April 7—Tampa, Fla.
Mario Deslauriers had planned on riding Cella in the U.S. Equestrian Federation Olympic Show Jumping Trials, but the mare had a toothache, and Deslauriers chose not to compete her March 21-24. His cautious decision (and the three weeks he gave Cella to recuperate) proved to be fortuitous in Tampa, as Jane Clark’s gray mare jumped to the top of the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational.
“For her to walk in here and do this like this,” said Deslauriers, who competed in the USEF Show Jumping Trials on his other mount, Urico. “She’s just incredible. Such a great horse.”
Molly Ashe-Cawley on Maarten Huygens’ Carissimo placed second, followed by Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner’s Simon.
Steve Stephens designed tonight’s track, which was built in Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Stephens, Palmetto, Fla., incorporated two combinations—a one-stride double and a triple combination: an oxer, one stride to a vertical, one stride to another oxer. It featured several changes of direction, rollback turns and a long approach to the final G&C Farm oxer.
“His course was quite twisty,” said Deslauriers, who has competed in this event multiple times but bagged his first victory this year. “The bicycle jump [fence 5, a vertical] took a lot of people off guard, the last jump of the triple—I think it was a good course. And the time allowed, after I saw the first horse, I thought it was generous, but you really had to stay on it to come in under time.”
Five pairs of the original 32 advanced to the jump-off—Charlie Jayne and Athena and Kent Farrington and Uceko joining Deslauriers, Ashe-Cawley and Madden. Deslauriers was the last to return for his second round after Madden and Ashe-Cawley had already both jumped double clears.
“She jumped beautifully [in the first round] and in the jump-off, I thought she jumped even better,” said Deslauriers. “I met the first fence at a good lick and the jump-off fell into place. Every time I was turning the corner, the distance was showing up with her stride.
“Leaving out a stride to the last fence was just nice for her,” he continued. “I think I had an excellent turn to the second-to-last jump and to the last jump. She tripped a little, but even with the size of her step, I could still get the nine quite easy. I turned pretty sharp to the FITS double, and everything went right.”
Ashe-Cawley and Madden have both won this event twice, but it has been 10 years since Ashe-Cawley led the victory gallop. She was excited about making a comeback.
“It’s good to know it’s still there,” she said. “You start to wonder, after you sit out for a while, it’s not so easy to step back in with these guys that are up and running and doing all the big shows. It felt good.”
Madden rode third in the jump-off, but her clear round was the slowest of the fault-free trips.
“I think I would have been more aggressive had there been fast ones already,” Madden, who posted 46.31, 1.81 seconds slower than Deslauriers’ eventual time, said. “I think I was pretty good until the black-and-white combination, and he jumped pretty big there, and after that he got a little wandery and zig-zaggy, and to the last line, he went a little wide to the left, so I did one more than Mario did there.”
Last year’s winning pair, Farrington and Uceko, pulled the final rail during the jump-off. They placed fourth overall.
Full results can be found at www.stadiumjumping.com