The Spruce Canada One Tournament came to a close today with two top competitions in the Meadows on the Green at Spruce Meadows. The highlight of the week, the $100,000 ESSO Challenge 1.60m CSI-W, was an exciting finish for Leslie Howard (USA) and Tic Tac, who took the top prize. Pablo Barrios (VEN) and Zara Leandra were victorious in the $33,000 West Canadian Cup 1.50m.

The Spruce Meadows Summer Tournaments continue next week with the ‘North American’ Tournament CSI 5* on July 3-7. It will feature the $140,000 Cenovus Energy Classic Derby and the $200,000 ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

There were 32 entries in the $100,000 ESSO Challenge 1.60m CSI-W, and they were jumping over a course designed by Michel Vaillancourt of Canada. There were seven clears in the first round and it led to an exciting jump-off.

Conor Swail (IRL) and Martha Louise were the first to go in the competition and in the jump-off. They had eight faults in 45.44 seconds and finished in seventh place. Andres Rodriguez (VEN) and Caballito had one rail down in 41.52 seconds and took sixth place.

Christine McCrea (USA) and Zerly were the first to go double clear. They stopped the timers in 40.70 seconds, which would hold up for second place.

McCrea was very pleased with how Zerly reacted to today’s competition. “She’s a little bit inexperienced at that level, so I was really happy with how she held her brain together,” she noted. “She just jumped the jumps and didn’t overreact about anything. She has a tendency to take over. She really wants to do her job and get to the next jump, so it was nice that she was so rideable.”

In a weird twist of timing, the next two riders barely made it into the jump-off. Tiffany Foster (CAN) and Southwind VDL and Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Powerplay went one after the other in the first round and both finished on exactly 82.00 seconds, which was the time allowed. Since the time is only recorded to the hundredth place, they both advanced.

Foster and Southwind VDL were clear as well in the jump-off, but a slower time of 45.26 seconds slotted them into fourth place. Lamaze and Powerplay were just faster in 41.19 seconds and they finished in third place.

Lamaze was very happy with how Powerplay has advanced in the three weeks of showing that they have been together. “I really feel that Spruce Meadows is a great venue to make up a horse,” he said. “A horse always leaves here a better horse. My horse did some big classes with Pius Schwizer before. This was for me to get used to the horse. I do believe that this horse has even gotten better just with competing here and jumping at this venue with these types of fences. My horse for sure has improved.”
Last year’s ESSO Challenge winners, Ashlee Bond (USA) and Cadett 7, were next in the jump-off, but it was not to be two in a row for them. They had four faults in 40.32 seconds and finished fifth.

Howard and Tic Tac, a 10-year-old Belgian Sport Horse stallion by Clinton x Darco owned by Jane Clark, had the prime position as last to go in the jump-off. They made a very quick turn back from fences two to three and from there, went on to stay smooth and quick. They finished clear in 39.22 seconds for the win.

Howard said this was the fastest she has ever gone with Tic Tac and that the course was nice for her. “You could keep one gallop, outside of the one turn after the in-and-out, which did get sloppy for me. But it was a nice course. There was no place where you had to really fly. Well, I sort of did to the last jump!” she laughed.
With more speed over the first three jumps on course, that’s where Howard felt she made up time. She pointed out, “I thought he was beautiful one to three. What was so nice was that he was so with me in the turn to the wall, and then over the wall, I just told him where the next jump was. He really locked into it like radar. There was never a question that he didn’t know where he was going.”

Howard and Tic Tac have not been paired together for long, and she has worked on his rideability and consistency. Agreeing with Lamaze, Howard felt that since Tic Tac has been showing at Spruce Meadows, it has “really been an upward path every day.”

She continued, “He’s scopey, careful, and getting nicer and nicer to ride all the time. He’s a great competitor. When he goes in the ring, he tries harder than he does outside the ring, which is the biggest quality of a show horse. It was just getting to know his moves and he had to know my moves. He has a little bit of a tricky mouth, and now it’s actually fine. The training was what was the little chink that was missing.”

Howard also mentioned that Tic Tac’s “biggest asset” is his soundness. She explained, “In our sport, the biggest problem we all have is that we’re asking these athletes to perform at the top of their level every time we walk in the ring and you need an incredibly strong animal, and he is that.”
With a win today, Howard gained points to qualify for the FEI World Cup Finals. “Obviously I’d love to go. I haven’t been in probably 10 years. I’m starting to pack my bags!” she said with a smile.

$100,000 ESSO Challenge 1.60m CSI-W

1. TIC TAC: 2003 Belgian Sport Horse stallion by Clinton x Darco, LESLIE HOWARD (USA), Jane Clark: 0/0/39.22

2. ZERLY: 2004 Dutch Warmblood mare by Querlybet Hero x Carthago, CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 0/0/40.70

3. POWERPLAY: 2004 Holsteiner gelding by Casall x Limbus, ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/0/41.19

4. SOUTHWIND VDL: 1999 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Baloubet du Rouet x Ahorn, TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/0/45.26

5. CADETT 7: 1997 Holsteiner gelding by Cor de la Bryere x Capitol I, ASHLEE BOND (USA), Little Valley Farm: 0/4/40.32

6. CABALLITO: 2003 Oldenburg gelding by Contendro x Argentinus, ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN), Andres Rodriguez: 0/4/41.52

7. MARTHA LOUISE: 2004 Swedish Warmblood mare by Maloubet de Pleveill 1039 x Wolfgang, CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Susan & Ariel Grange: 0/8/45.44

8. SANCHA LA SILLA: 2003 Warmblood mare by Chin Chin x Polydor, DANIEL BLUMAN (COL), Daniel Bluman: 1/82.04

9. ROUNDTHORN MADIOS: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Condios x Clover Hill, LAUREN TISBO (USA), Tequestrian Farms LLC: 4/79.15

10. SLIEVEANORRA: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Voltaire x Flagmount Diamond, RICHIE MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity LLC: 4/79.55