Palgrave, Ontario – The newly-renovated Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park opened its doors for the first show of the season, and Ian Millar wasted no time posting the first grand prix victory. The 10-time Olympian hailing from Perth, ON, won the $35,000 CSI2* RAM Equestrian Grand Prix riding Dixson on Sunday, May 18, for owners Sue and Aerial Grange at the site of equestrian events for the 2015 Pan American Games.
A total of nine horses found their way to clear rounds over the first-round track set by Germany’s Werner Deeg to qualify for the jump-off. Three riders, including Canadian Olympic team silver medalist Jill Henselwood, incurred one time fault for exceeding the 71-second time allowed.
Conor Swail of Ireland, who had won Friday’s $35,000 CSI2* Alberta Premium Open Welcome with Lansdowne, was first to return, posting a time of 44.52 seconds with the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Guidam x Wolfgang). His lead would be short-lived, however, as Millar navigated the track in a blistering fast time of 43.51 seconds with Dixson, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Olisco). Five more horses would follow, including Swail with his second ride, Martha Louise. The pair was on target to take the win with a time of 42.73, but a rail down three from home put paid to their chances of victory.
“Conor led it off with Lansdowne and was extremely fast and clear,” said Millar, 67, who, on Friday, had finished second to Swail with Dixson, as well as taking fourth place with Baranus. “I took the lead from Conor and held it right to the end. Conor was actually getting me on the clock with his second ride, Martha Louise, but then had a rail. My son, Jonathon, was double clear today, too. All in all, it was an excellent day!”
One week earlier, Millar anchored the Canadian team to victory in the CSIO4* Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ in Coapexpan, Mexico by posting three clear rounds – two clear rounds plus a tie-breaking jump-off, with Star Power. With three top horses, Millar noted that his string “is the best it’s been in many, many years.”
Of his plans for Dixson specifically, Millar said, “His development comes along extremely well. I’m focusing on Normandy (site of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games), and then probably onto Barcelona for the Nations’ Cup Final.”
While Millar emerged victorious on Sunday, Swail’s return to competition at the Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park was notable as it was his first show back after tearing his Achilles tendon at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto last November. Having won the last two major competitions of the 2013 season at the Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park – the $35,000 CSI2* RAM Equestrian Caledon Cup Phase 1 and the $35,000 CSI2* RAM Equestrian Caledon Cup Phase II, presented by Peel Maryborough and Aviva, with Lansdowne, the pair resumed exactly where they had left off, by claiming victory over a 12-horse jump-off field in Friday’s $35,000 CSI2* Alberta Premium Open Welcome. Their time of 43.58 seconds gave them the win over Millar and Dixson, who had stopped the clock at 46.20, making it a great day for Susan and Aerial Grange of Cheltenham, ON, owners of both Lansdowne and Dixson.
With two of the world’s best riders taking victories on opening week, there is no doubt that the Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park is of international standard. Following an extensive rebuild and renovation in preparation for next year’s Pan American Games, the Park attracted rave reviews all week long, including from Millar, a three-time Pan Am gold medalist.
“It’s fantastic!” raved Millar, who caused an internet sensation on Friday with his interview for the Town of Caledon, available here. “This facility will assure us the best equestrian events of any Pan American Games and, just as importantly, it reminds me of “Field of Dreams” – build it, and they will come!”
Millar continued, “When you have a facility of this standard, it attracts sponsorship, it attracts prize money, it attracts television coverage. The highest level of competition is nothing but great for our riders. It will make our sport stronger and healthier.”
The Classic @ Palgrave Phase 1 held May 14 to 18 marked the first of five weeks of International Equestrian Federation (FEI) sanctioned competition to be held at the Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park in 2014. Produced by Equestrian Management Group (EMG), increased prize money and opportunities to earn valuable FEI World Ranking points have attracted show jumping athletes from around the globe to Palgrave, ON.
“We are thrilled!” said EMG Managing Partner, Craig Collins. “More importantly, we are delighted that the high performance athletes trusted us, put their faith in us, and joined us this week. I really want to thank the riders, trainers and owners for supporting us; it was great to see everyone here. And thank you to the entire team that helped us get the facility ready in time for the first event of the year.”
Collins, who also acts as Sport Organizing Chair – Equestrian for the 2015 Pan American Games, continued, “We are also extremely pleased with our decision to take our first two May shows from national-level events to FEI. Upping the level of competition has really paid off and benefits everyone. We are very proud to be able to support our riders as they make their plans for major championships.”
Competition continues next week at the Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park with the CSI2* Caledon National from May 21-25. Both the CSI2* Classic @ Palgrave Phase I and the CSI2* Caledon National are qualifiers for the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Saugerties on September 7.
In addition to international show jumping competition, junior and amateur competitors can look forward to qualifying for this year’s Pan Am Challenges. All junior and amateur classes on the schedule will count towards qualifying for either the $20,000 High Junior/Amateur Pan Am Challenge, Presented by MVS Solutions, or the $10,000 Low Junior/Amateur Pan Am Challenge, Presented by Horseware Ireland. First introduced in 2013 and extremely popular with exhibitors, both the High and Low Pan Am Challenges will be held during the CSI2* Canadian Show Jumping Tournament from September 24-28.
With the increase of FEI-sanctioned competition from two weeks to five and a full range of options for hunter, jumper and equitation competitors alike, Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park has set the stage for top international sport in 2014. For more information on the 2014 Equestrian Management Group competition schedule, including a full listing of hunter, jumper and equitation divisions, please visit www.equiman.com.