The initial track of 16 jumping efforts set at 1.60m by course designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil, was set with a tight time allowed of 79 seconds. The first two riders in the ring (Canada’s Ian Millar and Quentin Judge for the United States) both jumped clean, but for one single time fault.
Fortunately American Todd Minikus was able to show everyone how to do it, leading a select group of riders to a second round tie breaker.
Unfortunately the double-clean proved elusive, for Minikus and nearly everyone else in the jump-off – the angles, wide-open gallop and even a little bad luck worked against many. Although Minikus had the fastest time of the second round, he also pulled a rail in the process.
For Philippaerts there was never an option – going third in the order he knew he had to go fast and leave the jumps up if he was to have a shot with Challenge Vd Begijnakker (or Challenge, for short.)
“In the World Cup my horse was a bit spooky in the jump off,” explained Philippaerts, “But tonight he jumped very well. I knew McLain was still to come, as were Beezie and Darragh – so many quick ones – I knew I would need a bit of luck and for them to have a fault. My horse jumped very well and I’m very happy.”
Switzerland’s Beat Mandli, competing at The Royal for the first time, opted for the conservative clear for ZaZa Harvey in the jump-off, which served them well, slotting into the runner-up position.
“ZaZa is quite a young horse at this level, this is basically his second grand prix,” related Mandli. “It was a big test for me, there were some big questions, and he’s a very careful and very honest horse. This was the biggest class he has jumped and that’s why I didn’t go fast in the jump-off.”
The remainder of the field although fast, each pulled a rail – in fact all were faster than Mandli but in the end it was the clean round which mattered most.
The “Braeburn Farms” Leading International Rider Award went to McLain Ward of Brewster, NY. With grace and wisdom, he admitted he simply made a mistake in the class tonight, taking a “pull” in the jump off, rather than trusting his horse.
“Carlos jumped beautifully in the first round, I was really happy with him,” said Ward. “It was a bit of an anxious jump-off, as Beezie (Madden) and I were duking it out for the Leading Rider award, unfortunately maybe that seeps into your thinking a bit more than it should,” he admitted. “I made a mistake. I should have kept coming to the vertical – it was a flat out jump off – and I tried to change my mind at the end which probably wasn’t necessary. I should have trusted the horse. Last night I tried to leave out a stride which was foolish, and tonight I should have left the stride out, but the horse performed well and it’s easier to correct my mistakes than theirs.”
Jonathon Millar of Perth, Ontario, received the Lt. Col. Stuart C. Bate Memorial Trophy and was named the Leading Canadian Rider of the competition.
The All Canadian Cup presented to the leading Canadian-owned horse went to Game Ready, owned by Susan Grange and ridden by Ireland’s Conor Swail.
The spectacular grand finale to the $25,000 Royal Championship Six Horse Hitch competition sponsored by Ames Construction went to the Hitch of the Ames Percheron Farm, from Jordan, Minnesota. The hitch was driven by Travis Shaw.
Hackney Horse World Champion went to Heartland Goodbye, owned by Edward Oschsenschlager and driven by Rodney Hicks.
Sunday’s horse show is FREE with general admission to the Fair and features Children’s Hunters, Junior Jumpers, the Royal Pony Jumper Championship as well as Guy McLean to close the Royal Horse Show for another year.