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Steinwedell is "awesome'

A 36-year-old California rider, in competition in Tampa for the first time in eight years, beat more than 50 horse and rider teams Sunday in the $50,000 Grandprix of Tampa.

After a victory ride aboard her 12-year-old German-bred horse, Atlas, Francie Steinwedell said she felt "awesome."

"I can't believe it. I can't wait to call my mom," she said.

Steinwedell, from Glendale, said she went into the competition hoping to win with one of the horses she brought with her. She won not with the more experienced mount, but with the horse she has been riding only since December.

"He rubbed a couple of poles," she said, "but he's fast over the ground, and he doesn't spend a lot of time in the air."

Only seven teams completed the course of 16 fences and obstacles error-free. A water jump was one of the most troublesome obstacles. Several horses splashed in the middle of the water; others were penalized when a hoof touched the water's border.

In the jump-off, a shortened course to determine the winner, Steinwedell had the fastest time without knocking down a pole.

Todd Minikus, who rode two horses in the jump-off, came in second with his 8-year-old German-bred Yankee Zulu.

Anne Kursinski, a member of the 1996 Olympic show-jumping team that won a silver medal, came in third with her Olympic mount, 10-year-old Australian-bred Eros.

"My horses were outstanding," said Minikus of Lake Forest, Ill. "They both jumped super today."

He placed fifth in the jump-off with his mount Ravel.

Kursinski of Flemington, N.J., said Eros was perfect.

"He loves to go fast, and if he was a little slow in the jump-off, it was my fault," she said.

Kursinski said she plans to take Eros to Sweden next month to compete in the World Cup.

"He deserves to jump against the best in the world," she said.

Steinwedell received $15,000 for the win. Minikus won $11,000 for second place and $3,000 for fifth. Kursinski received $6,500 for third.

The top three riders said they expect to compete in Sunday's $50,000 Volvo Grandprix.

Winter Festival

WHEN: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday through April 5.

WHERE: Bob Thomas Equestrian Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa. Take Interstate 275 to Interstate 4. Take Exit 5 to Orient Road. Signs give directions to parking and the center.

TICKETS: $5 for adults; $3 for students and seniors 65 and older. Children 12 and under free.