The 2018 Southeast Medal Finals kicked off its second year at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida, drawing in a crowd of qualified horses and riders to compete for year-end finals titles. With two prize money classes offered in addition to a series of divisions in all three rings, the first day of competition presented plenty of opportunities for entrants to showcase their skills and get experience in the ring prior to Saturday’s first round of the finals. Isaac Leffkowitz and Samantha Torcise earned the win in Friday’s CWD-sponsored classes, the $3,000 3’0’’ Hunter Spectacular and the $1,000 2’6’’ Hunter Spectacular, respectively.
Leffkowitz is out of Ocala, Florida and has only been paired with Transcendent for four months. Earlier in the day, the pair rode to the championship ribbon in the Green 3’3’’ Hunter division. In the classic round of the $3,000 3’0’’ Hunter Spectacular, Leffkowitz and Transcendent, owned by Barbara Britt, rode to an impressive score of 86. Heading into the handy round, Leffkowitz and Transcendent held the lead for the class out of 13 horse and rider combinations.
Sitting in second place close behind Lefkowitz was Mary Stavola riding Nashville, owned by Kimberden, Inc., with 81 points. Stavola and Nashville were second-to-last to attempt to take over the lead in the class. The pair impressed the judges with their round, receiving a score of 85 and setting themselves up in first place. Leffkowitz and Transcendent needed a score above 80 in order to overtake the new class leaders. The pair wowed the crowd and the judges with a flawless round, securing first place earning a score of 90, the highest scoring round of both Hunter Spectacular classes.
“I do a lot of rollbacks at home and all of my horses are very schooled on the flat,” shared Leffkowitz. “These turns were pretty easy for me to come in and take the inside turns. [Transcendent] especially, he waits for direction and is always willing to do whatever I ask him to do on the front and back-side of the fence. Coming in with an 86, I figured I should do the toughest lines and just go for it because I had nothing to lose. It worked out great!”
Stavola and Nashville would ultimately receive second place in the $3,000 3’0’’ Hunter Spectacular, with Rachel Ross riding Larrico, owned by Ross Hammock Ranch, rounding out the top three. The pair received a classic round score of 75 and a handy round score of 67 for an overall total of 152 to secure the third place spot.
Prior to the $3,000 3’0’’ Hunter Spectacular, competitors took to the Stampede arena for the $1,000 2’6’’ Hunter Spectacular. The class winner, Torcise and her mount Classic sat in fourth place after their classic round received a score of 74. The pair came back strong in the handy, earning a score of 82 to take over the lead. Riders that followed were unable to surpass Torcise’s score, and she was ultimately awarded first place.
“This is my first year here. He’s the first super competitive horse that I’ve owned as an adult so this is exciting,” said an elated Torcise. “It was a perfect way to come here, even if I didn’t win it’s been a great experience so far, but it adds to the fun!”
Second place was awarded to Jessica Cross riding Broadway Joe, owned by Saias Corporation. The pair received a classic score of 69.5 and a handy round score of 79 for an overall total of 148.5. Emily Buda and By Design, owned by Gary Duffy, were awarded the third place for their score of 68 in the classic round and 78 in the handy round, scoring an overall total of 146.