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Equestrian

Jumping for a World Cup chance

Lauren Hough and her two mounts are top contenders this week in Tampa after starting the season strong.

By CHRISTINA K. COSDON, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2003


TAMPA -- The stakes are high today for a large field of international riders and their mounts at the $60,000 Grand Prix of Tampa. The trial is the last chance for riders to qualify for Saturday's $200,000 American Invitational at Raymond James Stadium.

It also is a qualifier for the World Cup next month in Las Vegas.

Lauren Hough of Wellington is among more than a dozen American riders with a secure position for the Invitational but who are trying to qualify for the World Cup.

Normally the Tampa grand prix is outdoors, but it moves indoors today to give World Cup hopefuls indoor experience. The World Cup is indoors.

Hough, 25 and a competitor at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, is among the top money-winning grand prix riders of this season's Winter Equestrian Festival that began in mid-January in Wellington and has been in Tampa two weeks.

The wins have been with her two top horses, 11-year-old Windy City and 12-year-old Clasiko, both German-bred geldings. She won the festival's first grand prix with Windy City and plans to ride that horse today.

"He's a powerhouse," she said of Windy City. "The bigger the jumps, the better he likes it. He knows when he's on, and he doesn't want to lose. He's a fighter."

Clasiko, her Olympic mount, is more laid-back, she said, and is her choice for the Invitational.

"He's a very kind-hearted horse," she said. "He always wants to please."

Clasiko got through the Olympics, she said, with "sheer talent and ability." Since then Clasiko has matured and come into its own. "I'm thrilled with him, he's an amazing animal," she said.

Hough had a flawless first-round ride with Clasiko in the $75,000 Florida Open this month in Wellington and placed fifth after the jump-off.

Mason Phelps Jr. described her ride through the course that afternoon. He competed with the U.S. eventing team in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

"Lauren's style and technique is very classical," Phelps said. "She looks elegant, and she's very smooth. You don't see her doing a lot of motion on her horse."

As Hough and Clasiko successfully cleared a massive triple jump, Phelps said, "She was absolutely dead straight to the jump and didn't rush it. Beautiful style, excellent job."

In grand prix show jumping, "You have to have a lot of luck on your side," Hough said.

Like people, horses can have good days and bad days. To help improve her horses' performance and ease of movement, they get chiropractic and laser treatments, massages and magnet therapy.

"They're the athletes," she said. "They're the ones jumping those big jumps."

WINTER EQUESTRIAN FESTIVAL

WHAT: Today's grand prix event is part of the annual $3-million Winter Equestrian Festival that includes international grand prix show jumper riders competing at high speeds over high jumps, children and adult hunter classes that judge the style and beauty of the horses and equitation classes that judge the technique of the riders. Visitors may watch training and warmup exercises before the show and shop at outdoor vendors offering horse-related wares. Food and drinks are available at several locations on the grounds.

WHEN: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. today, closed Monday, reopens Tuesday and continues through Saturday. The Tampa segment of the festival concludes with the $200,000 American Invitational. The competition, which features the top 30 riders of the Winter Equestrian Festival, including the defending champion, is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.

WHERE: All events except the Invitational are at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center, Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa.

ADMISSION/TICKETS: $5 weekdays, $10 today and Saturday. Children age 12 and younger admitted free. Seniors 65 and older and students are $5 all days. Advance tickets to the Invitational are $20, $30 and $60 for a family four-pack. Walk-up tickets to the Invitational are $25, $35 and $70 for the four-pack. For advance tickets call Ticketmaster at (813) 287-8844, (727) 898-2100 or Stadium Jumping at (813) 253-2782. Advance tickets also can be ordered on the Internet at ticketmaster.com or stadiumjumping.com.

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