Fourteen fences flanked a sandy shoreline armed with world-class horses Friday at the 43rd American Invitational show jumping competition on the beach behind Collins Park.
Great Britain’s Scott Brash and 9-year-old gelding Hello Forever edged Qatar’s Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani and the 12-year-old Concordija by less than a tenth of a second in the $127,000 event. Brash is back-to-back Longines Global Champions Tour Champion and an Olympic gold medalist.
“It’s a very prestigious event,” Brash said. “I hear about it every year, but we were never here to jump in it. It’s very nice to be a part of it.”
Fifty-three horses competed in the event, which judges clean jumping of fences that rise to five feet, in the allotted time. After speeding through the course, riders then competed in a jump-off to see who could complete the course, unscathed, in the fastest time.
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Nine horses from five countries, advanced to the jump-off round. Three Americans, Paige Johnson, Schuyler Riley and Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, advanced to the jump-off round.
Jessica Springsteen, daughter of Bruce Springsteen, was a scratch for Friday’s event.
“The riders were very proud to be here,” said Germany’s Daniel Deusser, who came in third place on Pironella. “For us this is a super event. It cannot be much better. I’m very happy to be third place. My horse is still very young, but to experience this was great. Scott was very, very fast, and I think that’s also the reason he is No. 1 in the world.”
Hello Forever, bought just four months ago, needed some soothing before the competition, according to Brash.
“He’s quite a new horse,” Brash said. “He is very inexperienced at this level, but he is a top, top horse. I have high hopes for him. I’m really happy with him. He was a little spooky [Thursday] in the class. [Friday] was so much better and so much more relaxed. That’s what we always look for is improvement. I can’t be happier.”
The competing horses ranged from 8 years old to 16 years old. Each rider was allowed to bring two horses to the event, which includes more than 100 horses in three barns.
“My horse is quite inexperienced, but he is a competitive horse,” Brash said. “You can ride him. I tried to stay as tight as I could and tried to see what my horse could do. It worked out in the end. I thought the Sheikh was going to get me there.”
Saturday’s main event is the $600,000 Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix. Last year the event was held at Sun Life Stadium.
Brash plans to ride another gelding, and world No. 1 horse, Hello Sanctos.
“To team up with a world-class organization and a world-class city putting on an event like this … I think it was fantastic,” said Michael Morrissey, president of Stadium Jumping. “It was a terrific event here in Miami.”
Though Brash and Co. travel to Madrid, Shanghai, Monaco, Paris, Vienna and Doha, he still was awestruck by Miami’s iconic beauty.
“It’s incredible,” Brash said. “We are very lucky being put on this tour for a number of years now. We get to go to some wonderful events throughout the globe, but to come here and ride on Miami Beach is just incredible. If I was thinking 10 years ago that I would be out here jumping on Miami Beach, I wouldn’t believe it. It’s just great to be here.”
American Invitational results
1. Hello Forever, Scott Brash, GBR, 33.5; 2. Concordija, Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani, Qatar, 33.48; 3. Pironella, Daniel Deusser, GER, 34.14; 4. Dakota, Paige Johnson, USA, 34.63; 5. Dobra de Porceyo, Schuyler Riley, USA, 35.46; 6. Caleno, Georgina Bloomberg, USA, 35.33; 7. Lady Lindenhof, Luciana Diniz, POR, 45.65; 8. Capital Colnardo, Audrey Coulter, USA, 36.15; 9. Valentin R, Michael Whitaker, GBR, 38.18; 10. Willow, Kent Farrington, USA, 74.84.