 38.40 seconds.
Anne Kursinski, assured of a trip to Las Vegas prior to the class, followed Ward. Aboard Lorenzo, owned by Market Street, Kursinski finished with eight faults and tripped the timers in 40.66 seconds.
Jeffery Welles, with an outside shot at the World Cup was next with Armani, owned by Kimmel Yager Equine. A rail down on the speed course dashed Welles' hopes for a trip to Vegas. The duo finished with four faults and a time of 37.18 seconds.
Ilian, from the South Beach Stables, and Schuyler Riley were the seventh to return against the clock. Riley, who had dropped below the cut for the World Cup prior to today's WEF Challenge Cup, moved right back into contention for a ticket to Las Vegas with a clear jump off ride, clocking in at 39.90 to move into second place behind Ward.
Iron Springs Farm's Judgement and Beezie Madden joined the fray next. Judgement scored four and finished at 51.08 seconds.
With World Cup positions decided at this point, there were two contenders for the WEF Challenge Cup title remaining. Sheila Burke and the Athlone Partners entry of Caya would be the first of two to go. Burke made an amazing inside cut and knocked almost two full seconds off of Ward's time to take over the top spot on the leader board. Caya and Burke broke the beams in a speedy 36.66 seconds.
Alison Firestone and Intrepide du Valon entered the ring as the last duo to go and with the class on the line. Intrepide Du Valon, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone, was making her grand prix level debut. You would never have known this was their first big class. Firestone was amazing. Firestone's pace was torrid. She was over a second ahead of Burke when she duplicated the inside cut that Burke had done.
Intrepide Du Valon was literally two feet over the standards on the final fence and Firestone lit up the scoreboard with a finish time of 34.60, exactly two seconds faster than Caya and Burke.
"I don't know how high she was over that last jump," Firestone said following the class, "but it was just the most incredible feeling in the world!"
Even though this was their grand prix debut, Firestone was ready to take a chance for the victory. "There weren't many clean and this is the first big jump off I've ever done with her," she explained. "I was a little nervous going inside from one to two because that's a big oxer off that inside turn. She's such a fast mare, I was thinking after seeing McLain's round that I could get away with just going around and still be faster," Firestone conceded. "Then Sheila came in and did the inside turn perfectly and I had no choice if I wanted to win. So I did the inside cut and she was just incredible."
Second place finisher, Burke, talked about the inside cut. "I knew that there weren't many clear, but, I also knew that Alison was behind me and I'd seen her go on this mare in some of the smaller classes and I knew she could be really fast," Burke said. "So, I thought I'd push it a little and make Alison chase me and I did. I made her chase me and she caught me," laughed Burke.
Firestone is happy with her timing with her new mare. "We decided to move just last week. She went so well in the 1.50m class," Firestone said. "That's when we made the call. She jumped so well in that class. She jumped every jump in that class and it could have been three holes higher and still would have been the same, so that's when I felt confident enough to move her up to the WEF Challenge."
Firestone enjoyed today's track. "The first round was pretty technical. Everything came up really quickly, as they can when you're riding indoors. I was thrilled with my mare. Every time I called on her to help me out she kicked into gear and tried so hard."
Burke concurred. "I thought it was very technical, too. It's difficult making the adjustment from the big field in Palm Beach and then coming here. Everything just comes up so fast. It's like being in a pinball machine."
"Now, I feel that my horses are all at the right spot and it has taken a while to get them in the groove. So now, I could use two more weeks of showing," said a smiling Firestone. "But, I'm thrilled with how this ended. It really couldn't have been a better ending and now I'm just hoping it carries over to the Invitational on Saturday night."
Burke, who had a tough circuit, was happy with today. "I didn't do a lot of the big classes this season, but when I did I had a 'case of the one downs' but it was really nice to end Florida on this note."
The main event, the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, takes center stage on Saturday night at 7pm. The venue is Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.
The unofficial list of riders qualified for the Budweiser World Cup from the East Coast League is as follows:
1 - McLain Ward
2 - Laura Kraut
3 - Kim Frey
4 - Anne Kursinski
5 - Schuyler Riley
6 - Lauren Hough
T7 - Georgina Bloomberg
T7 - Candice King
Official Results - #101 $30,000 Ariat WEF Challenge Cup Series Final, CSI-W - FEI Art. 238.1.2 -03-30-05-Covered Arena
1 - Intrepide du Valon, Alison Firestone - 0-0/34.66
2 - Caya, Sheila Burke - 0-0/36.66
3 - Neuville, McLain Ward -0-0/38.40
4 - Ilian, Schuyler Riley - 0-0/39.90
5 - Authentic, Beezie Madden -0-4/35.21
6 - Armani, Jeffery Welles -0-4/37.18
7 - Judgement, Beezie Madden - 0-4/51.08
8 - Promise Me, Ian Millar -0-8/37.97
9 - Cosequin's CEO, Debbie Stephens -0-8/39.07
10 - Lorenzo, Anne Kursinski -0-8/40.66
Fifteen horses, with 4 faults apiece were tide for 11th place.
Tampa Fast Facts
WHAT: The world's largest and longest-running equestrian sporting event, this event awards more than $3 million in prize money and features more than 1,000 horses and the world's best riders including Olympic members of the U.S. Equestrian Team.
WHEN: March 23 - April 2 (closed March 28)
Beginning daily at 8:00am.
Four rings daily at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center on the Florida State Fairgrounds.
March 23-27 (Wednesday-Sunday) Tampa Bay Classic, CSI-W
Wednesday - Sunday FREE
March 29-April 2 (Tuesday-Saturday) Tournament of Champions CSI-W
Tuesday - Saturday FREE
HIGHLIGHT: The 33rd Annual $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational presented by Publix and The Tampa Tribune
The top thirty riders including riders from the U.S., Canada, Germany, Argentina and France compete for $200,000 in prize money one night only at Raymond James Stadium. In addition to the defending Invitational champion, invitations are issued to the current top four American Grand Prix Association riders, the team silver medalists from the Athens Olympic Games, plus the top riders based on prize money won from the nine week long Winter Equestrian Festival tour.
Saturday, April 2
Raymond James Stadium
Walk the course from 5:30-6:15 p.m.
Advance ticket prices are $25-35 and family four packs $65 (Day-of-show $30-40 tickets and family four packs $75). Service charges apply.
Tickets available through TicketMaster (813) 287-8844, (727) 898-2100
TicketMaster outlets accept only cash on the day of show.
The event benefits the Tampa Police Mounted Patrol.
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