Miami, Fla.—April 5
Beezie Madden won the 2005 $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational and the 2007 version of the same class with her now-retired Authentic. So pulling up to this year’s version, the $200,000 American Invitational in Miami? It made her a little nostalgic.
“I have to say, I always kind of miss Authentic when we come here,” she said. “He loved this class.”
But Madden put those reflective feelings aside to focus on her mount for this year, Coral Reef Via Volo. And the 16-year-old mare didn’t disappoint, helping Madden score her third victory in this class. The pair jumped two clear rounds and put in a jump-off time of 35.91 seconds for first and the winner’s check of $66,000. Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum put in the only other double-clear jump-off trip in 38.02 seconds for second.
“She was a good stand-in [for Authentic] tonight,” said Madden of the Belgian Warmblood (Clinton—Run Away, Heartbreaker) mare owned by Coral Reef Ranch. “I was really thrilled for my horse. She’s had a great circuit, and she’s done a lot of big classes for me down here.”
The class, held in the Sun Life Stadium, usually home to the Miami Dolphins football team, was converted to a show jumping track for tonight’s standalone class. The class was previously held in Tampa for 41 years. About 5,800 spectators turned out for the feature class and for the $25,000 Hollow Creek Farm Junior/Amateur-Owner Classic, which Tori Colvin won on Don Juan.
“It’s exciting to be here in Miami,” said Madden. “Wellington is kind of the heart of the horse world here in Florida, and this is very close and yet special to come down here and be in a stadium like this.”
“I was delighted to hear the Invitational came to Miami,” added Michaels-Beerbaum. “I rode in the Invitational a couple of times in Tampa. The fact that it’s here in Miami, in my opinion, makes it even more exciting. It’s a great part of our circuit on the East Coast of Florida. I think it has a great future here. I think we’ll get better and better crowds every year. I think the event will even grow in its prestige.”
Though Steve Stephen’s track certainly proved tough enough—with the front rail of an oxer at 3 coming down numerous times, as well as rails within all three of the double combinations—horses and riders also faced a foe with the footing this evening as the hard turf on the football field quickly gave way to the horses’ hooves. Despite the efforts of the ring crew—who took a break to roll the ground between every 10 horses and spent time watering the field before the start—clumps of it still came away on landing and take-off sides.
Ben Maher scratched his supermare Cella, citing “unfortunate ring conditions” on Twitter. (Christine McCrea also elected not to jump Romantovich Take One, and Leslie Howard left Utah in the barn, though neither rider specified that footing was the reason for their withdrawals.)
“The ground was a little bit tough tonight, but I think it took a while in Tampa to get it figured out, too,” said Madden, Cazenovia, N.Y., and Wellington, Fla. “I think what we need for horses is a little bit different than what they need for football. So I think they’ll get that figured out, and it’ll be a fantastic event.”
In the end, only five—Madden, Michaels-Beerbaum, Margie Engle on Royce, Rodrigo Pessoa on Citizenguard Cadjanine and Lauren Hough on Ohlala—of the original 29 starters qualified for the short course. First to go, Hough was setting a blazing pace with her mare but then pulled a rail at the final fence. Hough’s time of 34.44 with the one rail put her into third.
“Lauren was very fast,” said Madden. “I was a bit relieved that she knocked the last fence down, honestly. But then I thought I’d just try to be smooth, try to be very efficient, and give the others something to catch.”
Madden and “Shrimp” stopped the timers at 35.91. For the first part of her course, Michaels-Beerbaum was on track to catch that time with Atlanta—in her first jump-off ever with her relatively new, 9-year-old mount.
“I thought I was really good to one, to two to three, four and the combination,” said Michaels-Beerbaum. “I have to say, I couldn’t believe I was going as fast with her as I was because I never, ever went fast with her. So then I got all nervous and started pulling on the reins and thinking I better slow down now to make sure I go clean. I kind of planted her under the last two fences, but she still jumped them. It was a bit messy, to be honest. I was just really pleased because the horse never gave up.”
Crowd favorite Margie Engle, riding Elm Rock Partner’s Royce, picked up a heartbreaking 4 faults when she had down just one piece of the American Invitational wall, relegating her to fourth. Then Pessoa’s two rails placed him in fifth.
Madden will soon head to Lyon, France, to try and defend her Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final title with Simon.
“It’s nice to have a few wins under your belt,” said Madden. “It gives you some good confidence. The World Cup’s going to be a tough challenge there. It is hard enough to win the first time; to come back and win it again is going to be really tough. There are a lot of other riders with the same idea.”