Tryon International Equestrian Center

Melissa Blades & Hells Angel Master the Course to Win the $20,000 Grand Prix at Tryon

Mill Spring, North Carolina, USA – April 2, 2023 – Melissa Blades (Guyton, GA) and Hells Angel were the sole double-clear combination in Sunday’s $20,000 Grand Prix at Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (TIEC), taking the win in a time of 35.475 seconds in the jump-off.

Doug Payne (USA) & Chaccolate

Doug Payne (USA) and Chaccolate, Issy Kelly’s 2013 Warmblood gelding (Chacco Blue x Unknown), followed Blades’ trailblazing performance with a four-fault, 32.088 second round to earn reserve.

John Brown (USA) & Kazarro

In third place with the fastest four-fault first round John Brown (USA) and Kazarro, LL Show Jumpers, LLC’s 2015 Dutch Warmblood gelding (A Big Boy x Rockella-S), finished the JP Godard (AIken, SC) course design in 76. 392 seconds.

Blades and her own 2011 Westphalian mare (Cador x Foxi) are preparing for a big summer campaign after a recent maternity leave for Blades, she shared. “I’ve had her for about a year and a half now. I just had a baby eight months ago. So, I came out last week and did that smaller class here and was happy with her; she was second. Then,” Blades continued, “I came today to do this class and hopefully leg her up for the summer. I hope to show her in some FEI stuff later this summer.”

Melissa Blades (USA), family and Hells Angel in their presentation ceremony alongside JP Godard, TIEC Competition Manager.

Knowing that she had Eventing Olympian and accomplished show jumper Payne on her heels, Blades aimed to go clear – and quickly – to put the pressure on her competitors. “I was a little worried with Doug being behind me, because I know that he’s fast. My biggest focus was to get that inside turn done early, and go fast and get her across those wider oxers to produce a clear, because like I said, I’m trying to set her up for a big summer of showing.”

A frequent TIEC competitor, Blades’ husband, Dennis Brown, is a critical member of the venue’s arena care team, and Blades emphasized that she travels from the Savannah area frequently to support the showgrounds and her spouse, preferring the climate and amenities of the North Carolina venue. 

“We’re going to come back here for about two weeks in May and then in late June here as well. I think we’re going to try to do a lot here this summer, as well as October. My husband [Dennis Brown] works here, so I try to come and support him,” she concluded. “Obviously we like Tryon, and it’s close for us. It’s a four hour drive, not far, and it’s a little cooler here than it is in Savannah!”

Final Results – $20,000 Grand Prix

1) Melissa Blades (USA) & Hells Angel – 0 / 0 – 35.475

2) Doug Payne (USA) & Chaccolate – 0 / 4 – 32.088

3) John Brown (USA) & Kazarro – 4 – 76.392

Source: Press Release by Sarah Madden for TIEC – Tryon International Equestrian Center

Photos: © TIEC / Sarah Sturgis for Natalie Suto Photography