Mac Cone, Ian Millar and Jill Henselwood are no strangers to competing together, and tonight they showed their fans and fellow riders why their Team Silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was no fluke. The trio finished one-two-three respectively, in the $100,000 Canadian Show Jumping Championships presented by Greenhawk, following three rounds of competition held over the past two nights at the 87th Royal Horse Show.
Last night’s win was particularly sweet for Cone, who was unable to complete the entire Olympics due to an injury to equine counterpart, Ole. It showed Cone, and more importantly the rest of the community, that Ole is back on form and headed in the right direction heading into 2010, a year filled with milestone equestrian events including the World Equestrian Games in September.
“It’s nice to have Ole back and to be able to show people what a nice horse he is. It really means a lot.” said Cone. “He jumped beautifully, and although he appeared to have something in his throat which made a noise during the second round tonight, he kept jumping just beautifully.”
While time was of the essence in last night’s opening round, this evening was an endurance test, set by renowned designer Anthony D’Ambrosio of New York. Everyone completed an initial round of 15 jumping efforts with the top ten returning for another round over a new, shortened course. Cone came into the final round far enough ahead to have a rail “in hand” which he didn’t need, although the crowd gasped collectively when he hit one hard enough to lift it from the cups before dropping… back into the cups.
“Anthony is one of the most technical course designers out there right now,” remarked Jill Henselwood who finished third overall. “He builds very modern courses with lots of space between the rails, which makes the jumps harder to jump. And then he angles them, so every time you come through the corner, they are angled against you.”
For Henselwood it was two nights of “tweaking” a relationship with a new mount, which inevitably led to a few over-corrections before settling down.
“I maybe went too fast in the speed phase last night – I was the fastest – and she faulted. So tonight I slowed it down, because it’s a new partnership, and I may have swung the pendulum a little conservatively and we had a time fault in the first round this evening. But I felt she needed to jump the contest successfully as a confidence builder and I think we got that done. We are so close to the win, I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
“Captain Canada” Ian Millar also had a couple of very lucky rubs, but held on to finish second. His daughter Amy finished fourth. Defending Champion, Keean White was not so lucky, having the first and last rails down in the initial round tonight to drop to fifth overall.
Yesterday also saw the culmination of the National Talent Squad Finals, with Margot Lefebvre of Stittsville, ON, coming out on top with her mount Mister Cash Van der Veldmolen. Lefebvre is a student of Henselwood and calls her win at The Royal the perfect ending to “the summer of our dreams” which included top results at major horse shows in Blainville and Bromont.
Sunday is RODEO day at The Royal Horse Show. East meets west in this head to head battle beginning at 1:00. The original extreme sports – bull riding, bronc riding and barrel racing – will surely have you on the edge of your seats. The Horse Show returns Monday evening with the first round of Good Crop Services Indoor Eventing, where three-time champion Waylon Roberts of Port Perry, ON, will be taking on a field of elite competitors including his coach, Oliver Townend of Great Britain. Townend is currently one of the most successful eventing riders in the world, and has made the trip from the U.K. to try and claim this year’s title. As if that was not competition enough, Roberts’ own father, Olympian Ian Roberts will also try to dethrone his son.
This year’s Royal Horse Show will run through November 15th. By the time the competition ends, nearly $750,000 will have been awarded in prize money, making The Royal the most prestigious and hotly contested event of the season. For more information, media accreditation, live webcasting, complete schedule, results and to purchase tickets, please visit www.royalfair.org.