Canadian Olympian Beth Underhill of Schomberg, ON, captured the coveted $125,000 Henry Equestrian Canadian Show Jumping Championship in front of a hometown crowd at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto, ON, on Nov. 2, 2019.
“I’ve been knocking at the door a couple of times, second and third, so it means a lot to bring home the win today,” said Underhill, who was eager to reclaim the title of Canadian Show Jumping Champion that she had won in 1994, 1996 and 1999.
On Nov. 1, 19 of Canada’s top combinations entered the ring for the $25,000 Henry Equestrian Canadian Show Jumping Championship – Round 1, a speed phase and the first of three rounds of top competition held over two days. A twisting course from FEI Level 4 Course Designer, Michel Vaillancourt, set the stage for hair-raising turns, lightning-fast speed and several rubs that drew audible gasps from the audience.
The red ribbon for Round 1 ultimately went to Canadian Olympian Amy Millar of Perth, ON, aboard Truman (Mylord Carthago x Kolibri). She sailed through the finish line problem-free in 57.97 seconds, a feat which Millar credited to the exceptional brain of Millar Brooke Farm Ltd. and Overlund’s 10-year-old Selle Français gelding.
“The Canadian Championship is a gift that The Royal gives to us Canadian riders,” said Millar, who won in 2017 and was Reserve Champion in 2018. “I’ve been coming here all my life and it’s a big deal to Canadian riders. It doesn’t matter how long you have been coming here, it will always be special.”
But Underhill was nipping at Millar’s heels after Round 1 thanks to her long-term partnership with Sandy Lupton’s Count Me In (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes). She and the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding navigated clear through the 14 efforts in a masterful execution of strategy and speed, but their time of 58.33 seconds fell just short of catching Millar.
“I was happy with where we sat even though I knew we left the door a little bit open because Amy is so strong,” commented Underhill. “What’s important in this event is consistency over the two days. It’s always a little bit of a strategy, how fast to go the first night, so I tried to be prompt without pulling all the stops because he’s quite a sensitive horse.”
Following championship format, all times from the initial speed round were converted into scores, with Millar being attributed a perfect zero and all other competitors being attributed with penalty points representing each second they exceeded the winning time. Underhill’s time difference converted her score to a scant 0.18 – well within fighting distance of the title.
On Nov. 2, a packed Coca-Cola Coliseum pulsed with anticipation for the $100,000 Henry Equestrian Canadian Show Jumping Championships – Round 2. Vaillancourt’s course of 15 difficult efforts quickly proved to be a game changer, with all but two of the jumps causing rails down in the first round. Despite her smooth, quiet riding and a time of 59.44 seconds, Millar jeopardized her lead with a rail down at the final fence. Underhill saw opportunity arise, and executed another faultless round with Count Me In to edge closer yet to victory.
The top six riders were subsequently invited to tackle the second round of the night. After Millar and Truman completed a clean round to hold their final score to four, it all came down to Underhill’s ability to leave all the rails in their cups. The crowd held its breath as unflappable Underhill expertly rose to the challenge, cruising around the course in 58.13 seconds. The only combination to complete three foot-perfect rounds, Underhill and Count Me In secured the title of 2019 Canadian Champion on their Round 1 score of 0.18, delegating Millar and Truman to Reserve Champions.
“It means the world to me,” said Underhill of her fourth Canadian Show Jumping Champion title. “I was watching the Mounties earlier and actually getting quite emotional, I felt so proud to be a Canadian. I said to myself at that moment, ʻMake tonight count,ʼ and it really inspired me to do my best. My horse felt very confident coming into this evening and very careful. I trusted him and gave him the best ride I could, and he responded in spades so I’m just thrilled.”
Underhill and Millar will both continue on to the international division at the Royal Horse Show, which kicks off on Nov. 5, 2019. Sam Walker of Nobleton, ON, and Jonathon Millar of Perth, ON, will also move forward after the Henry Equestrian Canadian Show Jumping Championships as they were the top two riders in the competition still seeking qualification.
For a complete list of results from the $125,000 Henry Equestrian Canadian Show Jumping National Championships, as well as the full Royal Horse Show schedule, visit www.royalfair.org.
$125,000 Canadian Show Jumping Championship
Placing / Athlete / Hometown / Horse / Owner / Score
1st / Beth Underhill / Schomberg, ON / Count Me In / Sandy Lupton / 0.18
2nd / Amy Millar / Perth, ON / Truman / Millar Brooke Farm Ltd. & Overlund / 4
3rd / Sam Walker / Nobleton, ON / Coralissa / MarBill Hill Farm / 5.25
4th / Jonathon Millar / Perth, ON / Daveau / Millar Brooke Farm / 6.27
5th / Sean Jobin / Toronto, ON / Darius / Foxridge Farms Stables / 13.28
6th / Lexi Ray / Campbellville, ON / Jewel 8 / Lexi Ray & Robert Ray & Tracy Ray / 21.32