Team USA Purina Mills Wins 2008 Challenge of the Americas
RELEASE: March 13, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Mary Hilton
The bright lights of the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL, showcased three teams in two rounds of competition on a very chilly Saturday night, March 8, with Team USA Purina Mills emerging as the winner of the 2008 Cha llenge of the Americas. The USA team claimed second place in the high jump and first place in the musical quadrille, which counted 40% and 60% respectively, giving the eight-member squad the victory after a spectacular dressage performance to a "Blue Angels" themed soundtrack.
Betsy Steiner of Team USA, who has participated in this event every year since its inception seven years ago as a Pas de Trois, exclaimed, "I can't believe it's seven times already! We were so excited to win it because though we've won the overall team, this is the first time we've actually won the quadrille. We were very committed this year to do the very, very best we could, so it's a thrill to really come out winning this one. It's a good feeling."
Team USA Purina Mills show jumpers Todd Minikus and Emily Williams notched the team's first set of scores in the high jump, placing second, which translated to a value of four points. Steiner, with teammates Lynda Alicki, Pamela Goodrich, Chris Hickey, Susan Jaccoma and Bent Jensen earned an additional 10 points for the team with their quadrille victory. George Williams was the quadrille team coach and Terry Gallo of Klassic Kur created the choreography and soundtrack. Team USA Purina Mills finished the night in the Gold-medal position with the winning total of 14 points.
Team Can/Am SSG Gloves, the defending champions of this event, placed second this year. Canadians Ainsley Vince and Martin Hoygens won the high jump phase, giving their team a starting score of six points. Simone Williams, Jacqueline Paxton, Kayce Redmond, Chris Saunders, Jackie Brooks and Gary Vander Ploeg notched five points for their third-place finish in the musical quadrille. Eva-Marie Pracht coached the quadrille riders. Team Can/Am SSG Gloves claimed the Silver medal in the final standings with a total of 11 points.
Vince, who was competing in the Challenge for the second consecutive year, admitted the 'puissance' format can be daunting. "You never know how high you're going to jump and how the horses are going to react," Vince said. "We had a little bit of a last minute substitution on the team, but it worked out great. Martin was a great sport about it. His horse was fantastic. I was just glad to be a part of it. It's a great cause, and we all feel fortunate to be able to participate in it because we're so much behind the cause."
Team International Morgan Stanley earned third place in this year's Challenge. Darragh Kerrins of Ireland and Eduardo Salas of Mexico completed the high jump phase in third place, delivering two points for their team. Marco Bernal, Patrick Burssens, Mikala Munter Gundersen, Karen Lipp, Cathy Morelli and Silke Rembacz captured seven points for their second-place finish in the musical quadrille. Beth Zimski was the quadrille coach and choreographer, and Marlene Whitaker of Custom Freestyles, Inc., created the soundtrack from Zimski's music selections. Team International was awarded the Bronze medal for their overall score of nine points.
"I am very grateful to these talented riders and the owners of their wonderful horses for donating their time and efforts to help the Challenge raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. They were all simply phenomenal," said Mary Ross, founder and chairman of the Challenge of the Americas. "The quadrille coaches, choreographers and soundtrack creators provided outstanding productions. All the teams were a thrill to watch, and I am grateful to have such fabulous people involved in the Challenge."
The spectacular evening of sport and entertainment kicked off with opening ceremonies featuring two solo dressage exhibitions