TAMPA — Florida native Margie Engle rode to victory Sunday in the $50,000 Grand Prix of Tampa, a highlight event of the Tampa Equestrian Festival.
Engle and four other riders advanced to the second faster, shorter jump-off. They completed Michel Vaillancourt's first course with no faults over 15 other teams at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Engle, 52, of Wellington won the second round of eight jumping efforts with no rails down but two time faults (51.71) over the 50 seconds allowed. She beat Leslie Howard of Darien, Conn., who had a clear round in the jump-off but was 1.04 seconds slower (52.75).
Indigo, the winning horse, was bred in Australia and arrived in the United States about seven weeks ago. Engle had more trouble getting the 10-year-old warmblood gelding to this country than getting him around the course.
She has competed with Indigo for four weeks and was thrilled with his performance Sunday. It was his first time competing in a World Cup class, she said.
"He has a lot of energy, but I didn't want to be tempted to go fast with him," Engle said of the jump-off.
Howard said she watched Engle out of the corner of her eye while warming up her horse, Raimond W, and hoped to beat her time with the 11-year-old Dutch-bred gelding.
"Her horse is naturally fast; mine is off like a herd of turtles," Howard said of the horse she has been riding since he was 6. She blamed herself for not pushing him faster until the final jumps. But she praised his carefulness: "He's a good boy. He jumps a lot of clean rounds."
The women agreed the arena is a lot smaller than the one they competed in at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington.
"The turns are tighter," Engle said.
"The footing was a little dicey," Howard added.
Both will compete in the American Invitational on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
Engle took $15,000 for first and Howard $11,000 for second. Third through fifth: Richard Spooner of California, $6,500; Pablo Barrios of Venezuela, $4,000; Hugh Graham of Canada, $3,000.