Houston's Hallie Grimes, riding Caroline of Ballmore, was first competitor in the jump-off Saturday to determine the champion of the $100,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix at the TerraNova Equestrian Center in Myakka.
Grimes aced the course, completing the jumps in 46.94 and seemingly putting a firm grip on the winner's check of $29,250.
However, Ireland's Richie Moloney followed with a beautiful ride aboard Rocksy Music that had the sellout crowd in the VIP pavilion gasping as the score was posted. Moloney was denied, though, as his time of 46.99 was 0.05 seconds slower.
It might have seemed Grimes was home free, but Australia's Rowan Willis had yet to ride Wellington Grey Goose. He was perfect through the course, and edged Grimes for the title by stopping the clock at 46.86. First by 0.08.
The jumping competition was part of the Split Rock Jumping Tour that drew former Olympians, such as 2008 gold medalist Will Simpson of the U.S., along with many of the top riders in the world, to Myakka. The event was free to spectators.
"The field, the weather, the crowd, it all came together," said TerraNova Equestrian Center President Molly Oakman, who was director of Equestrian Operations at Tryon Resort in North Carolina before taking over at TerraNova on Jan. 1. "This is show jumping at its highest level. It is important to us to bring these world-class competitors to this environment."
Thirty-eight horse-and-rider combination challenged the 16-jump course on Saturday and only five made it through clean rides to advance to the jump-off.
After his victory, Willis said he knew he had to go all-out from the first jump after Grimes put up such an impressive time.