Calgary, Alberta—June 11
Over the history of the derby during National week of the Spruce Meadows summer series, there have been two great horse/rider combinations that have successfully scored a true hat trick—winning three times in a row. Those show jumping heroes include Ian Millar with Big Ben and Beezie Madden with Judgment.
But on June 11, Spruce Meadows again saw history made as Richard Spooner with the 19 year-old Cristallo added themselves to this roster with their third consecutive win in the class.
The course, first designed by the late Pamela Carruthers and later modified by Leopoldo Palacios in 2007, is a true test of stamina with 19 obstacles spread across 1,100 meters of the pristine International Ring field. The CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby includes all of the natural elements of the International ring including the bank, a double of liverpools, the open water, table top, dry ditch and devils dyke with three elements set at 1.45-meter.
When asked what had made Cristallo such a great derby horse, Spooner remarked, “He fears nothing. He is incredibly brave and he just kind of drags me around—the whole course—I don’t know if you can tell but I’m just saying whoa, asking him to slow down! I always try to go deep in the corners; after every jump, it’s like I’m throwing a parachute out the back of a funny car to try and get some drag to actually slow us down,” he said with a laugh. “He is an incredible animal—maybe once or twice now I’ve been lucky but he really is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse.”
The second place finisher was no stranger to the Spruce Meadows Summer Series, but a newcomer to the medal podium of the International Ring. Luis Alejandro Plascencia of Mexico took second aboard his horse Salamera De La Nutria. Luis had competed in the Spruce Meadows derbies before but never on this 11 year-old Selle Francais Mare.
Placencia, excited with his top finish, said, “I have competed in the derby five times now, but because it was the first time on this mare, I was very surprised to be second. I knew she was brave, but sometimes in the derby they just don’t want to go. In many places you just expect them to say no!” he laughed. “When I saw Richard go I just knew he was going to be clear, so I was almost happy because I really didn’t want to have to jump-off. You know when I ended up second I was so happy and it was a really good day for me.”
McLain Ward Turns And Burns In The ATCO Classic Cup
The ATCO Classic speed competition on June 11, where faults are converted into time, was the first leg of a four-part series in celebration of Canada’s 150thanniversary.
The course was designed by Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela, who was tasked with creating a competition track that would fit in both the famed International Ring and Meadows on the Green ring. The 12 obstacles set on the field were all made up of Canadian inspired jump material, a collection obtained by Spruce Meadows throughout the decades.
Winner of the competition, McLain Ward, rode with his usual poise and composure and yet produced the most efficient time with Tina La Boheme, a 10-year-old Selle Francais mare owned by Susan Heller.
“It’s great for this mare to win the class; she’s up and coming. She has a bit of a special story—she was owned by a very dear friend of my family’s, Arty Hawkins. He passed away last year and my godmother bought him out. So she’s quite a bit more of a special horse to me and it’s a lot of fun to have some success on her.”
When asked about the conditions and his plan of attack on the International ring, Ward said, “You know, as the footing began to dry up, it got a little bit more slippery there at the end, but not bad for sure. I didn’t feel that really affected either one of my horses in the competition today. I should have taken a different route with HH Carlos to the double on the side, I should have gone around the flag pole like I did with Tina, so that was a mistake. Then at the ATCO Jump—I didn’t want to take to hard of a cut on the back side because those standards are quite wide and funky—I’ve done that to my knee already.”
With a stellar week so far, Daniel Coyle of Ireland continued his top results streak with a second and third place finish in the ATCO Classic. The difference between first and second place was an astonishing 0.01 seconds to finish behind Ward. Simba De La Roque, an 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding, was the first horse to carry the young Irishman to the finish line and ended up in second, while his round on Cita, an 11-year-old Holsteiner mare by Casall, was just 0.33 seconds behind himself to take home both silver and bronze in the opening series event.
Pasquel Does His Thing To Win Grand Prix
The day before saw a rainy afternoon at Spruce Meadows for the RBC Grand Prix, presented by ROLEX.
Longtime competitor of the Spruce Meadows Summer Series, Patricio Pasquel of Mexico, surprised many show jumping fans as one of four unlikely candidates to qualify from the intense first round to the jump-off of the grand prix. His homebred chestnut gelding, Babel, received a tremendous response from the athletes and fans representing Mexico as he trotted through the clock tower to prepare for the final round against the clock.
Going last in the jump-off against Canadian hopefuls Keean White and Vanessa Mannix, as well as the lone representative from Spain, Paola Amilibia, Pasquel had a plan and he was sticking to it. “I didn’t see the others go in the jump-off, but I heard that the first few had a rail and that Keean was clear. Everyone tries to come up and tell you what to do, but I said ,’No, I’m just going to do my thing,’ because I knew the horse is so fast on the ground. My plan was to ride a nice course and leave the jumps up—God will tell and he did tell today that Babel wanted to win,” exclaimed an emotional Pasquel.
Finishing in second place was White of Rockwood, Ontario aboard his top mount For Freedom Z. White had the RBC Grand Prix in mind for some time now and kept his main objective to prepare the 12-year-old Zangersheide gelding to be in peak condition for the event. “I felt very prepared for this competition and though the weather didn’t quite hold up, I felt my horse was ready for the conditions after Thursday evening. I really do feel that played a huge factor in my success today. My horse had never really jumped in the extreme conditions like that before, so I really did feel confident after my horse was so solid in the jump-off on Thursday,” commented White.
Taking home the bronze medal was Calgary’s Vanessa Mannix and her spectacular bay stallion Grand Cru VD Vijf Eiken. Mannix had gone earlier in the grand prix starting order and felt lucky to have had the opportunity to take her salute under the clear blue sky of the morning.
“I was lucky enough to have jumped this morning when the sun was shining,” said Mannix. “Coming back for the jump-off, it was definitely different conditions. I could feel my horse Grand Cru feeling a little bit more aware and felt the cold a little bit—but really when you get in the zone it felt like anything could have happened and we wouldn’t have noticed. Unless, you know, a tornado goes right through the ring!”