Friday, Jun. 7, 2024

Millar Makes Canadians Proud At The Royal Winter Fair

The Canadian veteran puts together a stunning streak of victories.

They don’t call him Ian “Captain Canada” Millar for nothing.

Millar, 60, proved that he’s far from done at the Royal Horse Show, Nov. 2-11  in Toronto, Ont. During the course of the week-long show he won the $107,028 Canadian Show Jumping Championships, the $74,919 Kubota Cup, the $107,028 CN World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W and the $53,514 Weston Canadian Open.
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The Canadian veteran puts together a stunning streak of victories.

They don’t call him Ian “Captain Canada” Millar for nothing.

Millar, 60, proved that he’s far from done at the Royal Horse Show, Nov. 2-11  in Toronto, Ont. During the course of the week-long show he won the $107,028 Canadian Show Jumping Championships, the $74,919 Kubota Cup, the $107,028 CN World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W and the $53,514 Weston Canadian Open.

Millar’s son, Jonathon, 33, was his toughest competition for the top check in the Canadian Show Jumping Championships.

Ian and Jonathon both jumped double-clear, but Ian was just a touch faster on In Style. Rounding out the Millar family legacy, daughter Amy finished sixth riding Costa Rica Z.

Tidbits

•    With more than $750,000 given away in prize money over the week, the Royal Horse Show is one of the richest competitions in North America.

•    As part of the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair, the Royal Horse Show is a longstanding
tradition on the Canadian fall calendar. Many spectators don black tie for the evening classes and much pomp and circumstance accompanies the competition, with special awards presented throughout the week.

•    In addition to the show jumping competition, spectators were entertained with an indoor eventing competition won by Canadian Young Rider Waylon Roberts; the national Freestyle Dressage Championships won by Jacqueline Brooks; a series of indoor carriage racing derbies, and assorted classes for hunters, Hackneys, draft horses and more. Additionally, an agricultural fair included livestock judging and sales for cattle, sheep and pigs, vegetable judging, a butter sculpting competition and an extensive trade fair.

   

Second was Jonathon’s personal best in the Canadian Show Jumping Championship.

“It is fun to have all three of us doing well and competing with a nice string of horses. I couldn’t be happier,” Jonathon said. “Fancy Hill has had a great season—she came in as a little bit of a long shot but she was great in the speed class, which is her strength.”

Jonathon began riding Fancy Hill, a 12-year-old, gray mare, earlier this year.

“Jonathon was leading, and I was the last to go so I had mixed feelings about the result, but as any competitive rider would do I went in the ring to win,” Ian said. “That is what [owner] Susan Grange and In Style and in fact Jonathon would want me to do—they would expect no less.”

Ian and In Style, a 12-year-old, Dutch Warmblood gelding, also took this title in 2004.

Ian logged his second victory of the day when he rode Redefin to win the $74,919 Kubota Cup National Final over a field of 21, only three of which made it to the second round over Michel Vaillancourt’s challenging course. 

None of those had gone clean in the jump-off when Ian cantered in on Redefin, and with a cautiously
ridden round that cost him 2 time faults, Millar, who happens to be the spokesperson for the Kubota Cup, secured the win.

Nothing Better

On Wednesday night Ian again paired up with In Style, this time to win the $107,028 CN World Cup Grand Prix, a qualifier for next year’s FEI World Cup Finals in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Ian produced the first clean round in the 26-entry field over a challenging track. Fellow Canadian team members Eric Lamaze and Erynn Ballard also jumped clear, creating a five-way jump-off when Nick Skelton of Great Britain and Piet Raymakers of the Netherlands joined the tie-breaker.

Wheeler Wins CET Medal Final

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Michelle Wheeler made the trip from Alberta worth her while when she and Paddy Jordan put in a calm, cool and collected performance under pressure in the final round to claim the Running Fox CET Medal Final.

