The ‘North American’ Tournament finished today with two fantastic competitions in the International Ring. The highlight of the day was the $140,000 Cenovus Energy Classic Derby 1.60m, and Olympian Jonathan Asselin recorded a victory for Canada as the winner with Showgirl. In the $50,000 Akita Drilling Cup 1.50m, McLain Ward (USA) rode to victory with Cadence.

The Spruce Meadows Summer Tournaments continue next week with the ‘Pan American’ CSI 5* on July 11-14 and features the $400,000 Pan American Cup presented by Rolex on Sunday, July 14.

The 23 entries in the derby had a tough task ahead of them today. While the course was designed by Pamela Carruthers (GBR) in 1990 and is the same every year, it is a challenging, long track that asks a lot of horses and riders. They must do their best over 16 numbered obstacles that includes two triple combinations – the derby bank and the grob – as well as three double combinations – a liverpool oxer to vertical, the table bank, and the vertical to oxer double liverpools.

Clear rounds are a rarity in this event. In the 565 attempts on course from 1990-2012, there have only been 17 clear rounds and Asselin was so close to recording one. He finished with just one time fault in 148.31 seconds, just .31 of a second over the time allowed. But it would be enough at the end of the competition to take home the win.

“I wanted to jump clean today,” Asselin acknowledged. “I ended up slowing down quite a bit going up the bank. I saw a deep one at the top and then I was very slow down the bank. I think at the beginning of the course I was fast enough to make the time and after the devil’s dyke I got a little careful. I really wanted to jump the rest clean and I slowed down a little bit at 14 and 15, the hedge and the double.”

Second place went to McLain Ward (USA) and Wannahave, who were on track to have a clear round until the final jump, when Wannahave slipped on take-off and went through the fence. They finished on four faults and stopped the clock in 144.13 seconds.

Ward explained that Wannahave lost his right front shoe after fence 14 and he saw it go flying by his head. “I know what happens when you lose a shoe on turf. It’s difficult,” he said. “I got a bit slow to the liverpool double so he was able to keep his feet, but I think when he had to set at the last (jump), he just lost that right foot and kind of slid into it and lost the ability to really push off. Maybe if I had kept going in seven (strides), he would have been a little lighter off the floor, but that’s a woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
With just a rail at the third element of the grob, Darragh Kerins (IRL) and E Muze Yek would pick up third place when they stopped the clock in 147.42 seconds

Kerins said that the decision to enter the derby was last minute and this was E Muze Yek’s first derby. “I didn’t know what to expect today, but it looked like a fun class the first week and I really wanted to do it myself, so I just took one jump at a time and he handled it great,” he said. “He just got a bit green there in the devil’s dyke, but we’ll come back next year and try again and he will be more confident the next time.”

Kerins added, “This is the first time he’s ever been down a bank. We didn’t even school it before we came here or anything like that. The first week the devil’s dyke was an option in a 1.50m class and he jumped it fine that day so that is the reason why I went today.”

Wannahave competed in his first derby during the ‘National’ and since has been a winner in the 1.45m derbies in the All Canada Ring. “I think it has helped him,” Ward said of the 1.45m derby classes. “I am thrilled. He came here the first week never having jumped a derby and jumped the course well, but struggled with the naturals. Today he jumped the naturals like nothing.”

Ward also pointed out, “It was nice to see 23 in today. It really has to be said that Spruce Meadows has encouraged not only those smaller derbies, but also helping us practice the naturals a little bit because some of us don’t have those (at home).”

Asselin was “really excited” with his horse and his ride today. “I didn’t think I would win it and I really got a little lucky to win it, to tell you the truth. McLain was in time, very fast, and really got unlucky. But I’ll take it and what a treat!” he said with a smile.

Asselin felt that the derby would be a good fit for Attache Stables’ Showgirl, a 13-year-old Selle Francais mare by Gold de Becourt x Elf III, after a strong performance in her first derby last year. “This year I thought I better get ready and practice the devil’s dyke a little more. She has always been good with the natural stuff, but the devil’s dyke does take a little practice and she was as bold as could be and jumped it beautifully today,” he related.

howgirl has “a lot of blood,” Asselin described. “She is very bold and she has a little character. She is French blood and a woman, so she is a little opinionated sometimes, but she is a really talented mare. We have had her for two years now and I have had a lot of fun with her. I think we still have some work to do, but the relationship is getting better and that’s a nice thing. At our age you don’t really expect that. She is 13 and I’m getting on and she is just trying her heart out more and more all the time.”

Winning in his hometown and for Canada meant a lot to Asselin. He expressed, “It sure is a real treat to win here at home with the crowd behind you. It is a big win for me and one I won’t forget.”

$140,000 Cenovus Energy Classic Derby 1.60m

1. SHOWGIRL: 2000 Selle Francais mare by Gold de Becourt x Elf III, JONATHAN ASSELIN (CAN), Attache Stables: 1/148.31
2. WANNAHAVE: 2003 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Manhattan x G. Ramiro Z, MCLAIN WARD (USA), The Wannahave Group: 4/144.13
3. E MUZE YEK: 2004 Warmblood gelding by For Pleasure x Carthago, DARRAGH KERINS (IRL), Darragh Kerins and Maarten Huygens: 4/147.42
4. FALCO VAN DE CLEHOEVE: 2005 Warmblood gelding by Quickfeuer van Koekshof x Fellini, FRANCOIS MATHY (BEL), Ingrid Normar: 5/150.24
5. COLGATE: 2003 Holsteiner mare by Concorde x Calando I, PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), Pablo Barrios: 8/140.02
6. CORAL REEF VIA VOLO: 1998 Belgian Warmblood mare by Clinton x Heartbreaker, BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Coral Reef Ranch: 8/141.05
7. WRIGLEY: 2003 Dutch Warmblood mare by Padinus x Burggraaf, BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), John Madden Sales Inc.: 8/141.13
8. UTOPIA: 2001 Dutch Warmblood mare by Ircolando x Notaris, JOHN PEREZ (COL), John Perez: 8/142.46
9. FINEMAN: 2003 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Feliciano x Beach Boy, SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Sweet Oak Farm: 8/142.85
10. CLYDE: 2004 Holsteiner stallion by Clearway x Coronado, DANIEL BLUMAN (COL), Leonardo and Royi Aljure: 12/146.02