Miami, FL - April 5, 2014 - A field of the nation's top 20 riders gathered at Sun Life Stadium for the inaugural $25,000 Hollow Creek Farm Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic-earmarking a page in history as they set the stage for the 42nd American Invitational, presented by G&C Farms. Victoria Colvin was the only rider to lay down a double-clear effort, taking home the victory with Don Juan. Nicole Bellissimo and VDL Dogan rode to the second place, while Venezuela's Emanuel Andrade was awarded third place.
Steve Stevens and Leopaldo Palacios designed a course that challenged both horse and rider alike, utilizing many of the very same fences that would challenge the horse and rider combinations for tonight's 42nd American Invitational. Although 10 riders navigated the first round course, the "winning round" rules dictated only six would proceed into the jump-off. The times were tight, and boiled down to quickest of the clears.
Eventual winner Victoria Colvin stated, "Don Juan is usually a fast horse, so I thought if I just went around nice I would be good to go, but then I went around and they kept getting faster, and I thought 'I'm not going to get in the jump-off.'"
First to return for the speed round was Nicole Bellissimo and VDL Dogan. They posted a speedy effort in 29.917 seconds, but a rail at fence two would cost them the win. They finished on a score of four faults, and looked on as the remaining five riders took their turn at the track.
"I was the slowest of the six to come back so as everyone was going around, I was getting a little nervous, but I ended up with a little bit of luck on my side," Bellissimo said. "I had to go first, so I definitely knew I had a lot of fast riders coming behind me. My horse is extremely fast, so I went for it. I made a little mistake, but he was fantastic."
"It was a really great event," Bellissimo continued. "Thank you to Hollow Creek for putting on the event. For us to come out and go before the American Invitational is a fantastic opportunity. To go under that pressure before we hopefully have the opportunity to come back in the coming years to do compete in the Invitational was so important. Getting a taste of that pressure is fantastic."
Colvin and Don Juan were the third to take on the track. Although they had a mishap after the second fence, which caused the most problems for the riders with four of the six lowering its height, they cleared the obstacles and took a risky turn to the penultimate obstacle, the opening oxer. from the second to first fence she sliced the turn and shaved the seconds to race to the final vertical and take over the lead in 31.657 seconds.
"I try to get a lot of confidence with Don Juan, so I was going to go nice and smooth and survive, and he was actually amazing out there. I think he likes the grass. I slipped a couple of times in the jump off, so I was a little bit afraid he was going to go down. He jumped fence two and we had a slight mishap, he sort of jumped out of it at a stand still. So that was a little funky, but I think we really made up time with a slice to the oxer at the end."
Emanuel Andrade attempted to catch her pace aboard Hollow Creek's Natif Des Roches. They had the time, breaking the beam in 30.040 seconds, but a rail at the fateful fence two would keep him from the blue ribbon today.
"The class was very competitive, I was thought that during the first round I was super fast, but then I was not so sure," Andrade laughed. "I ran like a speed class in the jump off, it was really fast. I saw Tori first, and she was really fast. I knew I had to go for it. I was trying to have the time and I had a rail."
This was Colvin's first time atop the podium, and as she looked on to the stands, she admitted that she felt a bit awestruck. The 16-year-old talent turned to face the American flag for the National Anthem, smiled as she accepted her medal and then lifted her roses.
"It was amazing being able to ride at Sun Life Stadium. I never thought I'd be able to ride on a football field. It's pretty cool," Colvin said. "Don Juan felt confident out there. His old owner did a lot of grass shows everywhere. He got around. So I was pretty confident going into the class. I haven't stood on the podium. I didn't think I was going to have to stand on a podium, but it was fun."