Wheeler had been second in the over fences round and then fourth in the flat/gymnastics phase. When the final riders returned, she was the obvious choice for the judges with a nearly flawless performance over the short, technical course for the final test.

Miranda Travers Cavill stood first after the jumping section riding Dietmar Zschogner and was eighth in the flat/gymnastics phase, finishing third overall. Samantha Aird was  similarly first in the flat/gymnastic phase riding Cupid, owned by Debra Reiman, and finished seventh in the jumping section. She was fourth overall.

Good friends Ralph Caristo and Frank Madden judged the class together, and Caristo noted that, “The quality here was terrific—the kids rode well and the courses were challenging.”

Canadian Show Jumping Hall of Fame member Gail Greenough has been coaching Wheeler for the past couple of months. “She has great focus. So much of this sport is the mentality, not letting the ring or the competition beat you,” said Greenough

Backed by an enthusiastic team, Wheeler also receives coaching from Jodi McCulley, of Greenbrier Stables in Calgary, and Lynn Macyk of Edmonton.

“It was stressful before we went in the ring, but riding the horse you’re on works every time,” said Wheeler.

A student in high school, Wheeler, who has been riding since she was 7, said that horses take up most of her free time. She and Paddy Jordan, a 10-year-old, bay Irish Sport Horse gelding, compete in the 1.20-meter jumpers, hunters and equitation. “He can be a bit silly sometimes, but he’s a good boy,” she said.

Jumping off first, Ian made it clear he was going for the win, taking all of the inside turns, including the risky turn to fence 9, the liverpool. He stopped the clock clean and in 40.63 seconds. Millar celebrated the 20th anniversary of his last win in this event and ended an 18-year losing streak for Canadians in the class.

“I did the inside turn to No. 9, which was a desperate turn and no one else tried it. I didn’t like it, but there is nothing worse than doing something like that and seeing someone else win by going around. Tonight it worked out, but on another night could have just as easily not worked out,” said Ian.

Ballard, of Hillburgh, Ont., was the last to go riding the massive, 18-hand Belgian gelding Robin Van Roosendael. A careful ride kept the rails in the cups, but she was nearly 5 seconds slower than Millar and In Style for second place.

“He is not typically a fast horse,” said Ballard, who has been partnered with the big gelding for four years. “Before I went in the ring I told my dad I’d give it a shot, but I knew my horse was not that fast and handy. We’ve learned a lot, and this horse has done amazing things. He didn’t qualify for [the Pan American Games], so I gave him two months off and he’s come back fresh and calm.”

Ian claimed his fourth big win of the week when he and Redefin, his Kubota Cup partner, won the $53,514 Weston Canadian Open International, another speed class, on Friday night.

Once again, Ian took all the inside turns, this time to finish in 62.92 seconds. Beezie Madden on Authentic and McLain Ward on Larioso were faster, but Ward had a rail down and Madden had four rails. Ian recognized that fences 10 and 11 were the bogeys, so he slowed up and rode them carefully, wasting seconds but leaving the rails in the cups.

Whitaker Takes His Turn

The international show jumping classes concluded with the $80,271 Ricoh Big Ben Challenge Grand Prix, named for Ian’s longtime and legendary partner Big Ben.

With a field of 23 horses competing in front of a packed coliseum, the class brought the competition to a close. And British veteran Michael Whitaker finally broke Ian’s winning streak, riding Insul Tech Mozart des Hayettes, an 11-year-old, Belgian Warmblood stallion, to the win.

As the second rider of nine to return for the jump-off, Whitaker knew that he would have to be fast to stay ahead of the crowd. He surprised even the course designer when he took a sharp right-handed turn from the double to a 5’3″ vertical—a difficult move that no other rider attempted. Everyone else made a hard left after the double and then rolled back to the vertical.

“I never even thought about that turn,” said course designer Vaillancourt. “He just cranked that horse around and went through the hole and jumped that thing. That was very crafty! He did it to the biggest
jump on the course set at 5’3″, and he made it just fine.”

