TAMPA — Fences were knocked down, horses refused jumps, one horse and rider fell, and no one made it clear through the first round of the $200,000 American Invitational on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.
A group of seven riders and their mounts, each of whom had knocked down just one fence, returned for a jumpoff.
The winner was Chris Kappler on the 13-year-old Dutch-bred mare, VDL Oranta.
It was the third time Kappler, 42, of Farmington, N.J., won the event. His first victory was in 1995 aboard Seven Wonder and the second in 2003 with Royal Kaliber.
"She was phenomenal tonight," Kappler said of his horse. "This is my first really big win with her. We were second in 2006 and fifth last year."
"I really enjoy her," Kappler said. "She's a good, tough mare."
As for the Invitational, Kappler said, "It's one of the best events in America. It's a privilege to come here."
Kappler earned $60,000.
Second place went to Todd Minikus aboard Pavarotti, a 12-year-old Dutch-bred horse.
Minikus, who won $44,000, said he was pleased. "He jumped fabulously," he said. "He's proven time and time again that he's a class horse."
Thirty-four horse and rider pairs competed on the challenging course designed by Steve Stephens. A triple combination of fences was the biggest trouble spot on the twisting, turning course of 17 obstacles. The second fence in the combination came down more than 20 times.
"Steve Stephens is an excellent builder," Kappler said. "He always builds an Olympic-caliber track."
HONOR: Eugene Mische, who started the American Invitational in 1973 at Tampa Stadium, was honored during preshow ceremonies for his long career.
He established Stadium Jumping, a horse show production company, in 1973 in Tampa. The company produces the $450,000 Charlotte Jumper Classic, the Lake Placid Horse Show and the American Gold Cup.
Mische, who owns Imperial Farm in Palmetto, began training horses in the 1950s and moved on to managing horse shows.