It was perhaps the most dramatic last fence of a World Cup Final. Steve Guerdat came around the corner to the Longines oxer, saw a ridiculously long distance, and started kicking and flapping his elbows.
Albfuehren’s Paille left the ground, stretched out, and then crashed through the back rail. Guerdat seemed to be doing the math in his head as he galloped through the finish timers. He’d had two rails. Had he won? He shrugged up into the stands at his friends.
When Katie Laurie trotted into the ring on the Thoroughbred-cross Kiwi Iron Mark for Saturday night’s $75,000 Canadian Pacific Grand Prix of Las Vegas, she was riding for more than just a win—she had a very special friend on her mind.
“Melanie Purcell used to ride him, and she was diagnosed with cancer when he was a 6-year-old,” Laurie said. “She asked me to ride him while she was sick, and she died when he turned a 7-year-old. The rest of their family is here, so it was a great ride for them.
By the time Rich Fellers and Flexible entered the ring for the second round of the Longines FEI World Cup, three other Americans were already through to the jump-off. The crowd roared to greet them, hoping to see their streak of success continue, as they picked up a gallop and headed to the first fence. The audience went quiet as he clocked around the first half of the course.
Nineteen years ago, Flexible hit the ground and Bertram Allen was born, both in Ireland. Who would have thought they’d meet in Las Vegas and finish one-two in the speed leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Final?
People ooh and aah over Allen’s precociousness at the tender age of 19—a rider just a few years off ponies and already taking the world by storm.