SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. -- Top-rated show jumper Beezie Madden finished first at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday with two penalty-free performances on Authentic.
Madden also won the $175,000 Cargill Grand Prix of the U.S., which ran concurrently with the final two rounds of the trials.
An official short list for the U.S. team for the Athens Olympics does not have to be released for 48 hours, Madden, from Cazenovia, N.Y., is expected to be included if her 9-year-old bay gelding passes an exam on Monday.
Madden had just eight penalties in six rounds of jumping,
including three at Del Mar last weekend and three at the Oaks Blenheim Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park this weekend. She toppled just two rails.
"I was hoping this was the year," said Madden, who won a team gold medal at the Pan American Games but has never been on an Olympic team.
Peter Wylde, of Massachusetts, was second in trials. He had 12 penalties with Fein Cera, the mare he rode when he won an
individual bronze medal at the 2002 World Equestrian Games.
McLain Ward, of Bedford, N.Y., finished third on Sapphire with 15 penalties, while Alison Firestone, of Upperville, Va., was
fourth on Casanova with 21.
Already included on the short list is Chris Kappler of
Flemington, N.J., who was excused from the trials by the selectors
last month because of his brilliant record with Royal Kaliber.
The top five riders will go to Europe next month to start
preparation for the Athens Games.
Like Madden, none of the others in line for the top five spots
on the short list have any Olympic experience.
Wylde, who competes regularly in Europe from his base in
Holland, is convinced that the team has the makings of a medal when
measured against its chief rivals.
"It's one of the strongest (U.S.) teams in a long time," he
said. "I think we have a really, really good chance.