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Debbie Stephens Aboard Cosequin’s CEO Wins Welcome Stake At 120th National Horse Show

WELLINGTON, FL – November 26, 2003 – Debbie Stephens riding Cosequin’s CEO won the $25,000 Palm Beach Post National Welcome Qualifying Stake today, marking the opening of the 120th National Horse Show at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, FL. The show runs from November 26-30, highlighted by the $100,000 National Horse Show Jumper Championship on Friday evening, the $100,000 AGA Championship on Sunday, and Dressage at the National, November 28-30.

Stephens aboard Cosequin’s CEO owned by her Centennial Farm bested a field of 34 entries. Four horse and rider combinations cleared the round one course set by Jose Gamarra. In the jump-off, Stephens was first to go and clocked in clean in 38.35. Judy Garofalo aboard Oliver III had a rail in 40.30 to finish second. Alison Firestone riding Casanova placed third with eight faults in 40.70. Norman Dello Joio and Glasgow elected not to jump the short course and took fourth place. The top 25 from the qualifier are eligible to compete in the $100,000 National Horse Show Jumper Championship presented by Lexus, which will be held on Friday evening, November 28.

“It was a nice opening course,” said Stephens. “The top riders are here, so with only four clean obviously it was a little more difficult than we had anticipated.” Cosequin’s CEO is the only horse that Stephens brought to The National and she is concentrating on winning two more classes with him – both of the upcoming $100,000 Grand Prixes. “So far, so good. But honestly, I give all the credit to my horse. He is absolutely fantastic,” said Stephens. “I bred and raised him, which is like the icing on the cake.” Stephens owns the dam, a Thoroughbred mare by Tim Tam, and the now deceased sire, a Dutch stallion named VIP, which her course designer husband Steve Stephens formerly campaigned. The win was not only sweet for her as a breeder, but also because it was her first experience back in the Internationale Arena since last February when a bad fall at the water jump during the Winter Equestrian Festival put her out of the show ring for three months. She credits the Miami Project for Paralysis for putting her back in competition form. “It’s been a different kind of road, but I have a wonderful staff and horse,” said Stephens. “He’s Olympic caliber, no question. I’ve had a lot of offers to buy him but I’m going to keep him for our country and I hope it works out because he’s the real deal.”

In earlier competitions in the Internationale Arena Scott Stewart and Ken Smith dominated the hunter classes. Stewart of Flemington, NJ, and Wellington, FL, rode Chopard to the blue ribbon in the first three classes of the show and thoroughly enjoyed the morning’s blue skies, sunshine, 80-degree weather and huge grass Grand Prix field. Following his victory in the Regular Conformation Hunter Round 1, Stewart was all smiles. “My horse went great. It’s a beautiful day and the field is perfect. I think they all jumped great. It was a nice course. It wasn’t’ too technical, it was a nice galloping use of the field and it let them jump their best. It’s a perfect day and the perfect thing to be doing today.” Stewart has been riding the nine-year-old Bavarian gelding owned by Krista Weisman of Sherbourne, Massachusetts, for three years. Stewart was Champion with Chopard at last year’s National Horse Show. Gary Duffy of Little Brook Farms in Ithaca, New York, has been Chopard’s trainer since last September when Weisman purchased him. “He’s been a great horse. He’s been champion at all the horse shows we’ve been to and grand champion,” said Duffy.

Ken Smith and Miracle owned by Christy Russo of Miami, Florida, won the first round of the Regular Working Hunter Class and placed second in Round 2. “She went incredible in the first round,” said Smith of Wellington, Florida. “She was real relaxed. She jumped real high in the first round and didn’t touch a jump. Real smooth. She loves it out there on the grass.” Russo purchased the eight-year-old Oldenburg mare a week before last year’s National Horse Show and Smith has had the ride since. Smith said Miracle impressed the judges because, “She had a lot of expression to her jump, nice style, and really gave it a big effort.”

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Children age 12 and under are always free. General admission seating for adults, Wednesday through Saturday (on Friday, there are separate day and evening tickets), is $10/each, with Sunday priced at $15/each; children over the age of 12 and seniors (65 and older) are $7/each. Diamond Horse Shoe Club and box seating information and reservations can be obtained by calling (800) 237-8924 or the Special Events office at (561) 753-3389.


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