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2001 champion wins again

Molly Ashe and Kroon Gravin earn the American Invitational title.

By CHRISTINA K. COSDON, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2002

Molly Ashe and Kroon Gravin earn the American Invitational title.

TAMPA -- "Wow! What a horse!" said the winner of Saturday's American Invitational.

Molly Ashe and Kroon Gravin defended their title at Raymond James Stadium.

The 31-year-old from Wellington and her 10-year-old Dutch-bred mare completed the jump-off without a fault to win $60,000. They are the first back-to-back winners in the event's 30-year history. The mare had been ill and not shown since July. The first time Ashe competed in a grand prix with her since then was Sunday at the Tampa fairgrounds. Walking onto the course Saturday, "my heart was in my throat," she said.

But through the first jump and 16 other obstacles, Kroon Gravin "knew where she was," Ashe said. Only three out of 30 competitors completed the course without a fault. Second went to Laura Kraut and her Dutch-bred gelding Anthem. Her horse's performance, she said, was "the best he's jumped all season." Gabriella Salick took third with her Dutch-bred stallion Sandstone Laurin.

A double combination jump was a trouble spot and came down 22 times.

Painted red, white and blue, the first half of the jump featured wavy boards and curved poles, which might have prevented horses from gauging the height of the jump.

The planks were so carefully placed, Kraut said, "that you could absolutely not touch them."

The evening also included the presentation of Show Jumping Hall of Fame inductees Eugene Mische, John Russell, Bobby Burke and the thoroughbred Untouchable.

Mische founded Tampa-based Stadium Jumping, the nation's premier producer of hunter/jumper horse shows and the Winter Equestrian Festival. Russell rode on the last U.S. Army Olympic team in 1948 and was on the first American civilian Olympic team in 1952. Burke was a powerhouse in the hunter and show jumping ring in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Untouchable was an international champion in the '60s.

The next grand prix is the American Grandprix Association Championship on April 7 in West Palm Beach. After that, an 11-member U.S. Team will compete May 1-5 in Leipzig, Germany, at the World Cup. Team members from the East Coast League are: Vanessa Haas, Lauren Hough, Leslie Howard, Chris Kappler, Kraut, Todd Minikus and McLain Ward.

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