Thursday, May. 30, 2024

Spooner Has No Regrets After The $250,000 Alltech National Horse Show CSI-W

Lexington, Ky., Nov. 5

Richard Spooner had just one thought as he watched Nick Skelton land over the last jump-off fence. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, you cheeky bastard,’ ” Spooner said. Skelton had gone fast, very fast, on Carlo. Spooner knew that he might very well have just been beaten.

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Lexington, Ky., Nov. 5

Richard Spooner had just one thought as he watched Nick Skelton land over the last jump-off fence. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, you cheeky bastard,’ ” Spooner said. Skelton had gone fast, very fast, on Carlo. Spooner knew that he might very well have just been beaten.

Then, his eyes turned to the scoreboard. The numbers there flashed the news—Skelton had stopped the timers in 38.33 seconds, just a few 10ths of a second slower than Spooner’s time of 37.97 seconds. Spooner flashed a big smile and his wife, Kaylen, pumped her fist. The top prize in the $250,000 Alltech National Horse Show Grand Prix CSI-W would be going home with them to California.

“I thought he had it,” Spooner said.

Spooner had had the unenviable task of trailblazing in the jump-off with Cristallo. He lived up to his nickname of “The Master Of Faster” and galloped flat-out and shaved the turns. “I knew it was a tough field of riders behind me. When I go in the jump-offs, I don’t like regrets. I was going to try and not leave a lot on the table so that I wouldn’t be driving home thinking, ‘Oh, if I’d just done this, maybe,’ so I pretty much went as fast as I could and still leave the jumps up. I took a big risk to the wall and got lucky there. I was concerned that maybe my wheels were going to fall off going to the last few jumps, but Cristallo held it together and really came through for me today,” Spooner said.

One inside turn proved hugely influential in the jump-off, though Spooner and Cristallo spun around it and made it look easy. After a straight line from the first oxer to a vertical, riders had to spin their horses around almost 360 degrees and jump an oxer just a few strides off the turn. The rail at that oxer came down for Margie Engle on Indigo, Jessica Springsteen on Cincinatti La Silla, and Harrie Smolders on Exquis Oliver Q when they lost impulsion on the tight turn.

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Skelton, last to go in the five-horse jump-off, thought he lost the class in that turn. “I didn’t get the distance I wanted to the first fence, so I ended up doing six strides to the vertical,” said Skelton, who won the $100,000 President’s Cup CSI-W at the Washington International the week before.

“Then, when I turned, he kind of stopped dead and stood still for a split second. I knew I was well down on the time then, so I really let fly after that, but I just missed him. From there on, I was pretty quick. But who knows, if I’d got five strides to the second fence, I still might not have beaten him anyway.”

The fastest of the three riders to have that rail at the oxer was Springsteen, and she claimed third with her result. She was thrilled to be sitting in the press conference with veterans Spooner and Skelton.

Springsteen bought Cincinatti La Silla last year and spent the summer showing the mare in Europe. “She’s amazing to ride. She’s very light, and she feels like you’re floating when you’re going around the ring. She’s just the kind of ride I like. She was unbelievable tonight,” Springsteen said.

Springsteen had shown Cincinatti La Silla at the Washington International the week before, but because of her studies as a sophomore at Duke University (N.C.), before that she hadn’t shown the mare since the end of August in Europe.

A field of 31 started the grand prix, and riders had a lot of trouble with the last line. Course designer Richard Jefferies set a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination along one long side of the arena. Riders had to jump an oxer in the corner of the ring, choose between five and six strides to the triple combination, then ride another bending line of six strides to the last jump, an oxer set right in front of the out-gate.

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“It was a bit of an awkward approach,” Spooner said of the triple combination. “You had to jump the oxer, and you were aimed kind of into the corner, so horses wanted to fall in a little bit. If you did the five strides to the triple, it brought you there kind of on an angle, and it was hard for the horses to sight down the line. Or, if you added up in the six strides, some of the horses got a bit too close to the A element, and then the back rail of B was [really far away], so they had a hard time getting over that back rail. Then some even quit going to C just because they landed so shallow after the oxer at B.”

Click here for full results of the $250,000 Alltech National Horse Show CSI-W.

To see a photo gallery of the junior and amateur-owner hunter champions and reserves, click here.

For full results of the Alltech National Horse Show, click here.

Read all the Chronicle’s coverage of the Alltech National Horse Show.

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