Whitaker smiled slyly after his ride and commented, “He’s not the fastest horse—when he jumps it’s a bit slow—and I was early to go, so I had to do something. I am often second with him, so I thought I had to take a chance.”

Defending champion Mario Deslauriers, Bromont, Que., finished clean in 38.89 seconds and came closest to catching Whitaker, stopping the clock fractions of a second off Whitaker’s time of 38.86 seconds. The huge crowd went wild as Deslauriers, a popular Canadian rider, flashed across the finish line.

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The only other rider to post a double-clear round was Laura Kraut, who rode Cedric to finish in 39.47 seconds, taking third.



Morning Mist Makes Her Mark

Two classes at the Royal Horse Show represent the epitome of achievement for sport horse breeding in Canada: the Governor General’s Cup, for 3-year-olds shown in hand, and the Lieutenant Governor’s Cup, for 3-year-olds shown under saddle.

Years ago these classes were open, and the ring was packed with a bunch of excited 3-year-olds. Now qualifications keep the numbers down and the quality up, and competition is even tougher.

Only three horses from Eastern Ontario were allowed to compete; out of 17 entrants in the Governor General’s Cup, judges Ralph Caristo and Rick Abbott decided that one of those three, Morning Mist, owned by Karen Milton and Henry Wilson and handled by Milton, best exemplified the beauty and athleticism that they were looking for.

As Caristo put it, the elegant, bay Thoroughbred mare (Nias—Caroquet) was just the kind of horse he would look for if he set out to buy one.

“The Canadians should be proud of their breeding program,” said Caristo. “In previous years the horses were on the heavy side and a little plain-looking. The horses we pulled for the final here were all good quality.”

Milton and Wilson bought Morning Mist a year ago as a resale project. Milton, who owns a boarding stable in Kinburn, Ont., said that they looked at half a dozen horses, and she knew that this was the one when she walked up to the paddock fence, even with a fly mask on.

Milton has done all of the training herself, though Dale Vance showed the mare previously. Vance opted to show another horse at the Royal, so Milton ended up handling Morning Mist.

“It was a shock to win,” she admitted. “On the drive over we talked about it and I thought we might make the top five, Henry thought maybe the top three. We didn’t expect to win at all.”

It had been 10 years since Milton last showed at the Royal. She also showed in hunters and jumpers there as a teen. Though she worked in the horse industry until age 25, Milton then found employment away from horses, in the technology sector, for 16 years. She just returned to horses,and began her boarding operation last year.

“You always need a good horse to get your farm on the map,” she reasoned.

Because Morning Mist was ranked fourth in her zone for the under saddle division, and only the top three were invited to the finals, she did not get to compete in the Lieutenant Governor’s Cup.

That victory belonged to Bravado FF, a gray, Canadian Sport Horse gelding (Batido—Lavendel) who already stands 17.1 hands.

Batido FF, known as “Willie,” is already well known in Canada, since his orphaned foalhood was chronicled in a popular magazine. His dam died when Willie was less than 24 hours old, and he would not drink milk from a bucket. Another orphaned foal, Sherman, was brought in to show Willie the ropes, and the two grew up together.

Owned by Anita Lancaster, Orangeville, Ont., Willie was bred by Shannon Smith of Fieldstone Farm, also in Orangeville.

Robert Sharpe, Puslinch, Ont., trains and shows Willie. “He inherited his athleticism from his mother and his brains from his father,” Sharpe said. “He’s been started over fences and he’s as good a jumper as he is a mover, and that’s rare. He’s just an athlete.”

This was the first time that Lancaster, a native of Norway who has lived in Canada since 1994, has showed a horse at the Royal. Delighted with her win, she said, “His dam was exquisite, and his sire obviously made his mark. I always knew he’d be special, but he was a late bloomer. It’s just this year that he’s started to fill out and mature. We’ve said all along that he would prove himself in performance.”

Amber Heintzberger

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