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As the daylight fades, Richard Spooner lights up the arena with Cristallo’s winning round….Jean Llewellyn reports from Calgary, Canada
Calgary, CAN - June 9, 2006 – A U.S. rider once again eclipsed the Canadians and Mexicans to claim victory in the second Friday evening class, the RBC Capital Markets Cup (Table A, FEI art. 276) at the Spruce Meadows ‘National’. Once again, 25 riders qualified to compete, based on the results of classes on two previous days, and the jump-off returned eight riders.
Emulating his form from the previous class, Rich Fellers was the first to jump clear riding the Irish-bred Cruising stallion, Flexible, owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman, but earned an expensive time penalty that kept them out of the jump-off. They were immediately followed by Richard Spooner and the eight-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Cristallo, who became the first partnership to post zero penalties Leslie Howard with Raimond W and Beezie Madden riding Integrity, had similarly impeccable rounds and were joined by five Canadians for the eight-rider jump-off: Erynn Ballard/Futurist, John Anderson/Gesine 36, Ian Millar/Redefin, Sydney Chapman/Cassandra BZ and Eric Lamaze/Carlson 13.
Once again the jump-off order was determined by first round times in reverse, which saw John Anderson in the pathfinding role. Bob Ellis’s jump-off course transcribed a serpentine track with several roll-backs of varying degrees that posed the question of time vs. caution. Anderson certainly chose the former with the talented Gesine 36, but at the expense of eight faults in 45.00 seconds. A speedy approach wasn’t an option for the much less experienced Sydney Chapman, a young rider from British Columbia riding her own Cassandra BZ. Her extremely cautious approach reaped dividends in the final reckoning, however, as later riders lowered rails and she slotted into an extremely creditable third place finish, albeit some 10 seconds off the jump-off pace.
Erynn Ballard, another of the up-and-coming Canadians, whose dad Dave is an FEI course designer, made a name for herself throughout last year’s Young Jumper Futurity series, and decided to throw caution to the wind. Riding the extremely talented stallion Futurist, a son of the recently retired For Pleasure, the former Grand Prix horse of Germany’s Marcus Ehning, Erynn attempted a flat-out gallop between fences at the expense of an eight-fault round and 7th place.
Eric Lamaze, also riding the extremely well-bred Lorraine Z, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, adopted similar tactics, and it paid off with a 42.21 second clear round. Leslie Howard and Raimond W appeared a little vulnerable from the outset, especially after rattling a rail at the second fence, and their four-fault downfall came at the second element of the double combination for 5th place overall.
Abigail Wexner’s Integrity, ridden by Beezie Madden, also rattled the second fence, but the pair remained clear and on a par with the leader’s time at the half-way point in the course. Their progress was interrupted, however, when Integrity took exception to the pentultimate fence from home and ran out. Beezie quickly circled and the pair completed the course without further incident for 6th place.
Richard Spooner, who has been based at his own yard in Agua Dulce, CA since January 1 this year, gave the eight-year old Cristallo a dream ride, launching themselves at the task while showing the ultimate respect for the fences and exhibiting no weaknesses throughout. Their 40.11 seconds put victory out of reach, even though the last to go was Canada’s Ian Millar who could do no better than a four-fault round in 43.78 seconds riding Nero.
A delighted Richard Spooner said “Cristallo has been placed in all but one Grand Prix in California and is special to me. I’m very optimistic even though he’s a crazy son of a gun. He has no mouth at all, it’s just like riding a board, but over a jump he’s perfect, so I’m hoping,” Richard laughed, “maybe one night he’ll get knocked in the head and will be rideable the next morning.” He continued by saying, “I bought him as a five-year-old from Bob MacDonald, and the horse was a little feisty when I first looked at him but I felt that was something really special underneath his insanity.”
Richard talked about the 15 years he spent at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, “my whole career, in fact. But thanks to horses like Robinson, mainly Robinson,” he smiled “I’ve now got my own place. It’s very small, five acres, with 28 stalls, and Robinson’s turn out paddock is all ready for him when he’s ready for it. In fact,” he continued “it’s right by my house, by my bedroom actually, so I can look out the window and see that he’s okay.”
Discussing Robinson’s remarkable career, Richard admitted that he didn’t yet know whether this would be the horse’s last season, “I was really happy for him the other night when he got a ribbon in the 1m50 class, which means a lot to me as he really enjoys his job.” He added, “It’s getting harder for him, obviously, but he loves doing it and I think it would be doing an injustice to him to leave him at home because he loves going to the horse shows.”
Richard continued by saying that it Robinson was evidently enjoying his new home in Agua Dulce, north east of Los Angeles, because it’s at around 1,000 metres so cooler and minus the smog. “It’s nice to be up there where the wind blows, and all the horses seem to be healthier.” He hesitates when asked whether Cristallo could be a replacement for Robinson, because he doesn’t feel that any other horse will ever have the same life- and career-changing impact, but concluded by saying “I certainly think Cristallo has the potential to be my number one Grand Prix horse.”
1. Richard Spooner/Cristallo: 40.11
2. Eric Lamaze/Lorraine Z: 42.21
3. Sydney Chapman/Cassandra BZ: 45.61
4. Leslie Howard/Raimond W: 4/46.15
5. Beezie Madden/Integrity: 4/54.95
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