Beezie Madden has claimed Saturday night’s $200,000 American Invitational, riding Coral Reef Via Volo to the win at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida.
It was the third American Invitational victory for the reigning Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping Champion, who bested 28 other combinations. Madden navigated Coral Reef Via Volo to a double-clear effort during a five-horse jump off. They tripped the timers in 35.91 seconds after completing a clear short course, while Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Atlanta rode to the second place for the only other double clear effort. Lauren Hough and Ohlala were the third place finishers, taking the honors as the fastest of the four faulters after lowering the height of obstacle 17, an oxer set near the in gate.
Designer of the 2008 Olympic courses, Steve Stephens of Palmetto, Florida, designed the track. The 13 numbered obstacles featured a triple bar-oxer double combination, a scopey vertical leading into the oxer-liverpool combination, a unique, suspended American Invitational wall, a skinny, a blue, square oxer and a daunting G&C Farms final oxer. The most difficult obstacle proved to be the double combination coming off of the Miami Dolphins oxer, resulting in numerous rails on the ground.
Hough and Ohlala were the first to traverse the opening track, showing the way as the 11th to take on the course. The crowd erupted into a resounding applause as she showed that it could be done. Madden guaranteed a jump-off only two rounds later, crossing the finish line without fault. Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa and Citizenguard Cadjanine also rode to a clear effort, while Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum rode Atlanta to the fourth slot of the short course. It was Miami’s own Margie Engle, aboard Royce, who filled the fifth position, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats.
With a jump off eminent, the stakes were high as riders entered into the seven-obstacle track. Their eyes were set on the prize, but Stephens’ course left much to be determined on the turf.
Hough was the first to return, and although she was very quick early on, her approach to the final oxer sealed her fate as a four-faulter with Ohlala. They competed the course in 34.44 seconds.
Madden posted a more conservative effort than her counterparts, but her intent was clear-accuracy over speed. Using Coral Reef Via Volo’s stride to her advantage, and knowing her mount’s weaknesses, she followed her plan for the jump off and broke the beam without fault in 35.91 seconds.
“I was really thrilled for my horse. She’s had a great circuit,” Madden said. “She’s done a lot of big classes for me down here. I was thrilled to end this way. I have to say, I always kind of miss Authentic when we come here. He loved this class, but she was a good stand in tonight.”
Madden secured the victory on Authentic in both 2005 and 2007, but since his retirement, Madden’s talented string of mounts has stepped up to shine.
Although Pessoa attempted to catch Madden, four faults at the opening oxer of the double and a fault at the penultimate obstacle would earn him the fifth place position. It wasn’t until Michaels-Beerbaum returned to the field that defeat seemed possible.
The German rider was aboard a more recent mount, Atlanta, and although this was only their second time competing under the lights and their first time in a jump off, they proved that with time they could become unstoppable. They cleared the course in 38.02 seconds without touching a rail.
Margie Engle was the final rider to go against the clock, but her choice to do eight strides to the second fence cost her the clean round she was hoping for. She ended on four faults in 36 seconds, finishing in the fourth place position. Pessoa would pick up fifth, while Shane Sweetnam and Eregast Van Kizelhoff rounded out the top six as the fastest of the four-faulters from the first round.
Madden is the fourth rider to win the American Invitational three times.
2014 $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational Results
1 13 CORAL REEF VIA VOLO BEEZIE MADDEN USA 0.00 87.69 0.00 35.91
2 22 ATLANTA MEREDITH MICHAELS-BEERBAUM GER 0.00 86.23 0.00 38.02
3 11 OHLALA LAUREN HOUGH USA 0.00 81.50 4.00 34.44
4 23 ROYCE MARGIE ENGLE USA 0.00 83.24 4.00 36.00
5 17 CITIZENGUARD CADJANINE RODRIGO PESSOA BRA 0.00 82.43 8.00 35.85
6 2 EREGAST VAN KIZELHOFF SHANE SWEETNAM IRL 4.00 85.07
7 9 JUVINA GEORGINA BLOOMBERG USA 4.00 85.08
8 24 ROTHCHILD MCLAIN WARD USA 4.00 85.17
9 10 DYNAMO MEGAN NUSZ USA 4.00 87.08
10 7 LEAP OF JOY CHARLIE JACOBS USA 4.00 87.14
11 6 TITUS 2:11 JARED PETERSON USA 5.00 89.66
12 8 QUALITY GIRL TODD MINIKUS USA 8.00 83.57